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Katie Ledecky makes fourth Olympic team, embodies the word on her bracelet

What more is there to say about Katie Ledecky, who just made her fourth Olympic team and in Paris can break more medal records?

She won the 400m freestyle on the first night of the U.S. Olympic Trials in Indianapolis on Saturday. At 27, she will shatter Janet Evans’ record as the oldest American woman to swim a distance freestyle race at an Olympics (400m, 800m or 1500m). Evans was 24 at her last Games in 1996.

Starting with her first gold medal at the 2012 London Games at age 15, Ledecky has been a phenom. She has been a champion across several freestyle races, a dominant distance swimmer and now the longest-standing leading woman in the history of her events.

Lilly King, a teammate since 2016, added a succinct description: fearless.

SWIMMING TRIALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Ledecky wrote about that in “Just Add Water,” her memoir published this past week. King brought beads and yarn for the team to make friendship bracelets at a training camp before last July’s worlds in Japan.

“I made a couple of bracelets with ‘USA’ spelled out,” Ledecky wrote. “Lilly made one for me that says ‘Fearless.’”

King explained why.

“Every time (Ledecky) steps on the block, even though she may be feeling that fear, you just look in her eyes, and you know she’s a shark,” King said before trials. “She’s ready to go, and she looks fearless. She walks into her race fearless. She races so hard every single time. That’s kind of what embodies Katie to me.”

Ledecky exhibited that from the get-go.

Like in 2012. In the first international final of her life, Ledecky took out the 800m free at the London Olympics at 1.55 seconds under world record pace through 350 meters. In an arena screaming support for the swimmer next to her, defending champion Brit Rebecca Adlington. Ledecky held off Adlington and everyone else.

There have been grinding victories and world records over the years, plus steely wins after rare defeats.

These days, the 400m free embodies fearlessness for Ledecky more than any other event.

At the Tokyo Games, Australian rival Ariarne Titmus took gold over Ledecky in the 400m free. Titmus then broke Ledecky’s world record in 2022.

Ledecky, meanwhile, moved from Stanford to Gainesville, Florida after Tokyo. She joined a group to train with the best American male distance swimmers. The 800m and 1500m frees are her “main focuses,” yet she continues to test herself in the 400m.

Unlike the 800m and 1500m, Ledecky is not the favorite for Olympic gold in Paris in the 400m.

She is ranked second in the world this year by best time (3:58.35) behind Titmus (3:55.44) and ahead of Canadian Summer McIntosh (3:59.06). Ledecky, Titmus and McIntosh combine to own the 28 fastest times in history in the event.

Titmus and McIntosh are the only two women in history who have been faster than Ledecky in the 400m.

Ledecky is the world’s only swimmer who is a medal threat at 400m, 800m and 1500m. Though the 400m is her greatest challenge of the three, she has not shied away from it. It could be the most anticipated race of the entire Olympic swimming schedule.

When Ledecky moved to train at the University of Florida in 2021, her new coach, Anthony Nesty, told her that she needed to get more athletic.

Ledecky gets in the pool on Sundays now — “I swim every day. No time off,” she wrote. The weight room has been a focus. She has done stadiums inside the Swamp.

It may all pay off on July 27 in the first women’s swimming final of the Paris Games — the 400m free.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the fastest version of Katie yet,” Nesty said last month.

Kate Douglass, a Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist, is now the world’s most versatile swimmer.