Olympics-Swimming-'Better and better' - Ledecky in the zone for Tokyo quest

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FILE PHOTO: Katie Ledecky (USA) reacts after winning and setting a new world record in Olympic women's 800m freestyle final
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By Martin Petty

TOKYO (Reuters) - Five-times Olympic champion Katie Ledecky is focused and improving fast in the run-up to the Tokyo Games, her coach said on Thursday, as she embarks on a gruelling quest for five gold medals to cement her place in swimming history.

Ledecky comes in as the favourite in two of her four individual events in Tokyo but must outshine in-form Australian Ariarne Titmus in three of those to deliver on a clean sweep.

Starting on Sunday, the 24-year-old American will take on the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 metres freestyle, plus the 4x200m freestyle relay, which could involved at least 10 races in the space of a week, totalling 6.2 kilometres (3.85 miles).

"I'm excited for her to be here in this moment she loves the Olympic Games," coach Greg Meehan told reporters.

"It's been a big stage for her obviously, over the last nine years. And, you know, as we roll into 400 freestyle prelims She's going to begin her process of just attacking each of those events, so she's in a great place right now."

Ledecky won the 200, 400, 800m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay gold medals in the Rio Olympics in 2016, and clinched the 800m freestyle at the London Games four years earlier.

She has since won 15 world titles.

Meehan, the U.S. women's team coach, said Ledecky had shown resilience through disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of top-tier competition, rising to the occasion at the recent U.S. Olympic trials.

"Katie is a really consistent, really hard worker and when you go through such a long period of time without resting without elite level competition, sometimes it takes a little while," he said.

"Just in that environment for her to still stay really focused on her task at hand, which was to make the team.

"Day by day, week by week she has continued to get better and better."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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