GOLD COAST - American super teen Katie Ledecky came close to breaking yet another world record on her way to a majestic freestyle double on the opening night of the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships on Thursday.
The 17-year-old schoolgirl, who won the 200-metres freestyle final less than an hour earlier, was a body length under world record pace before she tired and finished just 0.35sec outside the record she set in the event in June. Ledecky was the undoubted star of the opening day of the four-day meet at the Gold Coast as decorated US Olympians Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte struggled in their events. America won four of the eight first-day finals with Australia and Japan winning two gold each.
“It was my first big international double and I wanted to see how I would handle it and I’m really happy with how I handled it,” Ledecky said. “I am really looking forward to the rest of the meet, I have some good races still left and I’m building up with each of my swims.” Ledecky surged to victory in the 200m freestyle winning by almost 1.5 seconds from Australia’s Bronte Barratt in a meet record time of 1:55.74.
Earlier this month she added the 400m world record to her 800m and 1,500m free world marks to make her the first woman since Janet Evans to hold all three at the same time. Australian pair Emily Seebohm and Thomas Fraser-Holmes won gold and Japan’s Ryosuke Irie upset US Olympic champion Matt Grevers by seven-hundredths of a second in the men’s 100m backstroke. Daiya Seto made it a Japanese men’s double gold with victory in the 200m butterfly from Brazilian Leonardo De Deus in 1:54.92, while American Cammile Adams won the women’s equivalent.
Olympic champion Franklin struggled into third place behind Australian pair Seebohm and Belinda Hocking in the 100m backstroke final. Seebohm exploded off the blocks and set a meet record time of 58.84sec to beat Hocking (59.78) with Franklin in 1:00.30. Seebohm, who was reduced to tears in London after blaming a social media fixation for being relegated to Olympic 100m backstroke silver behind Franklin days after clocking a Games record in the heats, exacted some revenge.
“She is obviously a strong competitor and, sometimes, you just have to go out and race your competition. I haven’t done it (beaten Franklin) before,” Seebohm said. Franklin, the quadruple London Olympic gold medallist and nine-times world champion, has struggled with back problems this week and missed out on qualifying for the 200m freestyle final in the morning heats. “Definitely not how I thought I would have summed it up before I got here,” Franklin said.
“I’m really proud of myself and honestly it’s nothing to do with my times or places, but just getting out and fighting back against life right now.” Fraser-Holmes added the Pan Pac 200m freestyle title to last month’s Commonwealth Games gold in the event out-reaching Japan’s Kosuke Hagino in a desperate finish. Hagino looked to have just beaten off the strong-finishing Australian but the tall Fraser-Holmes hit the wall with a last stroke effort to win in 1:45.98.
“It’s those long arms, I suppose,” Fraser-Holmes said. “That last lap was crazy and when I touched the wall it was something special and it’s something that I’m really proud of this last month or so. It’s just a really good feeling right now.” Hagino (1:46.08) took silver ahead of Australia’s Cameron McEvoy (1:46.36) with Americans Conor Dwyer and Lochte both missing out on the podium in fourth and fifth spots respectively. “I definitely wanted to go faster but I made the world teams in that event so hopefully I’ll be faster next year,” Lochte said. American Connor Jaeger beat off Canada’s Commonwealth Games champion Ryan Cochrane to win the 1500m freestyle by just 0.18sec in 14:51.79.