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Sports-Clark and Ledecky lead women’s sports in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS – Anyone looking for evidence of the meteoric rise of women’s sports need look no further than downtown Indianapolis this weekend, where fans showed up in droves within a five-block radius to witness the brilliance of Katie Ledecky and Caitlin Clark.

Seven-time Olympic gold medalist Ledecky qualified for her fourth Games under the lights of Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday before an adoring crowd of 20,689, a record number for a swimming meet.

Less than 24 hours later, Clark thrilled a sold-out arena of 17,274 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse as the WNBA’s Indiana Fever defeated the visiting Chicago Sky 91-83.

“It just goes to show that women’s sports, when given the opportunity, are incredibly fun to watch and are only on the rise,” Clark told reporters after scoring 23 points in the hard-fought win.

“People are finally starting to realize how great a product it is,” she said.

“Once they come and see it, they can’t get enough of it and they keep coming back.

“To be a small part of that is super fun and to play in front of a sold out crowd of 17,000 people is not something you ever take for granted.”

Clark took a hard foul from rival Angel Reese during the match, but said this is exactly how top athletes compete against each other.

“People love to see the emotion and the passion we play with,” she said.

“I think that was something that maybe wasn’t appreciated in women’s sports, but it should be. That’s what makes it fun.”

Ledecky said she was having more fun than ever after punching her ticket to the Paris Games with a win in the 400m freestyle.

The 27-year-old was by far the biggest attraction on the opening night of the U.S. Olympic Trials, which for the first time will be held in an NFL stadium with the atmosphere of a rock concert.

“I was blown away when I walked out there and saw all the fans,” Ledecky said.

“I hope it helps our sport move forward. I hope there are some young swimmers out there who get excited about today.”

Clark’s teammate Aliyah Boston said she is proud to be part of a movement that is inspiring the next generation.

“Younger girls now have so many more athletes to look up to and say, I want to be just like them, I want to be an Olympian just like them,” Boston said.

“To be a part of that is amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” REUTERS