Ledecky sha ers record to give US first Rio gold
“PURE happiness” radiated from Katie Ledecky as the 19-year-old US freestyle phenom gazed at the scoreboard and contemplated her latest feat: a 400m Olympic gold in worldrecord time.
Ledecky, targeting a rare 200m, 400m and 800m Olympic freestyle treble – surged to the wall in 3min 56.46 seconds, smashing her own world record of 3:58.37 set in the Gold Coast, Queensland in 2014.
“To see 3:56 feels really good,” said Ledecky, who now owns the six fastest times ever in the event, and is one of only two women even to break four minutes.
Italy’s Federica Pellegrini did it twice, in the era of the now-banned supersuits.
Ledecky, who has continued to rise since her surprise win in the 800m freestyle as a 15-year-old at the London 2012 Games, has now broken 12 world records.
On Sunday, she covered the last 50m in a blazing 28.92sec, leaving Jazz Carlin of Great Britain to collect silver in 4:01.23 – 4.77 seconds adrift. American Leah Smith took bronze with 4:01.92.
“I just let it all out,” said Ledecky, who came within a whisker of the world mark in the afternoon heats, clocking 3:58.71 – the second-fastest ever until her gold medal swim.
“It felt pretty identical to this morning, with a little more pop on the back half,” she said. “It just felt great.”
Smith, who was thrilled to finish less than two seconds behind Ledecky in the 400m free at the US trials, said she knew Ledecky was primed for something big.
“I’ve been training with her for the past month,” Smith said. “So I knew it was coming. It was only a matter of how fast she was going to go.”
Ledecky also competed in the 200m free last night, but results were not available at press time. She’ll try to finish out the demanding treble with the 800m free on August 12.
She could become the first woman since Debbie Meyer in Mexico City in 1968 to sweep the 200m, 400m and 800m free at the Games, and will be a contender with the US team in the 4x200m free.
If Ledecky wins her remaining events, she’ll become just the third US woman to win four gold medals in a single Olympics, after Amy Van Dyken in 1996 and Missy Franklin in 2012.
Ledecky also anchored the 4x100 free team that set a US record and earned silver behind Australia on August 6. – AT his fifth, and supposedly final Olympics, Michael Phelps finally let his guard down, sobbing along with his teammates after collecting his 19th gold medal by helping the United States win the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay in Rio.
With his infant son Boomer and fiancee Nicole Johnson watching from the stands, Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all time, began to weep after two of his teammates, Ryan Held and Caeleb Dressel, started to bawl.
“They were making us cry,” Phelps said. “The younger guys started crying, I started crying.”
Already far-and-away the most decorated Olympian of all time, the 31-year-old Phelps showed that he had lost none of his speed or killer instincts after coming out of a brief retirement to provide Team USA with its first win in the event since Beijing, narrowly holding off France and Australia.
“It was crazy. I was standing on the block while Caeleb was coming in and I honestly thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest,” said Phelps, who clocked 47.12 seconds on the second leg to give the US swimmers a lead they never relinquished.
“Having the amount of excitement, cheering that was in the stands tonight during that race – I don’t know if I’ve heard anything like it,” Phelps said.
“We wanted that race back so badly,” he added. “My last 400 free relay ever – it feels damn good to get a win.”
Nathan Adrian, the 100m individual winner in London four years ago, swam the anchor leg in a sizzling 46.97, the fastest split of the race, to earn his fourth career gold medal over three Olympics.
“I love a little emotion, I had to fight back some tears myself. That’s the one you grow up as a kid, a young swimmer dreaming about it,” Adrian said.
Winning the relay had become a matter of national pride for the Americans after they were beaten in London in 2012, and failed to make the final at last year’s world championships in Russia.
‘I honestly thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest.’
US Olympic swimmer
Nothing was left to chance, with the team even calling in four-time NBA champion Tony Parker to talk with the swimmers during one of their final training camps.
“We actually had Tony Parker come in … when we were in training camp, and he says it best: The second championship is the one that’s the hardest and the one you appreciate the most.”
USA’s Katie Ledecky (centre) poses on the podium with silver medallist Jazz Carlin of the United Kingdom (right) and bronze medallist Leah Smith of the USA after the women’s 400m freestyle final on August 7.