Katie Ledecky suffers first loss at swimming world championships.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Katie Ledecky reached for the wall Wednesday, but someone else was already there.
For the first time ever at the world championships, Ledecky knows what it’s like to lose.
Bidding to become only the second female swimmer to win six golds at a single worlds, Ledecky settled for silver in the 200-meter freestyle Wednesday evening when Italy’s Federica Pellegrini surged to a stunning victory on the final lap.
Pellegrini, the world-record holder, avenged a close defeat at the hands of Ledecky two years ago in Kazan, Russia. This time, it was the Italian touching first in 1 minute, 54.73 seconds.
Ledecky and Australia’s Emma McKeon tied for the silver at 1:55.18.
“I just didn’t really have it today,” Ledecky said. “I can’t complain really with the silver medal.”
She had never seen a “2” beside her name at the world championships.
It was there in Budapest, where Ledecky’s unbeaten streak in the second-biggest swimming competition after the Olympics finally ended.
“I didn’t really feel at the end that I had that extra gear that I normally have,” said the 20-year-old Stanford student from the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Ledecky had been 12 of 12 over the last three world championships, including three golds in this stately European capital. But her most audacious schedule yet — six freestyle events covering distances ranging from 100 meters (on a relay) to 1,500 (the grueling metric mile) — finally caught up with her along the banks of the Danube.
Missy Franklin will remain the only female swimmer to win a half-dozen events at worlds, while Ledecky can take comfort in being the winningest female swimmer overall. Twelve golds leave her trailing only fellow Americans Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte for the most victories.