TOKYO (Reuters) - Katie Ledecky claimed her second gold of the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in the women’s 400 metres freestyle on Saturday while Rikako Ikee cemented her place as the rising star of Japanese swimming.
American Ledecky dominated the 400 metres to win in a time of 3:58:50, the sixth fastest swim in history, and provide the perfect response to her disappointing bronze in the 200 metres.
The five-times Olympic gold medallist was never threatened by 17-year-old Australian Ariarne Titmuss, who went under four minutes for the first time to claim silver. American Leah Grace was third in a repeat of the podium from Thursday’s 800 metres.
“It is exciting for me to see that (Titmuss going under four minutes),” said Ledecky, who won five golds at the 2014 Pan Pacs aged just 17.
“I was the only one to go under four minutes in a textile suit for a few years now and so it is exciting for me to see how I put the standard out there and there are a lot of girls chasing that.”
In 18-year-old Ikee, Japan may have found their swimming talisman for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics following her domination of the women’s 100 metres butterfly.
After claiming two silver medals on the first two days of competition, Ikee went one step further as she broke the championship record she set in the morning’s heats to win gold in 56:08 seconds.
American Kelsi Dahlia and Australia’s Emma McKeon took silver and bronze, but the race was all about Ikee as the teenager thrilled an expectant home crowd with a stunning performance that threatened Sarah Sjoestoem’s world record of 55:48 seconds.
“My speed is improving because I am gaining more strength and power,” said Ikee, who added that she was aiming to go under 56 seconds soon.
“It was so important to win this global competition. I always want to improve my personal best but this time it was special because I won a gold.”
Compatriot Yui Ohashi also set a championship record as she secured Japan’s second gold of the night in the women’s 200 metres individual medley.
Ohashi, the world silver medallist, came into the race as favourite and won in 2:08:16 to break the meet record set by compatriot Miho Teramura in the heats.
Teramura came third in the final with Canada’s Sydney Pickrem taking silver.
Four-times Olympic medallist Kosuke Hagino couldn’t follow suit in the men’s event as American Chase Kalisz’s superior breaststroke proved crucial.
Mitchell Larkin of Australia surged in the final stretch to out-touch Hagino and claim silver with the Japanese in third.
There was further success for the United States in the men’s 100 metres butterfly, with Calaeb Dressel setting a championship record of 50:75, bettering Michael Phelps’s time set in 2010, to claim gold.
The seven-times world champion powered to victory to secure his first Pan Pacs gold medal, beating compatriot John Conger into second.
There was an Australia one-two in the men’s 400 freestyle, as Jack McLoughlin led from halfway and held off a late challenge from compatriot Mack Horton to take gold.
Australia also won the women’s 4x100 metres freestyle relay, anchored by a strong swim from Cate Campbell, to better their own championship record 3:31:58 set four years ago on the Gold Coast.
The U.S. thought they had won the final event of the day, the men’s 4x100 metres freestyle, but were disqualified for swimming out of order.
The U.S. team set a new championship record time but were disqualified to hand Brazil their first gold of the meet.
Australia were bumped up to second and the Japanese quartet took bronze.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Ed Osmond