Katie Ledecky Starts U.S. Open With Victory in 800 Freestyle; Bobby Finke Rallies Behind Trademark Closing Speed

katie ledecky, olympics, Jul 31, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Katie Ledecky (USA) reacts after winning the women's 800m freestyle final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports

Katie Ledecky Starts U.S. Open With Victory in 800 Freestyle; Bobby Finke Rallies Behind Trademark Closing Speed

Four months after she captured her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle, Katie Ledecky kickstarted the U.S. Open with an impressive performance at the Greensboro Aquatic Center. Leading from start to finish, Ledecky clocked in at 8:12.81, a time that only she has bettered. Ledecky owns the 24-fastest times in history, with her latest swim checking in at No. 18.

The U.S. Open is Ledecky’s first competition since the Tokyo Games, where Ledecky claimed gold medals in the 800 freestyle and 1500 freestyle, along with a silver medal in the 400 freestyle. In the time since Tokyo, she switched her training base from Stanford University to the University of Florida, where she is serving as a volunteer assistant coach.

In her return to competitive action, Ledecky went through the 200-meter mark in 2:00.91 and hit the midway point in 4:05.68. She is slated to contest the 200 freestyle, 400 free and 1500 free over the next three days. Ledecky was followed to the wall by Team USA veteran Leah Smith, who turned in a strong mark of 8:23.78.

“I’m excited about the new quad,” Ledecky said. “Feeling really good about my new training environment and getting to train with some really great mid-distance and distance swimmers that are racing tonight. I’m just happy to start seeing the work pay off.”

Jul 29, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Robert Finke (USA) celebrates with his gold medal during the medals ceremony for the men's 800m freestyle during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Finke; Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

On the men’s side, Olympic champion Bobby Finke turned to his trademark closing speed to win the 800 freestyle in 7:54.07, just ahead of the 7:54.40 by Charlie Clark. Finke covered the last 50 meters in 27.20, compared to the 28.71 of Clark. Come-from-behind victories have become common for Finke, who reeled in his competition in the final laps at the Olympics to win gold in the 800 free and 1500 free.

A University of Florida standout, Finke will play a major role in the Gators’ pursuit of a top finish at the NCAA Championships in March. Finke figures to challenge his own American record in the 1650-yard freestyle and is also a contender for the title in the 500 freestyle.

“You know, it felt really great to be back in the big pool,” Finke said. “Short course is kicking my butt this year, but you know it’s kind of fun to take a break from it and do some long course.”

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