Swimmer Katie Ledecky easily won the 800-meter freestyle on Friday night – and shattered a world record in the process. She was so far ahead of her competitors that it was clear to everyone that she was going to swim away with the gold.
But inside the Olympics Aquatic Arena, the roaring crowd was on its feet. It was clear: the 19-year-old American wasn’t racing against anyone else; she was racing against the world record.
Her closest competitor, Great Britain’s Jazz Carlin, was almost 12 seconds behind her. Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas took the bronze.
In the end, Ledecky swam the distance in 8:04:79, a new world record.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images
Even before Friday night, the 2016 Rio Olympics had been good to Ledecky. The freestyle champion had won four medals, three of them gold.
But on Friday night, she was competing in her signature event: the 800-meter freestyle. Four years ago, when she was only 15, Ledecky stunned the world by taking the gold in that same race in the 2012 London Games.
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After Friday’s race, a visibly relaxed Ledecky was all smiles. “It felt good the whole way, I can feel it was the fastest swim,” she told NBC. “I mean, I did a pretty good job, it was my last swim here and left it all in the pool.”
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(Note to Ledecky: Beating the world record is more than a “pretty good job.”)
Ledecky also promises that she’ll be back. “Swimming in front of a crowd like this at the Olympics…” she said. “I have to wait another four years for something like this!”