BUDAPEST, Hungary – Katie Ledecky’s second race Sunday night was short and sweet, while Mallory Comerford's only race was record-breaking.
Ledecky swam the third leg while Comerford was the leadoff on the Team USA women’s 4x100-meter freestyle at the 2017 FINA World Championships. The United States won its sixth gold medal in the event and first since 2013, having placed third in 2015.
Comerford got the ball rolling with an American record of 52.59 seconds, followed by Kelsi Worrell, Ledecky and Simone Manuel as they clocked 3:31.72 to defeat defending champion Australia (3:32.01) and the Netherlands 3:32.64.
Manuel was the previous record holder in the 100 free with a time of 52.70 at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
Earlier in the session, Ledecky won her third straight world title in the women’s 400-meter freestyle by posting the second-fastest time in history.
After a warmdown swim and her medal ceremony, Ledecky was ready to go again and was rewarded with her first gold on the sprint relay in world or Olympic competition. She was on the silver-medal winning team last year at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
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Comerford, who upset Manuel at nationals in the 100 free, was second behind Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden who swam a world record time of 51.71 seconds on the first leg while Comerford was smashing the American mark.
“I was just trying to have fun, enjoy this relay with these girls and go out and win,” Comerford said. “Being able to share this first final with them is such an honor and being able to represent Team USA in a final is just so amazing.”
Worrell couldn’t gain ground on the second leg – but more importantly stayed ahead of Olympic champ Australia.
Ledecky grabbed the lead for Team USA, dueling Brittany Elmslie of Australia and catching Ida Lindborg of Sweden.
Manuel was up against Emma McKeon of Australia, and stayed ahead to touch the wall first.
“I really just put my blinders on,” Manuel said. “I’m best when I’m swimming my own race and at the same time, I kind of knew where everybody else was, and I just wanted to race and get my hand on the wall.”
She hopes the success in Budapest carries over to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The U.S. women have not won the Olympic 4x100-meter freestyle since 2000.
“We really want to set ourselves up to win that relay in Tokyo,” Manuel said. “We’re really happy with how we swam.”
Comerford and Worrell are appearing in their first world championships. Worrell also had a second swim Sunday, with the third-fastest time in the women’s 100-meter butterfly semifinals.
While Ledecky is a newcomer to the relay at the world championships, the common denominator in 2013, 2015 and 2017 is Manuel, the reigning Olympic 100-meter freestyle gold medalist. Manuel swam in the morning prelims in 2013 (Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin were among the team members in the evening final) and also swam anchor in the 2015 final.