GOLD COAST, Australia -- Katie Ledecky started her opening night program with a gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle at the Pan Pacific championships and finished it off by narrowly missing her own world record in the 800.
The pair of victories for 17-year-old Ledecky fulfilled expectations that a U.S. woman would win two titles on Thursday. Until Missy Franklin hurt her back in practice, though, it had been more likely to be the six-time winner at last year's world championships who doubled.
Ledecky, who entered the meet as the reigning world record-holder in the 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyle, said her first international title in the 200 gave her confidence in the later race. She was a body-length ahead of world-record pace at one stage but faded slightly to finish in 8 minutes, 11.35 seconds -- just outside the world mark of 8:11 she set in June. Lauren Boyle of New Zealand was second in 8:18.87 and Canadian Brittany MacLean was third.
"I wasn't really focusing on hitting a certain time, I just wanted to get through the double and see if I could handle both races," she said, adding that her highlight was the winning combination. "It was my first big international double -- I'm really happy how I handled it."
With no Franklin in the final, Ledecky won the 200 free in a meet record 1:55.74, ahead of Australia's Bronte Barratt and U.S. teammate Shannon Vreeland.
Franklin, hampered by back spasms that stopped her in practice on Tuesday and kept her in doubt for the meet until the first morning of competition, didn't qualify for the A final of the 200 free. However, she did post the second-fastest time of the night by winning the B final in 1:56.04, and that was enough to earn her a spot at next year's world championships.
"I'm really proud of myself. It has nothing to do with my times, my places," said Franklin, who won six gold medals at last year's worlds. "Just getting out and kind of fighting back against life right now.
"I got out there and raced, and a couple of days ago I didn't think I was going to be able to do that."
In the 100 backstroke, an event she won at the last Olympics and world titles, Franklin took bronze behind Australians Emily Seebohm and Belinda Hocking. Franklin was tentative with her start, but Seebohm powered off the wall and was under world-record pace in the first lap before finishing in a meet record 58.84 seconds.
Seebohm, the Olympic silver medalist, was happy to get her first victory over Franklin regardless of the conditions.
"A win is a win," she said. "She is obviously a strong competitor and, sometimes, you just have to go out and race your competition. It gives me a lot of confidence going forward."
The Americans also collected gold in the women's 200 butterfly, with Cammile Adams winning in 2:06.61 from Natsumi Hoshi of Japan and U.S. teammate Katie McLaughlin, and Connor Jaeger surged home in the last lap to win the 1,500 in 14:51.79, touching a fraction in front of Ryan Cochrane of Canada and Australia's Mack Horton.
The other men's titles were shared.
Japanese men won two finals, with Ryosyuke Irie beat Americans Matt Grevers and Ryan Murphy into second and third in the 100 backstroke and Daiya Seto won the 200 butterfly ahead of Leonardo De Dues of Brazil and U.S. swimmer Tyler Clary.
Australia's Thomas Fraser-Holmes won the 200 freestyle in 1:45.98, edging Kosuke Hagino of Japan and another Australian, Cameron McEvoy. Americans Cameron McEvoy and five-time Olympic champion Ryan Lochte were fourth and fifth.
Michael Phelps, the 18-time Olympic gold medalist who is competing in his first international championship since coming out of retirement, is due to start his program in the 100 freestyle on Friday.