By Sharon Robb
August 23, 2014—On another dreary weather night in Southport, Australia, Team USA had another big night Saturday at the Pan Pacific Championships at Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.
Teenage sensation Katie Ledecky, 17, broke her own world record in the 400-meter freestyle with a blistering 29.30 final split.
The Stanford-bound swimmer took another half second off her world record time of 3:58.86 she swam at nationals earlier this month to win the gold medal in 3:58.37. U.S. teammate Cierra Runge was second in 4:04.55.
Both Ledecky and Runge qualified for the world team.
New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle took the bronze in 4:05.33. Venezuela’s Andreina Pinto of Gator Swim Club was fifth in 4:07.51.
Ledecky now holds at least two of the fastest times in history in the 400, 800 and 1500-meter freestyles. It was Ledecky’s fourth gold medal of the meet.
“It never really gets old, it’s a great feeling,” Ledecky said. “I have some long-term goals. We’re not quite there yet, but we’ll get there. “
Ledecky still has the 1500 to swim.
Eighteen-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps won his first international gold medal since the 2012 London Olympics in the 100-meter butterfly. It was also his first win since his comeback.
Phelps, 29, won in 51.29 ahead of Ryan Lochte, who finished second in 51.67. Tom Shields did not swim the event, however his time from nationals will hold up and he and Phelps will make the world team.
“It definitely feels good to have that sort of confidence back to be able to do it in an individual event,” Phelps said. “What it does is really just guarantee me a spot on the world championship team next summer. That’s the biggest thing and most important thing.”
The weather has been the biggest topic of conversation during the four-day meet. Even Phelps called it “crazy, sideways rain.”
“There’s no rain underwater so it doesn’t really bother me,” Phelps said with a smile. Phelps has the 200-meter individual medley left to swim on Sunday.
“I know there’s a lot that can happen in a year with training,” Phelps said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Tyler Clary won the 200-meter backstroke holding off Japan’s top-seed Ryosuke Irie to win in 1:54.91. Irie’s time was 1:55.14. Aussie Mitchell Larkin was third in 1:55.27. Clary kept the U.S. tradition alive, with U.S. swimmers never losing the 200 backstroke at twelve Pan Pacs.
Along with Clary, Bolles alum Ryan Murphy qualified for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia with a fourth-place finish time of 1:56.17.
Lochte scratched from the final heat of the men’s 200-meter backstroke after qualifying second in morning prelims.
In other championships finals on a night that featured hail, wind, rain and lots of plastic raincoats in the stands:
Aussie Alicia Coutts won the 100-meter butterfly in 57.64 ahead of China’s Ying Lu in 57.76. American Kendyl Stewart took the bronze in 57.82. Despite a disappointing sixth place in 58.31, Claire Donahue will join Stewart on the worlds team.
Korea’s Park Taehwan won the men’s 400-meter freestyle in 3:43.15. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino took silver in 3:44.56 and American Connor Jaeger took the bronze in 3:45.31.
Aussie Belinda Hocking just missed the meet record in the 200-meter backstroke by .01 seconds winning in 2:07.49. Teammate Emily Seebohm was second in 2:07.61.
University of Florida alum Elizabeth Beisel won the bronze in 2:08.33 and knocked Kathleen Baker off the world team to earn a roster spot. It was a much-needed redemption swim for Beisel who slipped off the start at nationals.
Franklin, still nursing back spasms, was fourth in 2:08.82. Beisel and Missy Franklin will represent the U.S. at worlds.
Australia swept the 4×100-meter freestyle relay gold medals.
The Aussie women’s relay of Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie, Melanie Schlanger and Bronte Campbell won in a meet record 3:32.46. The U.S. relay of Simone Manuel, Missy Franklin, Abbey Weitzeil and Shannon Vreeland was second in 3:34.23 and Japan took the bronze in 3:39.06.
The Aussie men’s relay of Tommaso D’Orsogna, James Magnussen, Matthew Abood and Cameron McEvoy won in 3:12.80 ahead of the U.S. team of Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin and Ryan Lochte in 3:13.36 and Brazil in 3:13.59. McEvoy’s anchor split of 47.60 clinched the win over Lochte’s 48.20.
The U.S. picked up three more golds and has 11 for the meet. Australia has eight gold medals.
For those following the Pan Pacs and enjoy being sleep-deprived on the East Coast, prelims are 8 p.m. and finals 5 a.m.
NBC will broadcast highlight races from the Pan Pacs today and Sunday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. each day. In Australia the entire meet is being televised live.
Swimming Australia is live streaming the meet on its website (www.swimming.org.au).
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com