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Katie Ledecky dominates 800m free, sets up historic Tokyo sweep

Katie Ledecky won the women's 800m freestyle Saturday at U.S. Trials, setting up a potential distance sweep at this summer's Olympics.
Katie Ledecky won the women's 800m freestyle Saturday at U.S. Trials, setting up a potential distance sweep at this summer's Olympics.

Katie Ledecky can now shift her focus to Tokyo after qualifying for her fourth and final individual event Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.

Ledecky won the women’s 800m freestyle – the event in which she is a two-time defending Olympic champion – in 8:14.62, over five seconds ahead of the rest of the field. She still holds the world record of 8:04.79, set at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Four years before that, Ledecky burst onto the international swimming scene at the London Olympics by winning gold in the 800 free as a 15-year-old. She can become just the third woman ever to win an Olympic swimming event in three consecutive Games with a victory in Tokyo.

Ledecky also placed first at Trials in the 200m, 400m and 1500m freestyle events, setting up a potentially historic sweep of the mid-to-long distance freestyles at this summer’s Olympics. The women’s 1500 will be contested for the first time at an Olympics in Tokyo; Ledecky owns the 10 fastest times in history in that event.

While the 24-year-old from Maryland will be a gold medal favorite in all four events, she is a virtual lock for gold only in the furthest two. In the 200 and 400, she has serious competition.

Since Ledecky won both events in Rio, 20-year-old Australian Ariarne Titmus has emerged as a gold medal contender in the middle-distance events. Titmus set world-leading times in the 200 and 400 at Australian Olympic Trials earlier this month, eclipsing Ledecky’s personal best in the 200 (Titmus went 1:53.09) in the process.

Ledecky is also qualified to race in the 4x200m freestyle for Team USA alongside eight-time Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt, Paige Madden and Katie McLaughlin. Ledecky and Schmitt helped lead the U.S. relay to gold in Rio.

In the Tokyo 800 free, Ledecky will be joined by someone bearing striking similarities to the 2012 version of herself: 15-year-old Katie Grimes, who placed second Saturday at Trials.

SEE MORE: Rio 2016: U.S. captures gold in women's 4x200m free relay