Australia's Lani Pallister was no match for Katie Ledecky on Tuesday night as the American legend blew away her rivals in the 1500m at the swimming world championships. Ledecky bolstered her credentials as the most decorated female swimmer in history, winning the event by an absolute mile.
It was her 20th gold medal at the world championships and 15th individual gold - drawing her level with the record set by fellow American great Michael Phelps. It was also the fifth time the 26-year-old has won the event at world championships level, making her the first swimmer in history to win multiple events five times (800m).
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Ledecky touched the wall in 15:26.27 - her third fastest time ever in the event - and now holds the top 16 times in history over the distance. None of the other swimmers were even in the camera shot when the American great touched home.
"I'm just feeling really locked into my distance races right now," the 26-year-old said. "I dove in and felt really, really good."
Pallister was a distant fifth in 15:49.17 - some 0.21 seconds outside her personal best. The Aussie was third with 100m remaining and looked like capturing the bronze medal, but was hauled in by China's Bingjie Li and Anastasiia Kirpichnikova of France.
Pallister won the 1500m title at the short course world championships last December, taking advantage of Ledecky's absence. She became the first female swimmer to win the 400m, 800m and 1500m titles at one short course world championships, however she was disappointed with her performance on Tuesday night.
As for Ledecky, the swimming world was left blown away at how she continues to go to new heights. Reporter Kyle Stockwell tweeted: "Katie Ledecky just won the 1500m freestyle World Title by so much that she was the only person on camera when she touched the wall.
"Once again, Katie swimming so fast that she looks like she's the only one swimming. Greatest freestyler of all-time, no contest."
Ledecky can break Phelps' all-time record if she wins the 800m title for a sixth time. She had to settle for silver in the 400m as Australia's Ariarne Titmus reclaimed the world record in staggering scenes.
Katie Ledecky has to be the only swimmer in history to be known for being so far ahead that she makes it look like she's the only one in the pool.
In the screenshot below, she's racing the seven other fastest swimmers in the world, but you'll just have to take my word for it. pic.twitter.com/4HYCg1bF7K
— Kyle Sockwell (@kylesockwell) July 25, 2023
Today in Japan Katie Ledecky won her fifth straight gold medal in the 1500m free (the mile swim), the race where she holds the top 16 fastest times ever. She was the only swimmer in the frame when she touched the wall and then she had to wait 17 seconds for someone else to finish pic.twitter.com/qN07Bc5Alh
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) July 25, 2023
— USA Swimming (@USASwimming) July 25, 2023
It is hard to comprehend how good Katie Ledecky is, this is just insane! https://t.co/XR9zj19w0Z
— Melanie Campbell Rightmyer (@macsmail) July 25, 2023
Third fastest 1500m time in history by Katie Ledecky who, by my calculations, now owns the top 16 fastest times ever.
Absolutely insane. #Fukuoka2023
— John Dean (@JohnDean_) July 25, 2023
Kaylee McKeown wins backstroke gold in historic feat
Also on Tuesday night, Australia's Kaylee McKeown became the first woman in history to win the 100m backstroke title at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, world championship and short course world championships. She completed the 'swimming slam' with victory in Fukuoka on Tuesday night, bouncing back from a controversial disqualification in the 200m individual medley.
"I was very, very nervous heading in, probably moreso than I have ever been," the 22-year-old admitted. "It was just to real testament myself dealing with what I have over the past few hours.
"Nerves just mean that you care about what you're doing. When you train so hard for something, you just want it to all come together at the right moment."
McKeown was just 0.08 seconds away from breaking her own world record, overtaking American Regan Smith in the final 30 metres. "I'm sure there's been worse I've had to deal with, but it's definitely something I've learnt from, just not to take it so emotionally and just forget about it really," she said of her controversial disqualification from Sunday night.
"It was going to be 50-50 between the Americans and I. So it was really good coming back on that last 50 ... I dug deep and gave it everything I could."
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