Ledecky cruises to 200 free win in final tuneup for trials
ABS-CBN Sports on May 14, 2016 03:42 PM
Katie Ledecky competes in the 200 meter freestyle finals at the Atlanta Classic Swim Meet at Georgia Tech Friday, May 13, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Katie Ledecky began her final tuneup for the U.S. Olympic trials with another impressive showing in the 200-meter freestyle.
There's no slowing down for the teenager who figures to be one of the biggest stars at the Rio Games.
The 19-year-old cruised to victory Friday night at the Atlanta Classic, a meet being held at the pool on the Georgia Tech campus that was site of the 1996 Olympics.
Getting herself in an Olympic state of mind, Ledecky turned in a blistering time in the morning preliminaries and came back even stronger in the evening, touching in 1 minute, 54.82 seconds — more than three seconds ahead of future Stanford college teammate Simone Manuel.
"I know I'm getting faster," Ledecky said. "You never know when it's going to show in the meets. I guess it just felt good to see the 54. There's really no difference between going a 1:54.8 and a 1:55.1. But it kind of symbolizes something, I guess."
For Ledecky, the 200 free is rapidly becoming one of her stronger events, right up there with the 400 and 800. She'll be an overwhelming favorite in the two longer freestyle events at Rio, and it's looking like she'll be one of the leading contenders in the 200 as well.
She'll also have a shot to get on a couple of relays, which could set herself up to win as many as five gold medals and steal some of the spotlight from Michael Phelps, the winningest athlete in Olympic history who'll be competing for the final time in Brazil.
Phelps was supposed to be in Atlanta, but he dropped out of the meet last week to be at home for the birth of his first child.
That left the focus entirely on Ledecky, and she didn't disappoint.
"I'm feeling really good about where I am, where I've been this whole season," Ledecky said. "I've just been really consistent at all these meets throughout the year. I've been able to pop some good times. I've now gone my three fastest 200 frees this year. That gives me some good momentum in that event going into Omaha" for the Olympic trials next month.
Ledecky had never competed at the Georgia Tech pool, which hosted the Olympic swimming competition almost 20 years ago — about eight months before she was born.
"I was supposed to come to a meet here in 2011," she said, remembering the U.S. Winter Nationals that year, "but I got walking pneumonia. I remember sitting on my sofa, sick, and watching the meet and wishing I was down here racing. That was going to be my first national level meet before Olympic trials in 2012, so I had to kind of wait to get that experience."
She went on to not only make her first Olympic team at age 15, but stunningly won gold in the 800 free. Things are much different the second time around. Ledecky is facing huge expectations, but she shows no signs of buckling to the pressure.
"I've kind of surprised myself with how much my speed has come along this year," she said. "You never know. So we'll just see how far I can take it."
After an hour after winning the 200 free, Ledecky returned for the 400 individual medley. That was essentially just a training race, not an event that will be part of her Olympic repertoire. Still, she showed off an impressive finishing kick on the freestyle leg to finish some four seconds behind winner Elizabeth Beisel.
Ledecky is entered in six events over the three-day meet, but she'll likely drop the 800 on Sunday to focus on 100 free and the 200 individual medley. She is pushing hard to drop time in the 100, wanting to swim fast enough at the trials to at least earn a spot on the 400 free relay. She's a lock for the 800 free relay.
"I'm still learning a lot in every event, even the longer races," Ledecky said. "Swimming the shorter races more gives me good information, good things to work on moving forward. This meet is no different."
She has a relatively light day on Saturday, competing in just the 400 free.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry