Katie Ledecky celebrates winning gold after the women's 1,500-meter freestyle finals at the 2022 FINA World Championships on June 20, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary.
Not much has been able to slow Katie Ledecky in recent years. Three years ago in South Korea, an illness proved to be an exception.
After winning the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle world title in 2013, 2015 and 2017, the superstar swimmer was forced to withdraw from the event at the 2019 championships after waking up and feeling too sick to compete.
She came back to win the race at last year’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where women competed in the grueling 15-lap contest for the first time at that level. Now she’s regained her world title as well.
Ledecky separated herself from the field and then cruised to victory in 15 minutes, 30.15 seconds Monday as the FINA World Championships continued in Budapest, Hungary. The closest competitor, 16-year-old American teammate Katie Grimes, was nearly 15 seconds back.
The result gave Ledecky her 17th win and 20th total medal in world championships history. The former extended the women’s record she already owned, while the latter tied her with fellow American Natalie Coughlin for the most ever by a woman. The performance also highlighted another multi-medal day for Team USA, with Americans racking up six medals, two of them gold, on Day 3 of 8 in the pool in Budapest.
In a post-event interview with NBC Sports, Ledecky struggled to recall how many world championships medals she’s won — “I don’t count,” she said, before guessing 17 — and ultimately deflected some of the attention to her young teammate.
“It’s pretty wild because I feel like just yesterday I was at Barcelona at my first worlds like Katie is now,” said Ledecky, 25, who made her world championships debut in 2013. “She’s got such a bright future ahead of her. You just have to take it year by year. It’s awesome representing Team USA year after year, it’s an hour and a privilege, and it’s why I work hard.”
Ledecky, of Bethesda, Maryland, has the 13 fastest times ever in the women’s 1,500. The win comes two days after she opened the competition with her fourth world title in the 400 free. She’s also expected to race in the 800 free, with prelims Thursday followed a day later by the final.
Olympian Regan Smith was the other U.S. winner Monday. After building up a solid lead in the first half of the women’s 100-meter backstroke, the 20-year-old Minnesotan had just enough to hold off Canada’s two-time defending champion Kylie Masse for the win, touching the wall at 58.22 seconds to Masse’s 58.40. Claire Curzan, another U.S. teenager at age 17, was third in 58.67.