RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Katie Ledecky obliterated the field and her own world record in winning the 800m freestyle at the Rio Olympics on Friday, August 12, uniting the 200m, 400m and 800m titles for the first time since 1968.
The 19-year-old American, who also won the 4x200m relay for 4 golds overall, touched in 8min 04.79sec, beating the previous record of 8:06.68 she set in Austin, Texas, on January 17.
It was her 13th world record since her shock 800m freestyle win in London 4 years ago, and the culmination of the plan she and coach Bruce Gemmell had worked for ever since that breakout performance.
And as she contemplated her achievement in Rio, the preternaturally poised teen couldn’t hold back her emotions.
“Just kind of the end of a 4-year journey,” she said as the tears flowed.
“I don’t know why I’m crying. There were nights I would go to bed and think about this day (and) how much fun I’ve had these past four years, and I’d start crying in bed.
“I just wanted to make this meet count.”
Ledecky touched almost half a length in front of her closest rivals – more than 11 seconds in front of silver medallist Jazz Carlin of Britain’s 8:16.17 with Boglarka Kapas of Hungary taking bronze in 8:16.37.
“I just wanted to lay it all out there,” Ledecky said. “It was my last swim here at the Olympics, the pinnacle of our sport, and I have to wait another 4 years to have that moment. I just wanted to enjoy it all and put my very best swim out there.”
Ledecky joined compatriots Janet Evans and Brooke Bennett as the only swimmers to win this event at two Olympics and now owns the top 11 times ever in the event.
Her dominant performance in Rio also included silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
“What she’s doing in the sport is ridiculous. She just gets in the water and pretty much gives every world record a scare when she’s in there and it’s pretty incredible to watch,” said Michael Phelps.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen her in tears,” added Ledecky’s superstar teammate.
“I think it’s the first time in my life I’ve ever seen true emotion come out and I think that was something really cool for me to see.”
Part of history
Ledecky is the first Olympian to take the 200m, 400m and 800m gold at a single Games since another US teenager, Debbie Meyer, achieved the feat at Mexico City in 1968 – the year the 800m was added to the programme.
“I’m so proud to be part of history,” Ledecky said, revealing that Meyer, a big fan, had been texting her mother, Mary Gen, during the week.
“She sent like a good luck video to my mom who forwarded it to me and I saw it right before I left before the session tonight,” Ledecky said.
“I’ve really looked up to Debbie and all the women freestyle swimmers on the US team in general,” Ledecky said.
“We have a great history and I think we’re making a lot of new history this week.
“Hopefully, we’ll inspire people through the years down the road when somebody’s breaking my records.” – Rappler.com
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