Pan Pacs: Ledecky, Dressel get wins; Ikee pleases home fans
TOKYO (AP) — For Americans Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel, Saturday was a better day at the Pan Pacific Championships after unexpected losses earlier at the four-day meet.
The Pan Pacs are the biggest meet of the year for countries bordering the Pacific, and a dry run for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Ledecky, the Olympic and world champion and world record-holder in the 400 freestyle, won that race in 3 minutes 58.50 seconds, the sixth fastest time ever at the distance. She has the 10 fastest times ever in the event.
The win made up for finishing third on Thursday in the 200 freestyle, a rare loss for the reigning Olympic champion in the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle.
"It didn't feel good, the 200, but I'm feeling better each session," said Ledecky, who acknowledged many of the Americans have had trouble beating jet-lag.
Australian Ariarne Titmus finished second in 3:59.66, breaking the four-minute barrier in a fabric suit.
"I knew I was going fast and I knew I'd be pushed," Ledecky said. "I just was racing. I wasn't thinking about time. I know how to swim that race like it's the back of my hand."
Dressel, who won seven gold medals last year at the world championships, is billed as the next star in the post-Michael Phelps era.
He was beaten Friday in the 100 freestyle, but came back Saturday to win the 100 butterfly in 50.75, just 0.25 off his season's best, which is also the best in the world this year.
Chase Kalisz picked up another victory for the United States, taking the 200 individual medley in 1:55.40. Kalisz also won the 400 IM on Thursday.
Japan produced several key victories, underlining the Olympic hosts will be ready in the pool in two years.
The big star was 18-year-old Rikako Ikee, who won the 100 butterfly in a blistering time of 56.08. It was the fastest time in the world this year, even ahead of the dominant racer at this distance — Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, the Olympic champion, world champion, and world record-holder.
Sjostrom's world mark is 55.48, and Ikee is closing in.
"I'm not thinking too much about the world record," she said through an interpreter. "If I do, I think my body will stiffen up and I won't be able to race as well."
Ikee teared up at the medal ceremony.
"I tried to hold back my tears, but I was really happy," she said.
Ikee finished second on Thursday in the 200 freestyle, ahead of Ledecky in a race won by Taylor Ruck of Canada. She was asked if Saturday's victory was a turning point.
"Yes," she replied. "I have been winning in Japanese competitions, but when I go to major meets internationally I haven't been able to win."
Ikee is a five-time world junior gold medalist and finished sixth in the 100 butterfly two years ago as a 16-year-old at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Japanese Yui Ohashi took the 200 individual medley in 2:018.16, the best time in the world this year. Canada's Sydney Pickrem was second and another Japanese, Miho Teramura, third. Teramura set the meet record in the prelims (2:09.86) before Ohashi erased that mark hours later in the finals.
Ohashi also won the 400 IM earlier in the championships.
Australian Jack McLoughlin won the 400 freestyle in 3:44.20, pushing Australian Olympic champion Mack Horton to second in 3:44.31.
Australia took the women's 4x100 freestyle relay in 3:31.58. The United States won the men's version in 3:11.67, but was later disqualified because two of its swimmers swam out of order.
Brazil was second but moved up to first, a country that does not actually border the Pacific.
The meet in the pool wraps up Sunday, with the outdoors distance swims set for Tuesday.