U.S. Olympic Trials: Katie Ledecky’s Daunting Double Ends with 200 Free Top Seed

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Katie Ledecky; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Katie Ledecky’s Daunting Double Ends with 200 Free Top Seed

Test No. 1 for Katie Ledecky, in an Olympic Trials with both the 200 freestyle and 1,500 free, is in the books. Is anyone surprised that she passed it with flying colors?

Ledecky raced just shy of 2,000 yards across the two sessions Tuesday. After finishing second in the prelims of the 200 free and coasting to the fastest time in the 1,500 free prelims, Ledecky capped a busy day by finishing first in semis, a time of 1:55.83 leading the field into the final.

“It was my biggest day of racing,” Ledecky said. “It was a long day at the office.”

The first semifinal heat produced the two three swims, with Paige Madden second in 1:56.44 and Katie McLaughlin in 1:57.37. Fourth is Allison Schmitt, winner of the second heat, in 1:57.53.

For Madden, it marked her first swims as an Olympian after she nabbed a spot in the 400 free Monday night. After a brief celebration and not much sleep, Madden confessed to a more relaxed swim Tuesday.

“It felt a lot more relaxed than last night because after already having a race under my belt from yesterday, there was a lot less pressure today,” the UVA swimmer said. “I think I’ll be more nervous for tomorrow because it will be an actual final. Today, I was just trying to have fun, and I think I did a good job at that.”

It’s a relief that Ledecky knows well.

“We all put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make that team,” said Ledecky, who qualified comfortably in the 400 free. “And once you do, a weight is lifted off your shoulders.”

Schmitt pulled away in the final 50 to get her hand to the wall first in the second heat, which provided five of the finalists, the top five clustered within a second. Schmitt’s “long and strong” stroke made the difference down the stretch.

Second to Schmitt was Brooke Forde, one of four Stanford swimmers in the semis, in a time of 1:57.82 that puts her fifth overall in a best time. Though she didn’t make the team in the 400 individual medley, Forde professed a similar release of pressure with her toughest event in the rearview mirror.

“We had three of us Stanford girls right next to us in that semifinal which we were all pumped about,” she said. “We were joking that it’s like Thursday mornings because Thursday mornings, we do 200 free work with almost the same group of us. It’ll bring a little bit of comfort and definitely a lot of fun.”

The top seed from the morning, Leah Smith, barely scraped her way into finals with a 1:58.22, earning the eighth and final spot. She was fourth in the 400 IM and third in the 400 free.

Women’s 200 Free finals qualifiers

  • Katie Ledecky, 1:55.83
  • Paige Madden, 1:56.44
  • Katie McLaughlin, 1:57.37
  • Allison Schmitt, 1:57.53
  • Brooke Forde, 1:57.82
  • Gabby DeLoof, 1:57.95
  • Bella Sims, 1:58.00
  • Leah Smith, 1:58.22