Anchored by Katie Ledecky, U.S. women’s 400 free relay second to Australia

RIO DE JANEIRO — American star Katie Ledecky’s Olympics start with silver.

Anchoring the 4×100 freestyle relay, Ledecky helped the U.S. Team finish second, 1.24 seconds behind the Australian team.

It was unclear before the Games whether Ledecky would swim in the finals of this event, as shorter distances are not her specialty. But when she swam the fastest leg of the Americans in Saturday’s preliminaries, she earned a spot in the final. Ledecky, in fact, was the only U.S. Swimmer who competed in both the preliminaries and the finals as the Americans tried to find a way to catch the Australians, who posted the fastest qualifying time.

“It’s much more fun to have a relay as the first event,” she said. “We just wanted to give the Australians a fight. We were there. I’m really happy with it. They set me up really well.”.

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Dana Vollmer, who swam the third leg, became the second American woman to medal after giving birth. But it was her leg in which the U.S. Lost the lead before Cate Campbell, anchoring the Australians, turned on the afterburners and opened up a comfortable margin at the finish.

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Vollmer swam the semifinals of the 100 butterfly earlier in the evening and qualified for the finals. But she wanted desperately to swim in this relay and said she cried when she received the text message that she would be part of this team.

“It was a tough double,” she said. “I did the best I could. I’ve never wanted to be on a relay so bad. Being sixth at the trials, I didn’t know. Relays are the best memories I have of the Olympics.”.

Ledecky is favored to win as many as four gold medals in her other events this Olympics. This was considered her biggest question mark in trying to become the first American woman to win five golds in a single Olympics.

It didn’t happen, but she distinguished herself as a sprinter and a relay team member. Ledecky said she probably hadn’t been in a relay since her high school meets.

“It’s amazing to have the versatility she has,” Vollmer said. “She has that amazing ability to change her rhythm for each race, and she’s a fighter. I had no doubt she would dig deep.”.