Home Sports U.S. swimming trials: Katie Ledecky qualifies for her fourth Olympics — where she’ll be an underdog

U.S. swimming trials: Katie Ledecky qualifies for her fourth Olympics — where she’ll be an underdog

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Katie Ledecky swims during the women's 400 freestyle preliminaries on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at the US Olympic Swimming Trials in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Katie Ledecky qualified for her fourth Olympic Games at the United States Olympic Swimming Trials in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS – Katie Ledecky glided through an immaculate pool here Saturday night, overtaking her defenseless teammates, to her fourth Olympic Games.

She pulled ahead of the pursuing American group, by one length, then by three, as she has been doing without exception for more than a decade.

He swam 400 meters in 3:58.35, touching the wall to applause, and qualified for Paris 2024.

But there, she will be an underdog.

Ledecky, 27, has become semi-accustomed to the once foreign role since 2021, when Australian Ariarne Titmus dethroned her in the 400-meter freestyle in Tokyo. Titmus beat Ledecky by 0.67 seconds in an all-ages race at those Olympics. The following spring, she toppled Ledecky’s world record and crystallized a new balance of power in the 400.

Ledecky had ruled it from 2013 until about 2019. However, Titmus is now queen. She and Canadian teen phenom Summer McIntosh swapped the world record in 2023. Titmus, after a health scare last fall, has once again established herself as the woman to beat. The 23-year-old Tasmanian clocked a time of 3:55.44 at the Australian trials earlier this week, almost three seconds better than Ledecky and just 0.06 seconds off her world best, which she could well reduce in Paris.

Meanwhile, Ledecky remains a gold medal favorite in the 1500 and 800 freestyle. He’s sure to qualify in those two signature events over the next week here at the USA Trials, which have gone from an Omaha basketball stadium to an NFL behemoth, in small part thanks to his star power. She is widely considered the greatest swimmer of all time, the one whose face and name draw roars here at Lucas Oil Stadium. She could extend or break all kinds of Olympic records this summer.

Even in the 400s, he has maintained sub-4:00 potential remarkably well into his 20s.

And that, his coach, Anthony Nesty, told Yahoo Sports, “is a testament to his character, for sure. His passion for the sport. To perform at a high level for so long and in the event where you swim, it’s all a matter of will.”

Publicly, Ledecky has said she was satisfied with her times in Tokyo. But the people close to her have saying She was somewhat dissatisfied. “She was probably disappointed with her swim last time,” Nesty told Yahoo Sports last month. Then, shortly after returning home, she took a big leap across the country: from Stanford to Nesty at the University of Florida.

There, he refined his stroke. She chiseled her body. And she fell even more in love with the routine.

“I love the training,” he recently told CBS. “Actually, if competitions didn’t exist, I think I would still love it.”

But have you managed better? Could she maybe even haunt her old self?

We will discover that in Paris.

His 2016 shadow is probably untouchable. However, its shadow for 2021 is within our reach.

She has also become accustomed to this kind of persecution. “I’ve been competing with myself for many years,” she told NBC this spring. This remains the case over longer distances.

But now, in the 400, he’s chasing an Australian, Titmus, and potentially a Canadian, McIntosh, who could be out of his league.

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