Katie Ledecky (left) poses alongside teammates Leah Smith, Mallory Comerford and Melanie Margalis with the gold medals they won in the women's 4x200-meter freestyle at the Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships on July 27, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary.
BUDAPEST, Hungary – Katie Ledecky got her groove back.
And she was golden again with a little help from her friends.
Ledecky won her fourth gold medal – and fifth medal overall – by anchoring the winning 4x200-meter Thursday night at the FINA World Championships. She was joined by Leah Smith, Mallory Comerford and Melanie Margalis.
Ledecky showed the form that has made her a champion. Her split of 1:54.02 was almost a second and a half faster than any other competitor and a better swim than her 1:55.18 to tie for the silver Wednesday night in the 200 free.
“I wanted to put up a better swim than last night -- I don’t know if it was from frustration or just swimming for my team,” Ledecky said. “Just knowing that I had this swim today, there’s no better event to come off last night than this one. Warmup just felt a lot better than yesterday and I just knew that I could lay it out there for my team tonight.”
And she knew her team could do the same.
Team USA’s winning time was 7:43.39, with China next in 7:44.96. Australia won the bronze (7:48.51) by edging Russia (7:48.59).
Team USA has now won this event four times in a row and in seven of the last eight world championships.
“If you are competing for the USA, you are cognizant of all the traditions,” Smith said. “One thing I said to the team, ‘We are the USA and we are going to be great,’ and I think that just comes from the training we’ve done in the past couple of weeks, being really confident in each other. We all knew it was going to be special.”
Team USA also won the gold at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, with Smith and Ledecky swimming in the final and Margalis in the prelims.
Ledecky had been a perfect 13-for-13 in individual world and Olympic finals before losing the 200-meter freestyle. Federica Pellegrini of Italy won the gold while Ledecky and Emma McKeon of Australia tied for the silver.
Italy did not make the final in the 4x200-meter free.
In the first two legs, Team USA in Lane 3 dueled Russia in Lane 7.
Smith touched second for Team USA behind Russia, then Comerford took the lead in 3:52.89, with China, in Lane 4, now second.
Russia pulled ahead in the next 100 meters, but Margalis regained the lead.
When Ledecky dove in, she had a .13 lead over China. She easily stayed ahead of Li Bingjie, who was third in the 400 free.
“I just had so much confidence in these three,” Ledecky said, “that if we were right there I new we could do it and pull it out.”
Smith was the silver medalist in the 400 freestyle – behind Ledecky – while Comerford was on the 4x100-meter free with Ledecky that won gold. Comerford now has three golds, having also swum a leg in the prelims of the mixed 4x100 medley.
This was the first medal at worlds for Margalis, who was fourth in the 200 IM in Budapest and seventh in the same event in Kazan two years ago.
Margalis led off in the morning prelim followed by Cierra Runge, Haili Flickinger and Madisyn Cox.
Margalis’ time of 1:56.58 was a personal best and so impressive that she earned the evening swim, where she went 1:56.48.
“Oh my gosh, I couldn’t believe that I got to swim on the finals relay,” Margalis said. “If somebody had told me that, I would never have believed them. It was just so awesome to swim with these girls.
“Even getting behind the blocks with the USA flag on your cap is such an honor. You just feel ready to go when you have that cap on.”