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Katie Ledecky Cruises To Another Win In The 1,500 For 17th Career World Title

by Chrös McDougall

Katie Ledecky celebrates winning gold after the women's 1,500-meter freestyle finals at the 2022 FINA World Championships on June 20, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary.

 

Not much has been able to slow Katie Ledecky in recent years. Three years ago in South Korea, an illness proved to be an exception.
After winning the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle world title in 2013, 2015 and 2017, the superstar swimmer was forced to withdraw from the event at the 2019 championships after waking up and feeling too sick to compete.
She came back to win the race at last year’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where women competed in the grueling 15-lap contest for the first time at that level. Now she’s regained her world title as well.
Ledecky separated herself from the field and then cruised to victory in 15 minutes, 30.15 seconds Monday as the FINA World Championships continued in Budapest, Hungary. The closest competitor, 16-year-old American teammate Katie Grimes, was nearly 15 seconds back.
The result gave Ledecky her 17th win and 20th total medal in world championships history. The former extended the women’s record she already owned, while the latter tied her with fellow American Natalie Coughlin for the most ever by a woman. The performance also highlighted another multi-medal day for Team USA, with Americans racking up six medals, two of them gold, on Day 3 of 8 in the pool in Budapest.
In a post-event interview with NBC Sports, Ledecky struggled to recall how many world championships medals she’s won — “I don’t count,” she said, before guessing 17 — and ultimately deflected some of the attention to her young teammate.
“It’s pretty wild because I feel like just yesterday I was at Barcelona at my first worlds like Katie is now,” said Ledecky, 25, who made her world championships debut in 2013. “She’s got such a bright future ahead of her. You just have to take it year by year. It’s awesome representing Team USA year after year, it’s an hour and a privilege, and it’s why I work hard.”
Ledecky, of Bethesda, Maryland, has the 13 fastest times ever in the women’s 1,500. The win comes two days after she opened the competition with her fourth world title in the 400 free. She’s also expected to race in the 800 free, with prelims Thursday followed a day later by the final.
Olympian Regan Smith was the other U.S. winner Monday. After building up a solid lead in the first half of the women’s 100-meter backstroke, the 20-year-old Minnesotan had just enough to hold off Canada’s two-time defending champion Kylie Masse for the win, touching the wall at 58.22 seconds to Masse’s 58.40. Claire Curzan, another U.S. teenager at age 17, was third in 58.67.

(L-R) Kylie Masse (Team Canada), Regan Smith and Claire Curzan pose with their medals after the women's 100-meter backstroke final at the 2022 FINA World Championships on June 20, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary.

 

“I knew it was a really close race and I was hurting a lot,” said Smith, who won a bronze medal in the event in her Olympic debut last year in Tokyo, “but I was just telling myself to get my hand on the wall, and I did it.”
Since 1988, an American has held the world record in the men’s 100-meter backstroke for all but eight days. The record is once again in foreign hands after Italy’s Thomas Ceccon edged the current holder, American Ryan Murphy, in a thrilling race Monday.
Murphy had set the mark at 51.85 en route to a gold medal at the Rio Games in 2016. Ceccon smashed that when he finished in 51.60. Murphy was second in 51.97, followed a blink later by up-and-comer Hunter Armstrong in 51.98.
The Italian’s swim was so dominant that Murphy hardly appeared disappointed afterward.
“Thomas is an incredible talent, hats off to him, that’s a gnarly swim,” he said. “That’s some good motivation for the next couple years.”
Team USA had a somewhat unexpected opportunity for another medal in the final event of the day. Lilly King, the two-time defending world champ in the 100 breaststroke, had initially been eliminated in the semifinals of the event. However, when teammate Annie Lazor was later disqualified, King, who also won Olympic gold in the event in 2016 and bronze in 2020, got the call.
The 25-year-old King nearly reached the podium from Lane 8. In sixth place at the turn, she roared down the final 50-meters to finish in 1:06.07 for fourth place — just .05 off the podium.
The only other final where Americans fell short of the podium Monday was the first one, when Drew Kibler finished fourth and Kieran Smith took sixth in the men’s 200-meter freestyle.


Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic Movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
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