Katie Ledecky rebounded from her first major defeat with a more typical result Thursday, gold while anchoring the U.S. 4x200m freestyle relay.
Leah Smith, Mallory Comerford, Melanie Margalis and Ledecky combined to win the world title in Budapest by 1.57 seconds over China. Australia earned bronze.
Ledecky dove in with a .13 lead over China and fell behind by .13 after 50 meters but opened up a body-length lead going into the last 50 meters.
Ledecky bagged her 13th career world gold (extending her female record) and fourth of this week. Her bid to match Missy Franklin‘s female record of six golds at a single worlds ended with a shocking silver in the individual 200m freestyle on Wednesday.
“I really just got rid of the negative energy,” Ledecky said on NBCSN. “I knew I had a big race for Team USA tonight. That made it easy to get focused.”
Ledecky had the fastest split time of the 32 swimmers by 1.44 seconds. She outsplit Australian Emma McKeon by 2.24 seconds after McKeon tied Ledecky for silver in the 200m free. Ledecky was .28 slower than her split in Rio, which is strong. In her other events this week, Ledecky was between one and two seconds slower than in Rio.
“I wanted to put up a better swim than last night, I don’t know if it was from frustration or just swimming for my team,” Ledecky told media in Budapest. “Knowing that I had this swim today, there’s no better event or swim to come off of last night than this one. It just felt really good warming up. It just felt a lot better than yesterday and just knew that I could lay it all out there.”
Ledecky has one event left at worlds, the 800m freestyle, with preliminary heats Friday and the final Saturday. The 800m free is Ledecky’s signature event, in which she owns the 13 fastest times in history.
Ledecky won her first Olympic title in the 800m free as a 15-year-old in London and went on to world titles in 2013 and 2015 and repeat gold in Rio last year.
Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay Results
Gold: U.S. — 7:43.39
Silver: China — 7:44.96
Bronze: Australia — 7:48.51
4. Russia — 7:48.59
5. Japan — 7:50.43
6. Hungary — 7:51.33
7. Netherlands — 7:54.29
8. Canada — 7:55.57
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