After win in 400, Ledecky holds 3 freestyle records

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After win in 400, Ledecky holds 3 freestyle records

Katie Ledecky broke the world record in the 400-meter freestyle at the U.S. national championships Saturday night, becoming the first woman since Janet Evans to hold world marks in the 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyles at the same time.

The 17-year-old from Bethesda, Maryland, won in 3 minutes, 58.86 seconds. She bettered the old mark of 3:59.15 set by Italy’s Federica Pellegrini at the 2009 world championships in Rome, when a raft of records were broken during the height of the high-tech suit era.

Those suits were banned the following year, making world records harder to achieve.

Michael Phelps lost for the third time this week, finishing sixth in the 100 backstroke. Olympic champion Matt Grevers won in 52.75. Phelps touched in 53.95. He has one event remaining on Sunday.

Ledecky was ahead of world-record pace the entire race, including a whopping 1.71 seconds under at 250 meters. With one lap to go, she was still 1.53 seconds under.

“Just tried to make sure I didn’t rush the first 100,’’ she said. “It was probably pretty close to perfect.’’

After hitting the wall, the normally reserved Ledecky pounded the water and smiled broadly as the crowd cheered.

Ledecky swam the third-fastest time ever in the morning preliminaries, clocking 3:59.82. She joined Pellegrini as the only women to break 4 minutes in the event, with Ledecky dipping under that barrier three times now.

“It was on my mind, but I didn’t let it overtake me today and I think that’s something that definitely helped,’’ Ledecky said. “I was very relaxed.’’

Evans owned all three women’s distance freestyle world records from 1988 to 2006.

“It means a lot. It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Janet,’’ said Ledecky. “She’s a great person and a really great role model for all U.S. distance swimmers.’’

Ledecky lowered her own world marks in the 800 and 1,500 freestyles three days apart in June at a meet in Texas. The Olympic 800 free style champion has amazing versatility, with the ability to swim distances ranging from 200 to 1,500 meters.

It was Ledecky’s third win of the meet, having earlier claimed the 200 and 800 freestyles. She earned the chance to swim all three events at the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia this month. She will be a high school senior this fall and plans to attend Stanford.

Cierra Runge finished second in 4:04.67, and Leah Smith was third at 4:06.28.


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