Five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky secured her spot for the Tokyo Olympics, her third Games, with a win in the 400-meter freestyle Monday night at U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.
Ledecky, 24, took first in 4:01.27; she was 4:03.07 in prelims. Paige Madden took second in 4:04.86, likely booking a spot in Tokyo as well.
The new Stanford grad has a full schedule this week in Omaha. On Tuesday, she faces the 200 and 1500-meter freestyles (finals for both are on Wednesday), then will tackle the 100 and 800-meter freestyles later in the week. The women's 1500 is making its Olympic debut this year, and Ledecky is the strong favorite to win the gold medal, but the schedule creates a unique challenge for women also racing the 200.
In addition to the scheduling hurdles in Tokyo, Ledecky will face her first major Olympic rival in Australian Ariarne Titmus.
The duo are currently engaged in somewhat of a virtual battle as the 20-year-old Titmus posted world-leading times in the 200 and 400-meter freestyles over the weekend at her own Olympic trials. Titmus went 1:53.09 in the 200, .64 seconds ahead of Ledecky's personal best time and just .11 seconds off of Italian star Federica Pellegrini's 12-year-old world record. The Aussie was 3:56.90 in the 400, second to only Ledecky's 3:56.46 world record performance in Rio.
Ledecky vs. Titmus is shaping up to be a must-watch storyline of the Tokyo Games. In their last head-to-head matchup, at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships, Titmus defeated Ledecky in the 400, becoming the first to hand Ledecky a loss in a distance event at a major international competition. Ledecky later revealed she had a stomach virus and withdrew from two other events at the meet, however.
"[Ledecky’s] not going to have it all her own way," Titmus said after her statement swims, per the Sydney Morning Herald. “I can’t control what she does, if I do the best I can and put myself in the position to win a gold medal, it’s going to be a tough race.”
In Rio, Ledecky won the 400 by nearly five seconds. She also topped the podium in the 200, narrowly defeating Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom, and took gold in the 800 by over 13 seconds. In London, as a 15-year-old, Ledecky won the 800 free by over four seconds.