World Championships: Katie Ledecky Annihilates Field for Another 1500 Freestyle Title; Katie Grimes Completes U.S. 1-2

Katie Ledecky -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships: Katie Ledecky Annihilates Field for Another 1500 Freestyle Title; Katie Grimes Completes U.S. 1-2

As soon as the swimmers dove into the pool for the 1500 freestyle final, the result was a given. After the first three of 30 lengths in the pool, Katie  Ledecky was already one second ahead of the field, and she continued to pull away — just like she has over and over again in the 1500 free. Ledecky won her first world title in the event in 2013 by four seconds, and then she won by 15 seconds in 2015 and a whopping 19 seconds in 2017. Ledecky pulled out of the 1500 free final at the 2019 World Championships after dealing with illness, but this race was back to normal, with Ledecky securing a 14.74-seconds margin of victory as she touched in 15:30.15.

Ledecky was about 10 seconds off her own world record of 15:20.48, which she set in May 2018, and her time was the sixth-fastest performance in history. No other swimmer has ever been faster, with Lotte Friis ranking No. 2 all-time at 15:38.88.

Ledecky touched the wall and gave a quick fist-pump, clearly pleased with her effort in securing the fourth world title of her career in this event and her second gold at the meet after winning the 400 free Saturday. The gold medal was Ledecky’s 17th career World Championships gold medal, which is the most all-time among women and third-most in history behind former U.S. teammates Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Ledecky also won her 20th World Championship medal, tying American great Natalie Coughlin for most ever among females.

“It was perfect. Well, not perfect. I never have a perfect swim. My goal was to hold 1:02s, 31-low, so that’s great,” Ledecky said in a post-race interview with NBC Sports. Informed of her record-tying 20th medal, Ledecky added, “It’s pretty wild because I feel like just yesterday I was in Barcelona at my first Worlds. It’s awesome representing Team USA year after year, and it’s an honor and a privilege, and it’s why I work hard.”

As the television cameras focused on Ledecky with no one else in the picture, the battle unfolded behind her for silver between 16-year-old American Katie Grimes and 20-year-old Australian Lani Pallister. Pallister sat in second place for much of the middle portion of the race, but Grimes caught up at the 1100-meter mark and pulled away.

Grimes finished in 15:44.89, taking more than six seconds off her previous best time of 15:51.36, and she moved to ninth all-time in the event. The only Americans to ever swim faster are Ledecky, Grimes former teammate and Olympic silver medalist Erica Sullivan and two-time world champion Kate Ziegler. Pallister claimed bronze in 15:48.96, which moved her to 14th all-time in the event.

When Ledecky saw that Grimes had touched second, she broke into a wide smile and reached across the lane line to congratulate her young teammate, who qualified for her first Olympic team at the same age (15) as Ledecky did. The two swimmers showed off their secret handshake that they had developed during the U.S. Olympic training camp last year.

“Oh my gosh, I’m just so happy that I was able to get another medal for Team USA. I was really nervous leading up to this race, but talking to all my teammates made me really calm,” Grimes told NBC Sports after the race. “It was honestly just a relief because I really wanted to be up there with her. She’s letting us hear our national anthem, so I’m really happy to be up there with her.”

Ledecky spoke in glowing terms about her teenage teammate, who captured her first-ever international medal in this event. Previously, Grimes finished fourth in the Olympic final of the 800 freestyle last year, and while she will not race the 800 free this week in Budapest, she still has the 400 IM and the 10-kilometer open water event to go.

“I fully knew she [Grimes] was capable of getting that and just to see how far she has come in a year and the maturity that she has and how much energy she brings to the team, I don’t think I was like that when I was her age,” Ledecky said, according to USA Swimming. “It is just awesome to be on the blocks next to her, be in the lane next to her and to share this moment with her is really special.”

Australia’s Moesha Johnson was the only other swimmer to break 16:00, finishing fourth with a time of 15:55.75. Italy’s Simona Quadarella, who captured the world title in this event in 2019 when Ledecky withdrew, ended up fifth in 16:03.84.


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