Dressel wins US Olympic swimming gold; Aussie beats Ledecky | Sports news

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BY PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer

TOKYO (AP) – Caeleb Dressel began his quest for six gold medals in swimming while Katie Ledecky found herself in a very unusual position.

Dressel led a U.S. win in the men’s 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday and softened America’s sting from Ledecky’s first Olympic defeat a little.

Australian Ariarne Titmus – nicknamed “Terminator” – lived up to her reputation when she chased Ledecky in the 400 freestyle to win one of the most anticipated races of the Summer Games.

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Titmus, who was almost a full length of his body by the halfway point of the eight lap race, switched on touch speed in 3 minutes, 56.69 seconds. It was the second fastest time in history, only surpassed by Ledecky’s world record of 3: 56.46 from the 2016 Rio Games.

The reigning Olympic champion took silver this time in 3: 57.36 – the fourth fastest time of all time and her best performance in three years.

“I fought tooth and nail,” said Ledecky. “She definitely swam a really smart race. She was really controlled up front. I felt pretty slick and strong going out and I spun on the 300 and it was like, ‘there.'”

For the first time in her brilliant Olympic career, Ledecky felt the stab of defeat dealt by a rival from Down Under who made it clear she was not intimidated by the American star.

“It’s probably the greatest thing you can achieve in your sporting career,” said Titmus, “I’m over the moon.”

Nobody else was around. Bronze went to the Chinese Li Bingjie in 4: 01.08.

Then Dressel moved into the spotlight, who was hailed as the successor to Michael Phelps.

Dressel put the US in the lead, and the three who followed him on the season made them stand up.

“I felt good the whole time, I knew that I had to stick my hand in the wall and get clean water first,” said Dressel. “And everyone did their job. It’s a season for a reason, it’s four guys for a reason, it’s definitely not just me. It’s certainly not just one type. “

The 24-year-old, tattooed Floridian swam the first leg in a glowing 47.26. Blake Pieroni and Bowe Becker kept the Americans in front before Zach Apple turned a 46.69 anchor leg to leave no doubt in the end.

The US won in 3: 08.97, the third fastest time in history. Italy took silver in 3: 10.11, bronze went to Australia in 3: 10.22.

“The scariest part was my leg to myself because I was in control of it,” said Dressel. “I knew they would do the job, I wasn’t scared at all. Especially when Zach got in the water. I saw it broke out and I knew it was over. “

Apple climbed out of the pool and was hugged by Dressel, who is expecting a busy schedule of three individual events and three seasons in Tokyo.

Ledecky’s disappointment was a downer for the Americans, who won six of twelve medals on Sunday but were excluded from the first two finals on Monday.

Torri Huske and Michael Andrew narrowly missed the medals with fourth place, then it was Ledecky who was satisfied with second place on the podium – madness for perhaps the greatest freestyle swimmer in history.

Ledecky lost an Olympic singles final for the first time after winning the 800 Free at the London Games in 2012 and then winning three more gold medals in the 200, 400 and 800 Free five years ago in Rio de Janeiro.

“I knew it was going to be a fight until the end,” said Ledecky. “I didn’t feel like I died. She just had a faster 50 or 75. It can’t get much better.”

Titmus ended up being the terminator in every way.

“To be honest, I was a bit worried about the 200,” said the Australian. “I knew she would be there. No one is going to come to the Olympics and catch a Katie Ledecky off guard. I think I just had to trust myself. “

“I tried to be as calm as possible and use my easy pace that I have. And to pull it off in the back end against someone who has an amazing second half of their race, I’m really proud of that.”

Ledecky will crack Titmus again in the 200 Free, and the American will be heavily favored if he repeats in the 800 and added another gold in the 1,500 – a new event for the women at these games.

After competing in the middle of the pool, the swimmers ended up clapping their hands.

They climbed out of the pool together and hugged.

“I just thanked her,” said Titmus. “She set this standard for the middle distance freestyle. If I didn’t have someone like her, I definitely wouldn’t swim the way I am. “

Perhaps the safest bet at the pool, repeated the Briton Adam Peaty as Olympic champion in the men’s 100 breaststroke.

Peaty was the world record holder and the first man to break both 58 and 57 seconds in his signature event. He set the fifth fastest time in history (57.37) to blow the field away.

Arno Kamminga from the Netherlands took silver with 58.00, bronze went to the Italian Nicolo Martinenghi with 58.33. Andrew was next in 58.84.

In the first final of the day Maggie MacNeil won gold for Canada in the 100 butterfly.

The reigning world champion was the first to touch with 55.59 points and beat Zhang Yufei from China (55.64) for the top spot. Emma McKeon from Australia took bronze with 55.72 points and left the 18-year-old Huske behind by a hundredth of a second.

Huske walked fast, as is her style, and appeared to be 10 meters ahead of the finish line. But she faded on her final blows and narrowly missed a spot on the podium.

Defending champion and world record holder Sarah Sjöström from Sweden came in seventh.

“I knew the challenge for me would be to win one race and then prepare for the next,” said Sjöström, who had used a metal plate and six screws to hold her right arm together after a fall in February.

“I did everything I could physically, all mental preparations. I couldn’t do anything more. “

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and see his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

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