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Katie Ledecky’s incredible streak at stake against emerging rival at U.S. Open

Katie Ledecky, Summer McIntosh

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 26: Winner Katie Ledecky of the United States and Summer McIntosh of Canada after the Women’s 200m Semi Finals heat two during the Swimming Finals at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Corbis via Getty Images

Katie Ledecky is undefeated in domestic, long-course freestyle races of 400 meters or longer since the 2012 Olympic Trials. That streak appears under threat at this week’s U.S. Open.

Ledecky is joined on the entry list, and in particular Thursday’s 400m freestyle, by 16-year-old Canadian phenom Summer McIntosh. Rarely does a head-to-head of this magnitude take place outside of major international meets.

Peacock airs live U.S. Open finals coverage on Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m. ET.

Back in June, Ledecky reclaimed the world championships title in the 400m free in the absence of reigning Olympic and world champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia.

McIntosh took silver at worlds. While she was a significant 1.24 seconds behind Ledecky, she broke her Canadian record by 2.2 seconds and became the fourth woman in history to break four minutes in the event.

Later at worlds, McIntosh won the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, both in world junior record times.

McIntosh then faced Titmus in August at the Commonwealth Games. She broke her national record again and took silver, 1.26 seconds behind Titmus, who broke Ledecky’s 400m free world record in May.

Then in October, McIntosh outdueled Ledecky in a 400m free by eight hundredths of a second in a short-course, 25-meter pool at a FINA World Cup meet in Toronto. Long-course meets like the Olympics and this week’s U.S. Open are held in 50-meter pools.

McIntosh, who trains in Sarasota, Florida (a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky in Gainesville), is six years younger than Titmus and nine years younger than Ledecky.

Swimming media has already compared a possible showdown among the three at the 2024 Paris Olympics to the “Race of the Century,” when Michael Phelps, Aussie Ian Thorpe and Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband met in the 200m free at the 2004 Athens Games (won by Thorpe).

Other headliners at the U.S. Open include Regan Smith, who relocated from Stanford to Arizona State after winning the world 100m back title in June, and Olympic 400m IM champ Chase Kalisz, who left the University of Georgia to reunite with coach Bob Bowman at Arizona State after worlds.

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