BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Katie Ledecky started the United States’ medal collection at the world swimming championships with a gold medal as she reclaimed her title in the women’s 400 meters on Saturday.

The Americans finished the first day of racing with two gold medals, one silver and three bronze.

Ledecky clocked a time of 3 minutes 58.15 seconds – almost two seconds off the world record – for his fourth world title in the 400m freestyle after 2013, 2015 and 2017.

Ariarne Titmus propelled Ledecky to the title in 2019 and claimed her world record last month, but the Australian skipped the world championships in Budapest to focus on the Commonwealth Games next month in England.

“It’s great to get the first gold medal for Team USA,” said Ledecky, who said she was also working on reclaiming her record. “I’m on the right track.”

Winning the 400m gave Ledecky his 16th world championship gold and 18th overall. She is just one behind Natalie Coughlin for the most all-time medal count by a female swimmer in world championship history.

Ledecky then looks to a potential fifth consecutive world title in the 1,500m with heats on Sunday before Monday’s final.

15-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh clocked less than 4 minutes for silver behind Ledecky.

“I just wanted to have fun and run and push and hang with other people,” McIntosh said.

Both were well ahead of the competition, with American Leah Smith 3.93 behind Ledecky in third and Australian Lani Pallister in fourth.

The USA relay team of Caeleb Dressel, Ryan Held, Justin Ress and Brooks Curry won the men’s 4×100 freestyle final in 3:09.34 to finish ahead of the Australians in second and the Italians in third.

The Australians responded by winning their 4×100 freestyle final, 1.20 ahead of the Canadians and 1.63 ahead of the Americans.

Mollie O’Callaghan, Madison Wilson, Meg Harris and Shayna Jack were all the fastest with a time of 3:30.95.

“Everyone did their job,” Wilson said.

Australia’s Elijah Winnington won the first gold of the night when he raced home on the final length of the men’s 400 meters to overtake Germany’s Lukas Martens. Winnington clocked a personal best time of 3 minutes, 41.22 seconds and the third fastest time at the world championships.

“I try to keep up with the Aussie but in the end he swam,” said Martens, who finished 1.63 seconds behind.

Brazilian Guilherme Costa finished third.

None of the 2019 medalists ran in the men’s 400m. Chinese Sun Yang is banned for a doping infraction, Australian Mack Horton – the 2016 Olympic champion – failed to qualify by 0.10 seconds and Gabriele Detti did not participate.

Léon Marchand won gold for France with a dominant performance in the men’s 400m medley. Marchand, 20, clocked a European record time of 4:04.28 and the second fastest of all time after Michael Phelps’ record of 4:03.84 at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Americans Carson Foster and Chase Kalisz won silver and bronze.

“I really thought I was done and I can’t be upset about this bronze medal,” said Kalisz, who won gold when Budapest previously hosted the world championships in 2017.

Britain’s Benjamin Proud was 0.03 seconds faster than Dressel and Italy’s Thomas Ceccon in the men’s 50m butterfly semi-final. The final is Sunday.

American Torri Huske was the fastest in the women’s 100m butterfly semi-final, and Alex Walsh led a 1-2 American victory with Leah Hayes ahead of Australian Kaylee McKeown and Canadian Mary-Sophie Harvey in the semi-finals. women’s 200m medley final.

The spectators at the Duna Arena applauded all the Hungarian swimmers. FINA, the sport’s governing body, has called on fans to clap rather than cheer as a precaution against coronavirus infections. There were no other requests or restrictions.

Budapest stepped in to host the event after it was twice postponed from its original dates in Fukuoka, Japan, due to a clash with the Tokyo Olympics last year and then due of the pandemic this year.

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