RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Racing nothing but the clock, Katie Ledecky gave the U.S. its first victory by crushing her own world record in the 400 freestyle.
The result was totally expected. The unassuming teenager from suburban Washington has dominated the longer freestyle events since winning gold in the 800 free at the London Olympics as a 15-year-old.
The only drama was whether she’d take the world record even lower.
Her powerful stroke quickly made that a moot point, too.
Ledecky kicked off the first wall with a lead of nearly a body length and steadily pulled away from the overmatched field — as well as the world-record line superimposed on the video screen.
Her arms churning effortlessly through the water, Ledecky touched nearly 5 seconds ahead of her closest pursuer and quickly whipped around to look at the scoreboard.
When Ledecky saw the time — 3:56.46 — she let out an uncharacteristic scream and shook her right fist. She crushed the mark of 3:58.37 that she set nearly two years ago on the Gold Coast of Australia, and had been chasing ever since.
“I was pumped,” Ledecky said. “That’s what I wanted and I had been so close to breaking that all year, the past two years. I knew I was due for a breakthrough.”
She’s just getting warmed up.
Ledecky, who added gold to the silver she won in the women’s 4×100 free relay, is also favored in other two individual events: the 200 and 800 free. She could pick up another gold in the 4×200 free relay.