Katie Ledecky off to a strong start at US Olympic swimming trials, leads prelims of 400 free

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Katie Ledecky got off to a rousing start Saturday at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

Competing in the home stadium of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Ledecky blew away the field in the preliminaries of the 400-meter freestyle, touching the wall with a time of 3 minutes, 59.99 seconds.

Ledecky finished nearly five seconds ahead of Paige Madden, who was next fastest at 4:04.83. The top eight advanced to the evening final, with Ledecky an overwhelming favorite to claim a spot on her fourth Olympic team.

The 400 was the first of four freestyle events that Ledecky is set to swim in Indianapolis, where the trials are being held in one end of massive Lucas Oil Stadium. The domed facility can hold up to 32,000 fans per session, though it wasn’t close to that figure for the opening morning of the nine-day trials.

The 27-year-old Ledecky came into the trials with the top-seeded time in the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyle events.

She already has six individual Olympic gold medals — more than any female swimmer in the history of the sport — and she’ll be looking to add to that haul in Paris.

In other events during the first session of the trials, Gretchen Walsh was top qualifier in the prelims of the women’s 100 butterfly with an impressive time of 55.94, beating out Torri Huske (56.26) and Regan Smith (56.68). The top 16 advanced to the evening semifinals.

On the men’s side, Nic Fink led the way in the prelims of the 100 breaststroke at 59.24. Josh Matheny (59.34), Charlie Swanson (59.44), Jake Foster (59.59) and Michael Andrew (59.72) also made it down and back in less than a minute.

Luke Whitlock was top qualifier in the men’s 400 free at 3:46.42. Olympic medalists Kieran Smith and Bobby Finke also advanced to the evening final, with Smith posting the sixth-fastest time (3:48.25) and Finke claiming the last of eight spots (3:48.63).

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AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/summer-olympics

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