Olympics: In Debut of Women’s 1500 Freestyle, Katie Ledecky Goes No. 8 All-Time Performance

Jul 27, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Katie Ledecky (USA) prepares for the women's 200m freestyle heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

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Olympics: In Debut of Women’s 1500 Freestyle, Katie Ledecky Goes No. 8 All-Time Performance

History was made at 6:55 p.m. (Japanese time) when the first of five heats in the women’s 1500-meter freestyle started at the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Monday night. This Olympiad marks the first time in which the 1500 freestyle is an event on the women’s program, and with the addition of the 800 freestyle for men, there are matching programs programs for the genders.

Fittingly, it was the United States’ Katie Ledecky who topped qualifying, as her time of 15:35.35 was the eighth-fastest in history and gives Ledecky the 11-fastest marks of all-time. Ledecky is the world-record holder in the event at 15:20.48 and owns an 18-plus-second gap over history’s No. 2 performer, Lotte Friis of Denmark. The prelim of the 1500 free was the second race of the prelim session for Ledecky, who earlier advanced to the semifinals of the 200 freestyle as the top seed.

By pulling the 200/1500 double, Ledecky contested three freestyle events on the day, as she was the silver medalist in the 400 freestyle during the morning session. In that event, Ledecky battled Australia’s Ariarne Titmus in a sensational race, with the Aussie earning gold in the second-fastest time in history. In total, Ledecky raced 2100 meters on Monday, a brutal workload. She said she’s looking forward to having a session off Tuesday night after the 200 free semifinals in the morning.

“I’ll sleep well tonight, I’ll tell you that,” Ledecky said. “I was just happy how it went, happy it’s over, and I got the job done.”

En route to an Asian record, China’s Wang Jianjiahe put together a swim of 15:41.49 for the second seed. The other American in the 1500 field, Erica Sullivan registered a huge personal best when she won the fourth of five heats in 15:46.67, a time that was more than four seconds faster than she went at the United States Olympic Trials and advances Sullivan to the final as the third seed. Finishing behind Sullivan in that heat was Italian Simona Quadarella, the reigning world champion. Quadarella touched in 15:47.34.

“I was really happy with it,” Sullivan said of her Olympic debut. “I felt really relaxed and comfortable. The fact that I felt in control of the race was better than anything I could ask for.”

It’s been many years and many miles of racing since Ledecky was in that spot. But in her most challenging day of the Olympics, in close to the most challenging day of racing possible, she’s pleased with what she’s accomplished.

“I’m happy with it,” she said. “I knew it would go well. The mile, none of it felt extraordinary, but I knew even as I was swimming it that the time was going to be good just because I’m swimming well, I’m in a good spot, my stroke feels good. So I knew it would come pretty easily. I was pretty relaxed going into it.”

Women’s 1500 Freestyle

World Record: Katie Ledecky, United States, 15:20.48 (2018)
Olympic Record: New Event


1. Katie Ledecky (United States) 15:35.35
2. Wang Jianjiahe (China) 15:41.49
3. Erica Sullivan (United States) 15:46.67
4. Simona Quadarella (Italy) 15:47.34
5. Anastasiia Kirpichnikova (Russia) 15:50.22
6. Sarah Kohler (Germany) 15:52.67
7. Maddy Gough (Australia) 15:56.81
8. Kiah Melverton (Australia) 15:58.96

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Alejandro Matías Lecot

    Excelente carrera, felicitaciones Katie y al Team Usa. Muy buena Nota, John Lohn.
    Gran abrazo, Alejandro Lecot, ex nadador Olímpico L. A. 1984.

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