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LONDON, England, August 3. IN what can only be described as a jaw-dropping race, 15-year-old Katie Ledecky nearly broke the world record in the women's 800-meter freestyle event at the 2012 London Olympics.
Ledecky, out under world-record pace at the 750-meter mark could only manage a 30.50 final split to finish just shy of Rebecca Adlington's world and Olympic record of 8:14.10 set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics during the techsuit era. Ledecky did, however, turn in the second-fastest swim of all time with a scintillating 8:14.63.
The total record tally for Ledecky is pretty stunning. First, she broke the American record of 8:16.22 clocked by Janet Evans back in 1989 by more than a second. That standard had stood as the world record until Adlington lowered it with her incredible effort in Beijing. Ledecky, however, smashed the time in a textile suit. Notably, she also broke Evans' 15-16 U.S. National Age Group record of 8:17.12 in 1988 in the process. Ledecky is the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team, and became the first American to win the event since Brooke Bennett went back-to-back in 1996 and 2000. Evans also had a back-to-back effort in 1988 and 1992.
“Michael's (Phelps) and Missy's [Franklin] races really got me pumped,” Ledecky said. “I really wanted to see what I could to represent the U.S. Michael is the first Olympian I ever met when I was six, right before I started swimming. So, to hear a good luck from him before the race was really cool. I just thought back to that and it really calmed me down. Oh my gosh. This is amazing. I figured I was going pretty fast. At one point I thought, if I'm gonna be close to this record I don't even care. I just want to get my hand on the wall first.”
Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia clinched silver in 8:18.76 for her second silver of the meet. That goes along with her runner-up effort in the 200 fly. She's the first swimmer from Spain to ever medal in the event, and moved to ninth in the all time rankings with her effort.
“It is difficult to say. I don't know how I feel. I'm not sure if I'm happy because I can't really explain how I feel,” Belmonte Garcia said. “It was kind of easy the first length. I tried to go in a relaxed way. I didn't go too fast. I let the other girls go a little bit ahead but not too much. Actually, when I was overtaking Adlington I thought, 'what is happening here'.”
Adlington tried to hang with Ledecky early on, but faded down the stretch to pick up bronze in 8:20.32. She is just the third swimmer to ever earn multiple medals in the event. Bennett and Evans both previously won gold twice, but Adlington is the first to take gold and bronze in successive meets. She now owns four Olympic medals, two gold and two bronze.
New Zealand's Lauren Boyle (8:22.72), Denmark's Lotte Friis (8:23.86), Hungary's Boglarka Kapas (8:23.89), France's Coralie Balmy (8:29.26) and Venezuela's Andreina Pinto Perez (8:29.28) also competed in the finale.
Results links, with splits, when available are located at the bottom of the article. Hit refresh to make sure you have the latest version of the story.
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