RIO DE JANEIRO — On a cold night in Rio’s Olympic Aquatics Stadium, the U.S. women hooked their cars to the Ledecky Train and rode it to another gold medal for Team USA — this one in the women’s 4 x 200 freestyle relay.
Anchoring the relay, Ledecky took over the lead in the first 100 and brought it home. The Americans’ time of 7:43.03 was almost two seconds ahead of the Australians. Anchored by 16-year-old phenom Penny Oleksiak, Canada claimed the bronze.
To be fair, each of the four U.S. women served as the locomotive on the express train.
Allison Schmitt led off the relay and came back after a slow first 50 to move into second. Leah Smith, who won the bronze medal in the 400 free on Sunday night, and battled with Australia in the final 50. Maya DiRado, silver medalist in the 400 IM and bronze in the 200 IM, swam the third leg and stuck to the Australians like glue. Then Ledecky brought it home for the gold.
Missy Franklin swam in prelims, along with Schmitt, Melanie Margalis, and Cierra Runge.
It was the fifth Olympic medal for Ledecky and fourth in these Games. It was DiRado’s third Olympic medal, and Smith’s second. A three-time Olympian and seven-time Olympic medalist, Schmitt won her second medal of the 2016 Rio Games; she is only swimming in relays in Rio.
Since the women’s 4 x 200 freestyle relay made its Olympic debut in 1996, the Americans have won the event in every Olympic Games but one. In 2008, they finished third behind Australia and China.
The Americans are also the defending world champions in the 800 free relay.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn is in Rio covering her fourth Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.