Ledecky punches ticket to Rio with fastest 400m freestyle of 2016


Katie Ledecky's impeccable win streak continued on Monday as the teenage swimmer secured a spot on the United States' Olympic team with the fastest 400 metre freestyle time in the world so far this year.

Ledecky, who has not lost a 200, 400 or 800m freestyle heat since January 18, 2014, was under world-record pace by over two seconds at the halfway mark but slowed in the final 50 as Leah Smith closed the gap for a second-place finish and her own ticket to the Rio Games. 

"My coach didn't give me any advice [before the swim]," Ledecky told NBC Sports after the race.

"He just said get up there and go. I couldn't be happier. I'm so excited for [Smith], we are going to crush it in Rio." 

Ledecky's time of 3:58.98 easily ranked her first in the world this year, over a second and a half ahead of Smith, whose time of 4:00.65 put her second on the list.

The runner-up was happy to simply be near Ledecky by the end of the race.

"I saw her feet, so that was pretty cool," Smith told NBC. "I've never been that close but she pushes everyone to be a better swimmer, especially in women's distance swimming."

Cierra Runge finished third, followed by Lindsay Vrooman and defending Olympic Trials champion in the event, Allison Schmitt. 

Ledecky is expected to take home at least three individual gold medals in Rio and could potentially help the US women earn gold in both freestyle relays.

The 400m freestyle is the first of four individual freestyle events the 19-year-old is expected to swim at the US Olympic team trials in Omaha, Nebraska.