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Katie Ledecky heading to her fourth Olympics, wins 400 freestyle at US swimming trials

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Posted at 10:10 PM, Jun 15, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Katie Ledecky is heading to her fourth Olympics, cruising to victory in the 400-meter freestyle at the U.S. swimming trials on Saturday night.

Cheered on by a crowd of 20,689 at the home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Ledecky touched the wall in 3 minutes, 58.35 seconds.

She improved on her time of 3:59.99 in the morning preliminaries and set herself up to make a run at another gold against a loaded field at the Paris Games.

The Australian “Terminator,” Ariarne Titmus, is the defending Olympic champion and world-record holder (3:55.38) in the 400 free. Canadian phenom Summer McIntosh is also expected to contend for the top spot on the podium.

The 27-year-old Ledecky is set to swim four events at her nation’s trials, all of them freestyle events ranging from 200 to 1,500 meters. She already has six individual gold medals — more than any female swimmer in Olympic history.

“I’m pretty excited,” Ledecky said after the victory ceremony. “I never imagined I would go to a fourth Olympic Games.”

The expected second spot on the Olympic team will go to Paige Madden, the runner-up behind Ledecky at 4:02.08.

Aaron Shackell, a local favorite from suburban Carmel, earned his first trip to the Olympics with a victory in the men’s 400 freestyle.

Shackell touched in 3:45.46 to hold off Kieran Smith, the bronze medalist in this event at the Tokyo Olympics. Smith used a strong finishing kick to claim the runner-up spot in 3:45.76, which should be enough to get him back to the Summer Games.

The top two in each individual event are expected to make the powerhouse American team.

Ledecky and Shackell were both overshadowed on the opening night of the trials by Gretchen Walsh. The 21-year-old from the University of Virginia set a world record in a semifinal heat of the 100-meter butterfly with a time of 55.18.

Walsh was more than a half-second under world-record pace at the turn and finished strong to eclipse the mark of 55.48 set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Walsh held her hand over her mouth as she looked at the scoreboard in disbelief, a “WR” beside her name. But she’s still got some work to do to make her first Olympic team.

The 100 fly final Sunday night also includes Torri Huske, Regan Smith and Claire Curzan — all medalists at the Tokyo Games. Shackell’s sister, Alex, also advanced to the final and will be looking to join her sibling on the Olympic team.