FUKUOKA, Japan — Australian Ariarne Titmus set a new world record on the way to a decisive victory in the women’s 400-meter freestyle on Sunday, the opening day of the world swimming championships, with silver for American Katie Ledecky and bronze for Erika Fairweather of New Zealand.
Sixteen-year-old Summer McIntosh of Canada, the world-record holder in the event, finished fourth.
Despite it falling on the first day, the race was seen by many as the most compelling matchup of the eight-day championships with 22-year-old Titmus and 26-year-old Bethesda native Ledecky both having held the world record before McIntosh.
Titmus took the lead 100 meters into the race and never looked back, winning in 3 minutes, 55.38 seconds. Ledecky (3:58.73) rallied from behind early to get the silver, while Fairweather (3:59.59) gained the bronze.
McIntosh’s time in fourth was 3:59.94. She set the previous world record of 3:56.08 four months ago. McIntosh also set the world record in the 400 IM four months ago in 4:25.87.
Ledecky has almost never gone home from a race in the world championships or Olympics with less than a gold or silver medal. She finished fifth in the 200 meters at the delayed Tokyo Olympics, her only other less than gold or silver performance.
She entered these worlds with 32 gold or silver medals in the Olympics and worlds.
The race by the three superstar women overshadowed the world-record performance of rising French star Leon Marchand. Marchand won the 400 IM in 4:02.50 breaking the previous mark of 4:03.84 set by American Michael Phelps in 2008. The 400 IM record was the last individual mark held by Phelps.
Marchand is coached at Arizona State University by Bob Bowman, who is also the head coach of the American team at the worlds and also coached Phelps.
Unlike the 400, Marchand’s race was never in doubt. He assumed the lead 40 meters in and steamed home the rest of the way.
American Carson Foster (4:06.56) picked up the silver, while Daiya Seto of Japan (4:09.41) collected the bronze.
In other medal races on the first day in Japan, Sam Short of Australia won the men’s 400 in 3:40.68 with silver for Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia (3:40.70) and bronze for Lukas Martens of Germany (3:42.20).
In the 4×100 men’s freestyle relay, Australia took the gold in 3:10.16, with Italy earning the silver (3:10.49) and the United States the bronze (3:10.81).
In the 4×100 women’s freestyle relay, Australia set a world record of 3:27.96 in a dominating win. The United States took second in 3:31.93, while China rounded out the podium with 3:32.40.
The top three finishers in each relay automatically qualified for next summer’s Paris Olympics.
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