U.S. Open: Katie Ledecky Dominates 800 Free; Charlie Clark Pulls Off Comeback Win

Katie Ledecky -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Open: Katie Ledecky Dominates 800 Free; Charlie Clark Pulls Off Comeback Win

In a dominant stretch now entering its 13th year, Katie Ledecky has turned American women’s distance swimming into an uncompetitive sport. The field she was racing in the 800 freestyle on the opening night of the U.S. Open featured plenty of talented swimmers, including a teenager fresh off a sixth-place finish in the event at the recent World Championships, Jillian Cox, plus Ledecky’s 2021 Olympic teammate Paige Madden.

But as usual, it was all Ledecky. The 26-year-old pulled well clear of the field right away on the way to a 14-second win, hitting the wall in 8:15.91. Ledecky has been much faster this year, with an 8:07.07 at U.S. Nationals at June that ranks as the third-fastest performance in history behind two of her own swims from 2016. The time, though, was of relatively little importance Wednesday evening, with Ledecky’s sights set on training for a potential fourth Olympics.

Ledecky will enter the Olympic year as a heavy gold-medal favorite in both the 800 and 1500 free, with the 800 providing her an opportunity to become the first female swimmer ever to win four Olympic gold medals in one event after previously winning in dominant fashion in 2012, 2016 and 2021. The only swimmer overall to do so was Michael Phelps, who captured 200 IM gold medals in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Ledecky already occupies a spot in history in the 800 free as the only swimmer to win six world titles in one event.

Meanwhile, Madden came in second at 8:29.91, dropping two-and-a-half seconds from her best time of 8:32.46 recorded at this summer’s TYR Pro Championships. Cox ended up finishing in 8:33.77, 14 seconds off the 8:19.73 she swam at Worlds but good enough to edge out Georgia’s Dune Coetzee (8:33.86) for third place.

Immediately after Ledecky’s dominant performance, the top heat of men raced the 800 free. Although world champion Ahmed Hafnaoui scratched, the 2022 world titlist and 2021 Olympic champion was in the field with Bobby Finke holding down lane four. But Finke had his hands full with a pair of American rivals. David Johnston, a University of Texas swimmer taking the year away from college swimming to train with The Swim Team, built an early lead over Finke, but the entire complexion of the race changed on the back half.

Johnston had a lead of almost two seconds over Finke and Ohio State’s Charlie Clark at the halfway point, but then Clark turned on the jets. Clark, who has represented the U.S. in at least one distance race at each of the last two World Championships, pulled almost even with Johnston at the 600-meter mark before taking the lead and pulling away. Clark split 3:56.66 at the halfway point, but he negative-split the race by almost three seconds as he came home in 3:53.83.

Clark touched in 7:50.49, knocking more than a second off his best time of 7:51.59 that he swam on the way to a 12th-place finish at last year’s Worlds. Clark moved up one spot from 15th to 14th all-time among Americans. Johnston held on to finish second in 7:53.87, while Finke, who set an American record of 7:38.67 as he captured World Championships bronze this year, came in at 7:54.90. After the conclusion of all heats, Florida’s Ilia Sibirtsev ended up with a slightly quicker time than Finke, with his 7:54.36 good for third overall while Finke was fourth.

Live Results

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x