Ledecky sets world record in 400 meters freestyle

Sun Aug 10, 2014 1:00am EDT
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(Reuters) - American teenager Katie Ledecky set a world record in the 400 meters freestyle at the U.S. National Championships in Irvine, California on Saturday, while Michael Phelps struggled home in sixth in the 100m backstroke.

The 17-year-old Ledecky clocked 3 minutes, 58.86 seconds to better the previous record of 3:59.15 held by Italy's Federica Pellegrini. The Italian's mark was set in 2009 before high-tech polyurethane swimsuits were banned.

Ledecky, who became the first American to hold the 400, 800 and 1,500m freestyle world records at the same time since Janet Evans, took her latest record-breaking performance in stride.

"Honestly, I didn't think about it too much," the 2012 Olympic 800m freestyle champion told NBC sports. "I just wanted to put together a good swim and go a best time. I did, so I'm happy."

Ledecky, the reigning 400m world champion, came close to the world record with a time of 3:59.89 in the morning heats.

She went out hard in the final and was under record pace at halfway by more than a second when she turned at 1:57.72.

When Ledecky touched at 300m more than 1.5 seconds ahead of Pellegrini's mark, a world record seemed almost a formality.

She slowed over the next lap to hit 350m in 3:29.41, just .38 seconds ahead of world record pace, but it was enough of a cushion and she held on to touch the wall .29 faster than Pellegrini's mark.

Phelps, meanwhile, made a slow start and was never in contention in the 100m backstroke as Olympic and world champion Matt Grevers won in 52.75, the third fastest time in the world this year.   Continued...

Katie Ledecky reacts after setting a meet record of 3:59.89 in a womens 400m freestyle heat in the 2014 USA National Championships at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Complex. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports