Katie Ledecky clocks fast time to win first race since Tokyo Olympics

Katie Ledecky
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On the opening night of the 2021 U.S. Open at Greensboro Aquatic Center, 10-time Olympic swimming medalist Katie Ledecky made a statement in her most dominant event.

Competing in her first meet since the Tokyo Games, Ledecky won the women’s 800m, finishing nearly 11 seconds ahead of two-time Olympic medalist Leah Smith.

Ledecky’s time – 8:12.81 – is faster than any woman in history not named Ledecky. After Wednesday night’s swim, Ledecky owns the top 24 fastest times in the women’s 800m, while Australia’s Ariarne Titmus ranks 25th thanks to her silver-medal swim from Tokyo (8:13.83).

While expectations are always high when Ledecky dives in the pool, her performance is particularly impressive for a December meet at the start of a new Olympic cycle. Then add in the fact that Ledecky recently moved across the country.

In late September, the 24-year-old announced that she was leaving Stanford – where she had lived and trained since 2016 – and moving to Florida to work with University of Florida head coach Anthony Nesty, who has developed a reputation for producing strong distance swimmers.

“I’m excited about the new quad,” Ledecky told USA Swimming after the race. “Feeling really good about my new training environment and getting to train with some really great mid-distance and distance swimmers that are racing tonight. I’m just happy to start seeing the work pay off.”

Before leaving Stanford, Ledecky made sure to pass along a 30-year-old kickboard that has been handed down between generations of Stanford swimmers. Ledecky gave the kickboard – originally owned by Janet Evans – to freshman Lillie Nordmann.

The U.S. Open continues through Saturday. Ledecky is also expected to race the 200m, 400m, and 1500m.

How to watch the 2021 U.S. Open – Swimming:

  • Thursday finals: live on USASwimming.org at 6pm ET
  • Friday finals: live on Olympic Channel at 7pm ET (re-airs on NBCSN at 9:30pm)
  • Saturday finals: live on Olympic Channel at 7pm

The Olympic Channel and NBCSN broadcasts will also stream on NBCSports.com/live and on the NBC Sports app.

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC