Ledecky and Winnington off to winning starts at world championships


Olympic silver medallist Katie Ledecky powered to victory in the women’s 400 metres freestyle event on the opening day of the swimming world championships in Budapest on Saturday to capture her 16th gold medal in the competition.

The American took full advantage of the absence of reigning world and Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia to finish with a time of three minutes and 58.15 seconds, finishing ahead of Canadian 15-year-old Summer McIntosh, who took silver.

American Leah Smith was third, nearly four seconds behind her compatriot.

Titmus, who set the world record of 3:56.40 at her national championships last month to eclipse Ledecky’s mark, denied fans another showdown with her rival after opting to skip the worlds to prepare for next month’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Ledecky was on course to reclaim the record halfway through her race before her pace dropped slightly, but she staved off a strong challenge from McIntosh to claim a fourth world title in the event having settled for silver in 2019.

Australia’s Elijah Winnington finished strongly to win the men’s 400m freestyle event, earning his first individual gold medal at the worlds.

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The 22-year-old finished in 3:41.22 seconds, going 1.63 seconds faster than Germany’s Lukas Martens, who claimed silver at the Duna Arena.

“I tried to have fun in the pool and enjoy this whole experience,” Winnington said. “In the last call room I’ve heard the noise, the MC’s (master of ceremonies) voice and it was a total boost for me.

“I haven’t had this feeling for a long time.”

Brazil’s Guilherme Costa took the bronze while Austria’s Felix Auboeck, who dominated the heats earlier in the day, could only manage fourth despite a solid start.

Earlier, Japan’s Yukiko Inui bagged the first gold at the 19th edition of the worlds, winning the women’s solo technical event with 92.8662 points. Ukraine’s Marta Fiedina earned the silver while Greece’s Evangelia Platanioti took bronze.

The world championships, originally scheduled to take place in Fukuoka, Japan before being shifted to the Hungarian capital due to COVID-19 concerns, will run until July 3.

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