One of Team USA’s premier swimmers made her Tokyo Olympics debut on Sunday.
Katie Ledecky raced in her first heat of the Games as part of the second day of swimming. The day featured heats in six events: the women’s 100m backstroke, men’s 200m freestyle, women’s 100m breaststroke, men’s 100m backstroke, women’s 400m freestyle and men’s 4x100m freestyle relay.
Ledecky, a six-time Olympic medalist, set the world record in the women’s 400m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics with a time of 3:56.46. The event is her first chance to win her seventh Olympic medal and sixth gold.
Though Ledecky stands as one of the most dominant swimmers of all time, a gold medal in the 400m freestyle won’t come easy. Australia’s Ariarne Titmus beat Ledecky by more than a full second in the event at the 2019 World Championships, though Ledecky was ill at the championships and withdrew from other events. Still, Ledecky against Titmus — and Team USA against Australia throughout the whole swimming competition — remains the key matchup in the pool.
Team USA was featured throughout the other five events in Sunday’s slate as well, including performances by a pair of world record holders.
Here are the results from Sunday’s heats:
Katie Ledecky sets the pace in women’s 400m freestyle
Ledecky was in second place after the first 50m in the third heat, but she was in control for the remainder of the race. Her 4:00.45 finish is just under four seconds off her world record mark.
The third heat featured two other prominent performances. China’s Li Bingjie set an Asian record in the third heat with a time of 4:01.57, while 14-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh finished third in the heat with a time of 4:02.72.
Titmus came in at 4:01.66 in the fourth and final heat. She will get a chance to race Ledecky in the final on Sunday night.
Three swimmers set Olympic record in women’s 100m backstroke
American teenager Regan Smith and Canadian Kylie Masse held the Olympic record in the women’s 100m backstroke for exactly one heat apiece.
Smith posted a time of 57.96, topping Masse’s 58.17 mark from the prior heat. Then Australian Kaylee McKeown beat Smith with a 57.88 time in the final heat of the day.
All three swimmers will headline the event’s semifinals, which take place Sunday night.
Kieran Smith, Townley Haas advance to men’s 200m freestyle semifinals
Fresh off a bronze medal performance in the men’s 400m freestyle, Kieran Smith posted a time of 1:46.20 in the men’s 200m freestyle. He will be joined by fellow American Townley Haas, who had a time of 1:45.86, in Sunday night’s semifinals. Smith and Townley placed 13th and 10th, respectively.
South Korea’s Hwang Sunwoo, Brazil’s Fernando Scheffer and Great Britain’s Tom Dean posted the top three times of the heats.
Lilly King wins heat, finishes third overall in women’s 100m breaststroke
World record holder Lilly King won the sixth and final heat of the women’s 100m breaststroke with a time of 1:05.55, good for the third-fastest time of the heats. The second-best time went to fellow American Lydia Jacoby, who finished in 1:05.52.
Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa swam the fastest race in the heats and set an Olympic record with a time of 1:04.82.
Ryan Murphy moves on to men’s 100m backstroke semifinals
Ryan Murphy, who set the world record at the Rio Games, finished tied with the seventh-best time overall in the men’s 100m backstroke heats at 53.22. He finished tied for second in the final heat behind 20-year-old Yohann Ndoye Brouard of France.
The top time of the heats went to Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov, the world record holder in the men’s 50m backstroke. Kolesnikov finished just three-tenths of a second off Murphy’s world record pace in the 100m heat with a time of 52.15.
Team USA wins heat in men’s 4x100m freestyle relay
The U.S. men’s 4x100m freestyle relay took first place in the second heat with a time of 3:11.33. The top time of the day was in the first heat with Italy coming in at 3:10.29.
The Americans will have Caeleb Dressel, the U.S. men’s swimming co-captain, in the relay final Sunday night. It will be Dressel’s Tokyo debut as he looks to add to his collection of two Olympic gold medals.