The 26-year-old American became the first swimmer to win six gold medals in the same event at the world championships on Saturday by winning the 800-meter freestyle. Her 16th individual global championship broke a tie with Michael Phelps for the most gold medals in the worlds.
She has won seven gold medals in the Olympics and holds the 800 and 1,500 meter world records.
That winning time, which is the seventh-fastest she has ever swum (8 minutes, 8.87 seconds), wasn’t nearly good enough in her preferred event.
“I just try to come up with new strategies to get better all the time. I mean, my thoughts are already racing in every direction. She twirled her right palm beside her right ear as she spoke, trying to pique interest. “I kind of wanted to be better than I was tonight,” she remarked.
She admitted, “I’m pretty hard on myself. But I believe I have discovered a good balance between being hard on myself and still showing grace.
Ledecky won her second solo gold in the 800 after taking first place in the 1,500 free on Tuesday. She won silver in the 400-meter free as well. Ariarne Titmus of Australia won the bronze medal in 8:13.59, and Li Bingjie of China won silver in 8:13.31.
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Ledecky said, “I simply wanted to leave it all in the pool. It’s fun to leave a meet with your favorite event.
In the seventh of eight days in the pool, it was just the fourth gold for the United States. Australia has been piling on the gold lately, matching their total from the Worlds with 13 golds. On Saturday, Australia added three more gold medals.
The Americans are in first place overall with 31 medals (16 silver), followed by Australia with 20 and China with 13.
Australian Kaylee McKeown created her own history by winning the gold medal in the women’s 200 backstroke. Following wins in the 50 and 100 backstrokes, McKeown’s victory gave her a clean sweep of all three backstroke competitions.
She was later disqualified from the 200 IM, but it all made up for it.
The regulations cannot be changed, she admonished. “I was rejected. I was only able to do as much as I could with the cards that were handed to me. Therefore, I just had to maintain my composure as best I could, channel all of my rage, and transform a tremendously bad into a positive.
Silver went to Regan Smith of the United States in 2:04.94, and bronze went to Peng Xuwei of China in 2:06.74.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström continued to rule the field with winning gold in the 50 butterfly. The 29-year-old triumphed in 24.77 seconds, becoming the fifth world champion in a row to do so. Sjöström now has 20 individual medals overall at the worlds, matching Phelps’ total.
Sjöström also beat her personal 50-meter freestyle record, clocking a time of 23.61 in a semifinal heat. She previously established a mark of 23.67 in 2017.
Sjöström stated of her longevity, “There are not many secrets.” “Just put in the effort daily, show up for practice, and maintain humility.”
Zhang Yufei of China won the gold medal in the 100-meter fly and finished second in 25.05; American Gretchen Walsh earned third in 25.46.