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Ledecky punches ticket for the Paris Games, Walsh sets world record in Indy – Newspaper

INDIANAPOLIS: Katie Ledecky qualified for her fourth Olympic Games and Gretchen Walsh set a world record Saturday on the opening night of the U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming in Indianapolis.

As expected, seven-time gold medalist Ledecky dominated in the 400-meter freestyle championship in front of a crowd of 20,689 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

“I never thought I would go to a fourth Olympics,” Ledecky said.

The 27-year-old from Maryland said the joy of making the U.S. team never gets old and thanked her coaches and teammates for her longevity in the sport.

“I feel like I enjoy this more and more every year and I think that’s a testament to the people around me throughout my career,” she told reporters.

“Great communities that keep me excited about the sport, great teammates that push me every day, great coaches that believe in me and push me to achieve bigger and bigger goals.

“It allowed me to be consistent and I’m proud of that consistency.”

Paige Madden came second with a personal best of 4:02.08, but has not yet qualified for the Games.

Widely considered the greatest female swimmer of all time, Ledecky is just the eighth American swimmer to make at least four trips to an Olympic Games, where she will try to add to her total of ten Olympic medals.

Walsh started the evening with a bang, setting a world record in the women’s 100m butterfly, sending a message to the world with just over a month to go before the Games.

Walsh led from the start, rounding the turn at world record pace and looking up in disbelief after hitting the wall in 55.18 seconds as the crowd erupted. “I’m over the moon, just so happy,” Walsh said. “It’s such a surreal experience. I try to convince myself that it just happened. I’m impressed.”

Her semi-final performance beat the previous record of 55.48 seconds, set in 2016 by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom.

Indiana native Aaron Shackell secured his ticket to his first Olympic Games with a victory in the 400-meter freestyle.

“Ever since I heard my father was an Olympian, I always wanted to be an Olympian myself,” said 19-year-old Shackell, whose father Nick represented England in swimming at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

“It wasn’t always easy. For a long time I wasn’t even good at swimming and, to be honest, I didn’t like it until a few years ago.”

The trials will determine which U.S. team will face Paris and will be held over nine consecutive nights in Indianapolis, which has been transformed into a swimming paradise, complete with a 65-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower, located near the downtown stadium.

The crowd of fans dressed in red, white and blue was the largest ever witnessed at a swimming competition, breaking the record of 16,000 at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Published in Dawn, June 17, 2024