TOKYO – Finally a gold medal in Tokyo for Katie Ledecky.
The American star jumped back from the worst finish of his illustrious Olympic career to take the first ever gold medal in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle on Wednesday.
It was not quite the breeze that everyone expected in metric miles. Ledecky built a great lead right from the start and then worked hard to keep American teammate Erica Sullivan’s burning finish off.
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But it was Ledecky who touched first in 15 minutes, 37.39 seconds. Sullivan claimed the silver (15: 41.41), while the bronze went to Germany’s Sarah Kohler (15: 42.91).
It was a full morning at the Tokyo Aquatics Center for Ledecky that seemed a little overcome by the ups and downs she experienced in just over an hour.
She tumbled over the ropes to give Sullivan a hug, let out an uncharacteristic scream at the American cheerleader in the mostly empty arena, and seemed to hold back tears as she pulled her goggles down over her eyes before walking out of the pool.
In her first final of the day, Ledecky was blown away by her Australian rival, Ariarne Titmus, who made it 2-for-2 over the American with a win in the 200 free.
Ledecky did not even win a medal – the first time that has ever happened to her in an Olympic race. She was far behind all the way and never came higher than her fifth place.
The Australian known as Terminator gave the Australian women their third individual swimming gold with an Olympic record of 1: 53.50, which added to her thrilling victory in the 400 free.
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In the longer run, Titmus retained his energy during the first half and then rallied to pass Ledecky with the second-fastest performance in history.
She was nowhere to be found.
The defending Olympic champion made the first flip in seventh place and finished in 1: 55.21 – almost 2 seconds behind the winner.
Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong led much of the race before hanging on to take the silver at 1: 53.92. The bronze went to Canada’s Penny Oleksiak in 1: 54.70.
“Obviously, I get a swim in the 400, which gives me the confidence to get in the 200,” Titmus said. “I thought my rear end was definitely my strength in the 400. I knew I could have it on the way home in the 200.”
Titmus was not so happy with his time, but it was good enough for another gold.
“Honestly, it’s not the time I thought I could do this morning, but it’s the Olympics and there are a lot of other things going on,” she said. “So it’s just about winning here. I am very happy.”
Italy’s Federica Pellegrini from Italy finished seventh in her fifth and final Olympics. She won the gold in 2008 and is still the world record holder.
The Americans also took a few medals in the women’s 200 individual medley – but not the one they wanted.
Japan’s Yui Ohashi ended his IM sweep by beating Americans Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass, adding his victory in the 400.
The winning time was 2: 08.52. Walsh claimed the silver at 2: 08.65, while bronze went to Douglass at 2: 09.04.
Defending Olympic champion and world record holder Katinka Hosszu from Hungary finished seventh. She was the oldest swimmer in the final at the age of 32.
There were no surprises in the men’s butterfly, where Kristof Milak from Hungary fought for a dominant – but rather nerve-wracking – victory.
Milak won the gold by about two body lengths despite quickly changing suits before the race, which cost him a chance to break his own world record.
Milak said he realized about 10 minutes before he walked on the deck that his suit was damaged. He told Hungarian journalists that he completely lost focus, even though it was difficult to tell about his performance in the pool.
He held the suit up in the mixed zone and stuck a finger through the tear before throwing it on a table in disgust.
Milak still touched an Olympic record of 1: 51.25 – more than half a second from his world record in 2019 (1: 50.73), but some 2 1/2 seconds ahead of the silver medal.
Japan’s Tomoru Honda finished in 1: 53.73, while the bronze went to Italy’s Federico Burdisso (1: 54.45).
South African star Chad le Clos finished fifth. He won the 200 fly at the London Olympics in 2012, which upset Michael Phelps, but was no match for the Hungarian star.
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Caeleb Dressel burst through the semifinals of the 100 free, his first of three individual events. The American star posted the second fastest time (47.23) just behind Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov (47.11).
“It was about what I expected,” Dressel said. “It’s going to be a quick finale.”
He shook the view that he is a lock to the gold.
“I’ve never been a fan of favorites,” Dressel said. “It’s going to be a really fun race. Really looking forward to it. I mean, there are honestly eight guys in contention, so it’s going to be exciting for everyone to see. You guys (in the media) have to be jealous, I get to participate in that. “