Tokyo, 28 July 2021 (dpa/MIA) – American Katie Ledecky became the first Olympic champion in the women’s 1,500-metre freestyle thanks to a typically dominating performance just over an hour after being well-beaten in the final of the 200m free.
The American superstar, who placed fifth in the 200m on Wednesday, led from beginning to end and finished in 15 minutes 37.34 seconds to claim her first gold medal in Tokyo and sixth overall.
Ledecky, 24, was not competitive over the shorter distance as 20-year-old Australian Ariarne Titmus took her second Tokyo gold having beaten the US great in a thriller over 400m earlier in the Games.
American Erica Sullivan fought off Germany’s Sarah Kohler for the silver, more than 4 seconds adrift, with the Kohler taking a first German Olympic pool medal in 13 years in a national record 15:42.91.
“It is the first women’s 1,500m [freestyle in Olympic history] so I couldn’t have a better outcome than that. I’m so, so happy,” Ledecky said.
“After the 200, I knew I had to turn the page very quickly and in the warm-down pool I was just thinking of my family. Each stroke I was thinking of my grandparents. They’re the toughest four people I know and that’s what helped me get through that,” the six-time Olympic champion said.
“[The gold] means a lot. People maybe feel bad that I’m not winning everything, but I want people to be more concerned about other things in the world.”
Runner-up Sullivan, who briefly held the Olympic record minutes in the heats before Ledecky broke it in the heats, heaped praise on her compatriot.
“I had the Olympic record for 16 minutes until she broke it. Expected, but totally happy. Honestly, it means the world. She’s a legend and she’ll forever be a legend. The fact that I get to swim in the same generation as her, it’s just so cool,” Sullivan said.
Just over an hour earlier, Titmus won gold in the 200m for a second triumph in her hotly anticipated duel with Ledecky after defeating her in Monday’s 400m.
Titmus, who also won gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay on Sunday, came back in the last 50 metres to beat Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey and set a new Olympic record 1:53.50.
Haughey, who set an new Asian record, touched just 0.42 seconds later to win the silver.
Canada’s Penny Oleksiak took bronze with 1:54.70 while world record holder Federica Pellegrini placed seventh in her final race.
“Bloody exhausted,” Titmus said after winning gold, “That was a hell of a tough one. I knew [Haughey] really wanted this. I could tell by the way that she swam yesterday morning, so I knew it would be tough to beat her.
“It’s not the time I thought I could do this morning, but it’s the Olympics and there’s a lot of other things going on.”
Titmus will meet Ledecky once more in Tokyo in the 800m free, with the American favourite in the longer race having been almost unchallenged since her first Olympic win in 2012.
Pellegrini told Italian media the race was “the last one of my career.”
“It has been a nice journey, many years of swimming. I’ve enjoyed it from beginning to end,” the 33-year-old Pellegrini told RaiSport.
Japan’s Yui Ohashi won a second individual medley gold while a dominant Kristof Milak also set an Olympic record as he won gold in the 200m butterfly.
Ohashi started slow, touching the wall fifth after the butterfly leg, and pulled off a gutsy comeback on American Alex Walsh to beat her to the wall by 0.13 seconds with 2 minutes 8.52 seconds.
American Kate Douglass, who came into the final with the fastest time, won bronze with 2:09.04 while Hungary’s Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu placed seventh as her years of dominance end.
Hungary’s Milak put on the jets in the final stages, leaving the rest of the field for dead and clocking 1:51.25, 0.52 seconds shy of his own world record.
Japan’s Tomoru Honda won silver after touching the wall 2.48 seconds behind Milak, while Italy’s Federico Burdisso held on for bronze with 1:54.45, just 0.07 ahead of Hungary’s Tama Kendresi.
And Britain dominated the men’s 4x200m freestyle led by 200m Olympic champion Tom Dean and runner-up Duncan Scott.
The team of Dean, James Guy, Matthew Richards and Scott was just 0.03 shy of the world record with 6:58.58, a new European record.
The Russian Olympic Committee won silver just 0.03 seconds ahead of Australia.
The United States faded after leading for the first 350 metres, finishing fourth.