By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) – The United States, headlined by Katie Ledecky and Ryan Murphy, dominated the final night in the pool of the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships on Sunday, whilst Australian Cate Campbell secured her fourth and fifth golds of the meet.
American swimmers won six of the eight available individual golds as well as the men’s 4×100 meters medley relay, as they finish top of the overall medals table with 18 golds. Australia came second with 8, whilst hosts Japan secured 6.
Ledecky was a class above the rest of the field as she claimed her third gold medal of the meet with victory in the women’s 1,500m.
Ledecky won in a time of 15:38.97, more than 11 seconds faster than Australia’s Kiah Melverton in second but, lacking any real competition, the 21-year-old was well off her world record time of 15:20.48 set earlier this year.
The Tokyo 2020 Games will see women competing in the 1,500m for the first time at an Olympics.
It means Ledecky, who has already won five Olympic gold medals, will be competing in four individual events in two years time.
“(Competing in many events) is something I really enjoy so I don’t really anticipate dropping any of them,” said Ledecky, who has swam nine of the top 10 fastest times in the 1,500 meters.
“It is a challenge I enjoy and something which makes training more exciting for me.
“I still have a lot in me and I have swam faster this year in all the races so it is about peaking at the right time.”
Campbell claimed victory in the women’s 50m freestyle, setting a championship record time of 24.22 seconds meaning four-time Olympic medalist Simone Manuel had to settle for second, with Emma McKeon of Australia in third.
Campbell later added a fifth gold in the women’s 4x100m medley relay as Australia edged out the United States. The 26-year-old now has nine Pan Pacific gold medals.
“It’s definitely been a near perfect meet, which doesn’t come around very often,” said Campbell.
“The nightmares are gone,” she added, referring to missing out on an individual medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The biggest cheer of the night was saved for the last individual race, as Japanese world record holder Ippei Watanabe produced an exhilarating final length to win the men’s 200m breaststroke in a championship record time of 2:07.75.
Watanabe has struggled since breaking the world record last year but delivered in Tokyo on Sunday, almost lifting the roof off the Tatsumi Swimming Centre.
Australian pair Zac Stubblety-Cook and Matthew Wilson took the silver and bronze medals respectively.
However, Australia didn’t have a single entrant in the men’s 50m freestyle, which was dominated by American pair Michael Andrew and Caeleb Dressel.
The two were neck and neck for most of the race but Andrew managed to finish the stronger, outlasting the seven time world champion, to take the gold medal in a time of 21.46 seconds. Japan’s Katsumi Nakamura was third.
Triple Olympic gold medalist Murphy provided yet more American success as he cruised to victory in the men’s 200m backstroke.
Murphy broke his own championship record, which had been set in the morning’s heats, to win in a time of 1:53.57. Ryosuke Irie won Japan’s first medal of the night with a second-place finish, holding off Austin Katz of the U.S. who took bronze.
As expected, the U.S. picked up the gold in the women’s 200m breaststroke. However, it wasn’t double Olympic champion Lilly King but compatriot Micah Sumrall who emerged victorious from a thrilling race, which saw King take silver.
Fellow Americans Kathleen Baker and Zane Grothe also set championship record times as they won the women’s 200m backstroke and men’s 800m freestyle respectively.
The United States concluded their dominance in the pool with victory in the men’s 4x100m medley, beating Japan into second by just 0.05 seconds in the evening’s final race.
The 10 kilometers open water race will conclude the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships on Tuesday.