Five wins in nine events for U.S. on Pan-Pacs Day 1

A powerful United States team won five of nine events on the opening day of the 2018 Pan-Pacific Championships in Tokyo (JPN), including a world-leading time from Chase Kalisz in the 400 m Medley. The three world leaders:

Men’s 400 m Medley: 4:07.95 Chase Kalisz (USA)
Women’s 200 m Freestyle: 1:54.44 Taylor Ruck (CAN)
Women’s 400 m Medley: 4:33.77 Yui Ohashi (JPN)

But as is usually the case in these meets, the focus was on American superstar Katie Ledecky.

She led the qualifying in the morning heats of the 200 m Freestyle, setting a meet record of 1:55.16, ahead of teammate Allison Schmidt (1:56.36). She then set a meet record in winning the 800 m Free by almost eight seconds in 8:09.13, the second-fastest time of the year, finishing at about 6:40 in the evening.

About 1:15 later, Ledecky was in the 200 m Free final in lane four, with Schmidt in five and Commonwealth Games champ Taylor Ruck (CAN) in three. Off the start, Ruck burst into the lead on the first lap, but Ledecky was just 0.12 at halfway. But Ruck, still just 18, put the hammer down on the third lap and took control of the race. Could Ledecky come back? Instead, she was passed with 25 m to go by Japan’s Rikako Ikee – also 18 – for second as Ruck finished in a meet record of 1:54.44, a world leader for 2018and no. 5 on the all-time list. Wow!

Ledecky’s not done, with the 400 m and 1,500 Frees still to go and at least the 4×200 m Free Relays, but her vulnerability at this distance – especially in a compacted schedule – was demonstrated once again. As great as Ledecky is – and she is one of the greatest swimmers of all time – she is not a long sprinter, at least not yet.

But the U.S. had a marvelous day:

  • Townley Haas started fast and just held off a final-lap rush from national champ Andrew Seliskar for the win in 1:45.56, with Seliskar in 1:45.74.
  • Jordan Wilimovsky, the 2015 World Champion in the Open Water 10 km, continues to impress in the 1,500 m, winning the timed final in 14:46.93, no. 4 in the world this year. American Zane Grothe swam in the first heat and had the second-fastest time in the race (14:48.40), but Robert Finke (USA) and Jack McLoughlin (AUS) were awarded the silver and bronze medals because they finished 2-3 to Wilimovsky in the second heat.

And yes, Wilimovsky will be swimming in the Open Water 10 km race next Tuesday.

  • Kalisz, already the world leader in the 400 m Medley, improved his 4:08.25 from the U.S. Nationals to 4:07.95 and destroyed a good field, winning by more than three seconds over 2016 Olympic champ Kosuke Hagino of Japan. Kalisz trailed 2013-15 World Champion Daiya Seto and Hagino after the first two legs, but took over on the Breaststroke leg and won easily.
  • The world-record holder, Lilly King, was brilliant for 90 meters of the 100 m Breaststroke, then hung on to win in 1:05.44, just 0.08 off her winning mark at the U.S. Nationals.

The Japanese hosts had a lot to cheer about, with wins from Yasuhiro Koseki in the men’s 100 m Breast in 59.08 and a dominant performance from Yui Ohashi in 4:33.77 in the women’s 400 m Medley, fastest in the world this year. It looked like Japan would be 1-2 in the event with Sakiko Shimizu until American Melanie Margalis mounted a charge in the Breaststroke and Free legs to win silver in 4:35.60.

Even as terrific as the U.S. was, the medal count was held down by the rule that any country can have a maximum of two competitors in the final. Astonishingly, there would have been nine more Americans in the first-day finals if the top eight in the prelims had advanced to the A-final!

NBC has coverage of the meet on Friday and Saturday at 6 a.m. Eastern time and on Sunday at 5 a.m. Eastern time. A highlights show will air on NBC on Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Summaries so far:

Pan-Pacific Championships
Tokyo (JPN) ~ 9-14 August 2018
(Full results here)

200 m Freestyle: 1. Townley Haas (USA), 1:45.56; 2. Andrew Seliskar (USA), 1:45.74; 3. Katsuhiro Matsumoto (JPN), 1:45.92; 4. Fernando Scheffer (BRA), 1:46.12; 5. Alexander Graham (AUS), 1:46.50.

1,500 m Free (combined results): 1. Jordan Wilimovsky (USA), 14:46.93; 2. Zane Grothe (USA), 14:48.40; 3. Robert Finke (USA), 14:48.70; 4. Jack McLoughlin (AUS), 14:55.92; 5. Guilherme Costa (BRA), 15:03.40. Also: 7. James Brinegar (USA), 15:07.04; … 10. David Heron (USA), 15:22.98; … 12. Taylor Abbott (USA), 15:33.64.

100 m Breaststroke: 1. Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN), 59.08; 2. Jake Packard (AUS), 59.20; 3. Joao Gomez Jr. (BRA), 59.60; 4. Andrew Wilson (USA), 59.70; 5. Lizhuo Wang (CHN), 59.76. Also: 7. Michael Andrew (USA), 1:00.04.

400 m Medley: 1. Chase Kalisz (USA), 4:07.95; 2. Kosuke Hagino (JPN), 4:11.13; 3. Daiya Seto (JPN), 4:12.60; 4. Jay Litherland (USA), 4:12.87; 5. Lewis Clareburt (NZL), 4:14.27.

200 m Freestyle: 1. Taylor Ruck (CAN), 1:54.44; 2. Rikako Ikee (JPN), 1:54.85; 3. Katie Ledecky (USA), 1:55.15; 4. Allison Schmidt (USA), 1:56.71; 5. Kayla Sanchez (CAN), 1:57.23.

800 m Free (combined results): 1. Ledecky (USA), 8:09.13; 2. Ariarne Titmus (AUS), 8:17.07; 3. Leah Smith (USA), 8:17.21; 4. Kiah Melverton (AUS), 8:26.64; 5. Erica Sullivan (USA), 8:26.27. Also: 6. Haley Anderson (USA), 8:27.13; … 11. Chase Travis (USA), 8:37.86.

100 m Breaststroke: 1. Lilly King (USA), 1:05.44; 2. Jessica Hansen (AUS), 1:06.20; 3. Reona Aoki (JPN), 1:06.34; 4. Satomi Suzuki (JPN), 1:06.51; 5. Micah Sumrall (USA), 1:06.56.

400 m Medley: 1. Yui Ohashi (JPN), 4:33.77; 2. Melanie Margalis (USA), 4:35.60; 3. Sakiko Shimizu (JPN), 4:36.27; 4. Brooke Forde (USA), 4:39.22; 5. Emily Overholt (CAN), 4:39.48.

4×100 m Medley: 1. Australia (Larkin, Packard, McKeon, C. Campbell), 3:38.91; 2. Japan (Irie, Koseki, Ikee, Aoki), 3:40.98; 3. United States (Kathleen Baker, Michael Andrew, Caeleb Dressel, Simone Manuel), 3:41.74; 4. Canada, 3:46.75; 5. Philippines, 4:04.20.