FUKUOKA, Japan — Katie Ledecky claimed her 20th gold medal overall at the Aquatic Swimming Championships, clinching her fifth women’s 1,500-meter freestyle title after Matthew Richards led a British double in the men’s 200-meter freestyle on Tuesday.
Ledecky, a seven-time Olympic champion, started the race as the clear favorite. She was over 13 seconds quicker than Italy’s Simona Quadarella – second best – in the heats and stayed under her world record time after a brilliant start to the final.
But Ledecky’s pace slowed somewhat after the American took a huge lead and the 26-year-old reached the pad in 15min 26.27s, finishing 17.04s faster than Quadarella, who settled for silver while China’s Li Bingjie took bronze.
It was the perfect reaction for Ledecky, who was left dethroned and disappointed by record-breaking Ariarne Titmus in Sunday’s 400m freestyle competition.
“I’m feeling good,” Ledecky said. “It hurt a lot, but I’m really happy with the result. I’m just having a lot of fun this week.”
“It’s just a lot of hard work and really great people around me – my coaches since I started swimming when I was six and my really great teammates.”
Earlier, Richards had had a strong result, winning gold ahead of compatriot Tom Dean in his freestyle event with a solid time of one minute 44.30 seconds.
“To be honest, I’m pretty tired. I’m over the moon, it was a damn good race,” said Richards. “I knew early in the race that it was one of the busiest 200 freestyle fields in a long time. It was amazing to get a one-two for Great Britain.”
“I could imagine that all these guys would finish well, I’m really happy to have made it and hopefully the first of many.”
Olympic champion Dean finished 0.02 seconds back to take silver and Hwang Sun-woo of South Korea took bronze while 2022 World Champion David Popovici of Romania missed out on a podium finish.
Kaylee McKeown, Australia’s three-time Olympic gold medalist, endured a nightmare after being disqualified from the women’s 200m individual medley, but the 22-year-old made up for that disappointment in the 100m backstroke.
She stormed to victory in 57.53 seconds, beating 2022 World Champion Regan Smith of the United States by 0.25 seconds and Katharine Berkoff by 0.72 seconds.
McKeown didn’t come close to matching the pace that gave her the world record of 57.45 seconds at the Australia 2021 Olympics, but shifted gears after she was behind Smith after the corner and finished in style.
Italy’s Thomas Ceccon had no more gold to add to his collection after winning the men’s 50m butterfly title on Monday when American Ryan Murphy snatched his crown in the 100m backstroke, lifting the roof of Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall.
Murphy clocked a time of 52.22 with Ceccon 0.05 seconds behind. Hunter Armstrong capped a good day for USA with a bronze.
World record holder Lilly King faces a tough challenge in the final of the women’s 100m breaststroke that concludes day three. After the semifinals, which was dominated by 26-year-old compatriot Ruta Meilutyte, the American finished second overall.
Lithuanian Meilutyte, who won gold at the London Games 11 years ago, has been aiming for the first world title in the event since her success at Barcelona 2013 and was even faster in the heats, breaking the 1:05 mark for the first time in a decade.