Katie Ledecky rewrote another record on Wednesday, becoming the most decorated female swimmer in world championship history.
Ledecky won her 21st career world medal — and 18th world title — by swimming the third leg for the U.S. in the 4x200m relay final. Natalie Coughlin‘s previous record of 20 medals had stood since 2013.
The U.S. quartet, which included Claire Weinstein, Leah Smith, and Bella Sims, broke the world championship record with a time of 7:41.45. Australia (7:43.86) and Canada (7:44.76) claimed silver and bronze, respectively.
“It’s so easy to get up for these relays,” Ledecky said. “I had so much trust in these three. I think we’re always counted out and we always deliver.”
Prior to finishing second at the 2019 World Championships, the U.S. team had claimed four straight world titles in this event (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017).
Ledecky’s 200m split — 1:53.67 — also marked the second fastest split ever in a women’s 4x200m relay (behind only Federica Pellegrini, 1:53.45). Because she swam the third leg on Wednesday, Ledecky’s time doesn’t lower her personal best (1:53.73) or count in the individual record books, but it is still among the fastest women’s 200m swims of all time.
Ledecky opted not to swim the individual 200m in Budapest, where there was a 200m semifinal scheduled in the same session as the 1500m final. Ledecky has indicated that she would be more likely to re-add to the 200m free to her program if the Olympic swimming schedule separates the women’s 200m and 1500m, like it does for the men.
In Tokyo, Ledecky finished fifth in the 200m and then won gold in the 1500m — with the two finals separated by just over an hour.
“I would point out that the men do not have that double,” Ledecky said ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. “So any male swimmer that wants to compete in those events (200m free, 1500m free) – I don’t know if there are any that are actually attempting that – they do not have the double.”
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