Chase Kalisz stormed to victory in the 400m individual medley at the Pan Pacific championships

Tokyo (AFP) - American Chase Kalisz broke the pain barrier to beat Japan’s Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto to gold in the 400-metres individual medley at the Pan Pacific swim championships on Thursday.

The double world champion fired a warning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as he schooled the two local favourites to win in four minutes, 7.95 seconds with Rio gold medallist Hagino settling for silver in 4:11.13.

American superstar Katie Ledecky had a mixed first day after romping to gold in the 800m freestyle, only to be ambushed by Canada’s teen sensation Taylor Ruck in the 200m.

Kalisz, silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, produced an sinew-shredding third leg of breaststroke to overhaul Hagino and the fast-starting Seto, who finished third in 4:12.60.

“I think it was pretty obvious I was hurting on my freestyle,” Kalisz told AFP after bagging a fifth American gold and dealing a psychological blow to his Japanese rivals two years before the Tokyo Games.

“But it’s a championship-level meet and it’s about getting your hand on the wall first, not so much about the times.”

A deflated Seto admitted: “Kosuke and I went out really hard and just kind of died out there together.”

Olympic champion Ledecky cruised to an easy victory in the 800m freestyle, flirting briefly with her own world record before clocking a championship best 8:09.13.

Australia’s Ariarne Titmus, the Commonwealth champion, was a distant second almost eight seconds back with American Leah Smith third in 8:17.21.

But Ruck stole Ledecky’s thunder in the 200m freestyle, dominating from the start to win in a Pan Pacific record 1:54.44.

Ledecky faded over the final half and settled for bronze in 1:55.15 behind Japan’s Rikako Ikee, who set a national best of 1:54.85.

- Espresso yourself -

“I had one strong espresso,” said Ruck of her unorthodox race warm-up.

American superstar Katie Ledecky had a mixed first day at the Pan Pacific championships

“I was kinda nervous because (Ledecky) is the fastest woman on the planet,” said the 18-year-old, who scooped eight medals – including gold in the 200m freestyle – in a breakout Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

“It was starting to get into my head a bit – just her name, I guess. But I did the first 100 metres pretty smooth and after that I felt more in control.”

A stony-faced Ledecky promised to come back stronger at the 2020 Olympics.

“There’s a lot I can learn from that,” she said. “But I still have two more years before the big show in Tokyo and I’m hoping to get another shot at it.”

American Lilly King made easy work of the women’s 100m breaststroke as the Olympic champion and world record holder won in 1:05.44 with Australia’s Jessica Hansen taking silver in 1:06.20.

“I haven’t lost this race since 2015 so it’s definitely my baby,” said King.

“I don’t know how I would take losing so I’m just going to keep winning.”

Jordan Wilimovsky led an American one-two in the men’s 1,500m freestyle in 14:46.93 before Yasuhiro Koseki took gold in the 100m breaststroke, winning in 59.08 seconds to the delight of the home crowd.

Yui Ohashi won a second gold for the host team as she won the women’s 400m individual medley in 4:33.77, while American Townley Haas captured the men’s 200m free title in 1:45.56.

Cate Campbell smashed her anchor leg to lead Australia to victory in the mixed 400m medley relay in a time of 3:38.91 from Japan and the United States.