Ledecky’s Blazing Relay Split Leads To Another World Title — And Makes Her The Most Decorated Woman At Worlds
by Chrös McDougall
(L-R) Katie Ledecky, Leah Smith, Claire Weinstein and Bella Sims celebrate after winning gold in the women's 4x200-meter final at the 2022 FINA World Championships on June 22, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary.
Give Katie Ledecky an opening, and she’ll make you pay.
Fifteen-year-old Claire Weinstein and veteran Leah Smith got the U.S. women’s 4x200-meter freestyle relay off to a solid start at the FINA World Championships Wednesday in Budapest, Hungary. When Ledecky dove in for the third leg, the U.S. team was right in the mix, a little over a second behind Australia, with Canada between them.
One minute, 53.67 seconds later, Bella Sims began her anchor swim with more than a second to spare.
Ledecky’s blazing third leg and a fast closeout from the 17-year-old Sims gave the Americans not only another world title but a world championships record of 7:41.45. Australia was second at 7:43.86, nearly 2.5 seconds behind.
“It’s so easy to get up for these relays and just not think and go,” Ledecky said. “I have so much trust in these three and I’m so glad we delivered.”
The win was Ledecky’s third so far in Budapest and her 18th overall. Now with 21 total medals at the world championships, she’s the most decorated woman ever at the event and her 18 gold medals are tied with Ryan Lochte for the second-most ever. She’s also a seven-time Olympic champion.
The relay win highlighted another strong day for Team USA, with U.S. swimmers also adding three individual medals. Through five days in the pool, the U.S. leads all countries with 26 medals, 11 of them gold. Australia is second with eight medals, and no other country has more than three golds. The swimming portion of the FINA World Championships continues through Saturday.
However, the U.S. lost its biggest men’s star when Caeleb Dressel withdrew from the competition. Dressel, a seven-time Olympic champ who win his 15th world title earlier this week, pulled out of his races Tuesday and officially scratched the rest of the competition Wednesday, citing an unspecified medical issue.
Canada’s 15-year-old Summer McIntosh overcame the three Olympic medalists from Tokyo to win the women’s 200 butterfly, setting a new world junior record at 2:05.20. Team USA’s Hali Flickinger, the Tokyo bronze medalist, was second in 2:06.08, followed by Olympic champ Zhang Yufei of China (2:06.32) and Olympic silver medalist Regan Smith of Team USA (2:06.79).
Smith also raced in the women’s 50-meter backstroke, where she tied for fifth in 27.47 seconds. Fellow American Katharine Berkoff, the U.S. record holder, earned the silver medal in 27.39, trailing only Canada’s Kylie Masse in 27.31.
Rounding out the individual events, Carson Foster led through the first two legs of the men’s 200-meter individual medley, but France’s Leon Marchand pulled away in the breaststroke to win in 1:55.22. Foster, who earlier finished second in the 400 IM, earned his second silver medal of the competition in 1:55.71. Former world champ Chase Kalisz was just off the podium in fourth, touching the wall in 1:56.43.
“It’s exciting, I’m looking forward to many more battles with (Marchand),” Foster said. “I’m super happy with two silver medals, it’s way more than I expected. I’ll celebrate this second place for a little bit, then go back to work to get on top.”
Brooks Curry was the top U.S. finisher in the men’s 100-meter freestyle, taking fifth.