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American swimming phenomenon Katie Ledecky has cemented her status as one of the greatest female sporting stars of all time after re-writing history at the world swimming championships in Budapest.
Ledecky was part of the USA's 4x200m freestyle relay team that claimed gold at the world championships in Hungary.
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The win saw Ledecky claim her 21st career world swimming championships medal, making her the most decorated female swimmer of all time.
The American's gold saw her go one clear of Natalie Coughlin for the most medals in world championships history for a woman.
The 25-year-old has dropped the 200m from her individual program to focus on the longer distances in the pool.
However, she returned to spearhead the relay team and ended up setting the third-fastest split in the history of the event.
It was the 18th world championships gold in Ledecky's glittering career, equalling American men's great, Ryan Lochte.
Ledecky's 21 world championships medals overall is only bettered by two men: Michael Phelps (33) and Lochte (27).
The 25-year-old has won gold in each of the three events she has competed in at the 2022 world championships, following individual victories in the 400m and 1500m freestyle events.
Ledecky's extraordinary feat sent social media into a frenzy.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 22, 2022
Katie Ledecky became the most decorated woman in World Championships Swimming history tonight after winning gold in the 800 freestyle relay 🤯
21 total medals, 18 of them Gold, 3 of them Silver, and none of them bronze 🐐
— Kyle Sockwell (@kylesockwell) June 22, 2022
Katie Ledecky is such a rock star. She hasn't even swam the 200 free this year and hops in on the relay to deliver the third fastest split ever on the way to gold, her 21st world swimming medal -- the most all-time by a woman.
— Steve Layman (@SteveLayman) June 22, 2022
— Stone Ridge (@GatorsSR) June 22, 2022
KATIE LEDECKY IS FLYING RIGHT NOW!!!
— Kyle Sockwell (@kylesockwell) June 22, 2022
RECORDS ON RECORDS 🔥 @katieledecky breaks Natalie Coughlin's record for most medals in women's swimming World Championship history while swimming the second fastest split in history in the women's 4x200m freestyle 🏊♀️#FINABudapest2022 | @NBCOlympics pic.twitter.com/oE8Ne2Dsqu
— On Her Turf (@OnHerTurf) June 22, 2022
Katie Ledecky is the absolute greatest swimmer of all-time. She’s only 25 https://t.co/qc8UjWxmy4
— Richie Flores (@RFlores91) June 22, 2022
Aussie Mollie O'Callaghan picks up third medal
The Australian 4x200m freestyle relay team finished second behind Ledecky's Americans, giving Mollie O'Callaghan her third medal of the world championships.
Queensland's O'Callaghan took the limelight as she attempted to top off the efforts of Madi Wilson, Leah Neale and Kiah Melverton on the previous three legs of the 4x200 by overhauling American anchor-leg swimmer Bella Sims.
But having competed a breathtaking semi-final of the 100m only 90 minutes earlier, O'Callaghan, the individual 200m silver medallist, couldn't get near the flying Sims.
After fine work from Claire Weinstein, Leah Smith and Ledecky, who produced a decisive third leg, Sims brought the US home in a championship record 7 minutes 41.45 seconds, well clear of Australia (7:43.86).
"Coming in here I knew I would be swimming against Ledecky on that third leg and she is one of the best swimmers of all time," Melverton said.
"I just did what I needed to do and held my ground and I thought I did a pretty good job of that. The 4x2 has such a great history in our country and so for us to get up and win a Silver medal together is pretty special."
O'Callaghan, though, had earlier produced an astonishing performance in her individual semi, clocking the fastest-ever second half to a women's race, amazingly shooting from last to first place over a landmark final length timed at 26.43sec.
That was just one-hundredth of a second slower than her first half of the race and her 52.85sec saw her qualify fastest for Thursday's final, ahead of Sweden's eight-time world champion Sarah Sjostrom.
Having also won gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay, O'Callaghan could potentially end up with six medals as she also has chances in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay and women's 4x100m medley relay.
The Dolphins have now picked up eight medals in total - two golds, five silvers and one bronze - after five days of competition to put them fourth on the table behind the USA (11 golds), Italy (four golds) and China (three golds).
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