Katie Ledecky, US swim superstar, could square off with Campbell sisters in sprint

American swimming star Katie Ledecky continues to break records for her personal amusement. In her first meet of the Olympic calendar, she bettered her own 800m freestyle mark for the fourth time in as many years.

And the teenager may present a whole new set of problems for two of Australia’s gold medal hopes, with Ledecky now tipped to make the US team as a 100m sprinter, where she would run headlong into Brisbane sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell.

Now 18 and already a gold medallist after taking out the 800m free in London when she was just 15, Ledecky touched in at 8:06.68 in the meet in Texas on Sunday, more than six seconds faster than when she first won the world title in 2013 in Barcelona.

She already has the 400m and 1500m world records (and the 200m world title), although the latter is not an Olympic event for the women, but her foray into the sprinting realm could ring the alarms for the Campbell sisters, who shape as two of Australia’s best medal prospects in the pool.

Bronte won the 100m and 50m freestyle at last year’s World Championships and big sister Cate, a world champion before that, looks in ominous form as she returns from a shoulder injury.

But there doesn’t appear to be anything Ledecky can’t do in a swimming pool and she could be the first American woman to swim in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m in a single games, as well as the various relays.

Such is her profile now that Ledecky relegated Michael Phelps, thought by many to be the greatest swimmer of all time, to “in other news…” status in Austin as he beat Ryan Lochte in the 200m individual medley final.

She finished second to Swede Sarah Sjöström (53.12) in the 100m in 53.75, with both times well off Bronte Campbell’s 52.52 swim in Kazan to take the world title.

But it would be deeply unwise to underestimate Ledecky, who stands to be one of the major stars of the Rio Olympics. The 400m remains her focus and, along with the 800m and 200m, appears to be at her mercy.

It would take a rapid improvement in the sprint to topple either the Campbell sisters or Sjöström, but it would be unlikely Ledecky would be in Rio just to make up the numbers. Her swim in Austin was already 0.8 better than her previous PB.

If things go according to plan, she could break East German Kristin Otto’s haul of six golds, set in Seoul in 1988. That record was set amid what was later revealed to be a systemic German doping program.

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