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Ledecky to tackle all 4 distances in Tokyo _ 200 to 1,500

August 12, 2018
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Katie Ledecky of the U.S., swims in the women's 1500m freestyle timed final during the Pan Pacific swimming championships in Tokyo, Sunday, Aug.12, 2018.(AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO (AP) — They’ve added a new swimming event to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — the 1,500 meter freestyle — and Katie Ledecky plans to be racing it.

This could pose a problem, even for the five-time Olympic champion and 14-time world champion.

She won the 200, 400, and 800 two years ago in Rio de Janeiro. Now add to that the 1,500. So is Ledecky planning to perhaps drop the 200, maybe her weakest race, and focus on the longer distances?

She lost the 200 a few days ago in the Pan Pacific Championships, her only blemish on a strong showing this week in the Japanese capital.

“I don’t anticipate trying to drop any of them,” she said Sunday after winning the 1,500 at the Pan Pacs on the final day of the four-day meet.

The meet serves as a dress rehearsal for the Olympics in two years and is the biggest meet of the year for swimmers from the Pacific region.

It was held at the Tatsumi swimming center, which is only a five-minute walk from the new Olympic aquatic center under construction. It should be completed early in 2020.

Certainly Ledecky won’t drop the 1,500. Her time of 15 minutes, 38.97 seconds, was the 10th fastest in history. She now owns nine of the top 10 times in that event — and the world record.

“It’s something that makes training really challenging and exciting for me to compete in the shorter races,” she said. “So I have no plans of dropping anything. Plans could change, but I think I still have a lot in me.”

As a trial for Tokyo, Ledecky is likely to swim all four next year in the world championships in South Korea.

“I think I’m very experienced swimming those events,” she said. “I think I know how to manage my races and manage my energy.”

The United States was overpowering in the pool at the Pan Pacs — especially on the final day. The meet wraps up Tuesday with the outdoor distance events.

The Americans won 18 gold medals, ahead of Australia with eight and Japan with six. The Americans also led the overall medal table with 43.

China, the Pacific’s other swim power, largely skipped the meet to focus on the Asian Games, which open in a few days in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The meet was extra important for American Ryan Murphy. He took the 200 backstroke in 1:53.57, edging Japanese Ryosuke Irie in 1:55.12 and American Austin Katz in 1:56.00. Murphy also won the 100 backstroke earlier in the meet.

“It was nice to be in Tokyo, and I really wanted to have a good meet here,” Murphy said. “You know, I’m a little superstitious. Hopefully this bodes well for me leading into 2020. Swimming well in a pool here, I think I can swim well in a pool that’s two blocks away.”

Murphy said he’s worn the same socks to major meets for the past four years, and always eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a banana and Greek yogurt as his preferred snack before every meet.

“It works for me,” he said. “It might not work for everyone, but I like it. I’ve talked to the nutritionist and he said it’s OK.”

Other American winners on Sunday included Kathleen Baker in the 200 backstroke, Zane Grothe in the 800 freestyle, Michael Andrew in the 50 freestyle, and Micah Sumrall in the 200 breaststroke.

Cate Campbell of Australia completed her double, winning the 50 freestyle in 23.81. She won the 100 on Friday. The Australian has bounced back after a disappointing Olympics two years ago in Rio de Janeiro, a comeback she attributes partly to taking a year off from competitive swimming.

Ippei Watanabe of Japan, the world record-holder in the 200 breaststroke, delighted local fans with his win in that event. He clocked 2:07.75 to set a meet record. His world record is 2:06.67.

In the final relays, Australia took the women’s 400 medley in 3:52.74, ahead of the United States (3:53.21) and Japan (3:55.03).

The United States won its seventh gold medal of the day, taking the men’s 400 medley relay in 3:30.20, edging Japan (3:30.25) and Australia (3:30.52).

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