TOKYO — Katie Ledecky had only a little more than an hour to recover from the biggest disappointment of her storied Olympic career, a stunning fifth-place finish in the 200-meter freestyle.
Few expected her to win that race, even though she was the reigning champion, not with Ariarne Titmus of Australia in the next lane, just as she had been on Monday in the 400-meter freestyle when she beat Ledecky for the gold. But fifth place is not where Ledecky, who came in targeting five gold medals, ever expected to be.
She stared blankly at the scoreboard after she touched the wall. She winced as she walked across the pool deck. There would be no medal ceremony before the start of her next event, the 1,500-meter freestyle.
Ever since the Olympic schedule came out years ago, this was the day she had circled, the day she would try to pull off a golden double by winning two vastly different races.
It would be the kind of day Michael Phelps had in 2008, when he won the 200-meter butterfly and a relay gold in the same session. Now it was going in the wrong direction, shocking her competitors.
“I always thought she was going to be there,” Titmus said, regarding the 200, which gave her a second gold medal in three days.
Instead, Ledecky headed for the warm-down pool. She conferred with her coach, Greg Meehan. He told her be angry if she wanted to, but at least she had more time to prepare for the metric mile swim.
She said she had always planned to use the adrenaline from her performance in the 200 to power her through the 1,500, the longest race in the pool and a grueling physical and mental test.
“Things didn’t work out super-well there,” she said.
As she swam back and forth in the warm-up pool, she thought of her family, especially her grandparents, the toughest people she knows. And she tried to get her head around the next task.
Then, just before noon, she hit the water in the 1,500, and roughly a minute or two later order in the swimming universe was restored.
Ledecky, the ultimate distance freak, has loved the 1,500 since she first raced at the distance when she was 12, and has been nearly impossible to beat in it ever since.
Ledecky was a body-length ahead of Jianjiahe Wang of China after 200 meters and five meters ahead at the 300-meter mark. Breathing every other stroke, barely kicking, and stretching her lead on each turn, she swam in cruise control for much of the rest of the race.
Erica Sullivan, her American teammate, pushed her ever so slightly at the end, getting to within seven meters of Ledecky. But even Sullivan knew the way this would end.
“I could see her wake,” Sullivan, who won the silver medal, said. “Usually I just see her in the turnarounds.”
When she touched the wall, Ledecky smacked the water and let out a scream.
It was her second medal of the Games, after her silver in the 400, but her first gold, the kind of medal she expects to take home. She corralled Sullivan, who did not realize she had captured the silver, a huge moment in the Tokyo pool for a woman whose mother is Japanese. Usually steely, Ledecky was close to tears — they would flow in the post-race news conferences — another superstar athlete at these games trying to manage the pressure of outsized expectations.
On Tuesday, that pressure had claimed Naomi Osaka of Japan and Simone Biles. On Wednesday, the Tokyo Games tested Ledecky in a way she had not been tested before, and she had made it through.
“People maybe feel bad for me not winning everything, but I want people to be more concerned about other things going on in the world,” she said. “The most pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself.”
In the day’s other finals, Kristof Milak of Hungary did what he usually does in the 200-meter butterfly: destroy the field in a race that was never in doubt.
Milak, the world-record holder, won the gold medal with a breathtaking time of 1:51.25, just off his world record of 1:50.73. It was a new Olympic record. He was more than a full body and two seconds ahead of Tomoru Honda of Japan, who won the silver, and three seconds ahead of Federico Burdisso of Italy, who won the bronze.
In the 200-meter individual medley, Yui Ohashi of Japan, an emerging star for the host country, won her second gold medal of the Tokyo Games finishing in 2:08:52. Ohashi came on strong in the final 25 meters to overtake Americans Kate Douglass and Alex Walsh by seven one-hundreths of a second.
Walsh finished just ahead of Douglass, her University of Virginia teammate, who won the bronze in 2:09.04, setting off a celebration in Charlottesville.
The 4×200-meter men’s freestyle relay was what everyone expected it to be — a coronation for British men, who missed the world record by two one-hundreths of a second.
Ledecky was more than 17 seconds off her own world mark, but she’ll take it.
“My times may not be my best times,” she said “but I’m still real happy to have a gold medal around my neck right now.”
The American women finished first and second in the 1,500-meter freestyle, with Katie Ledecky winning her sixth gold medal since the 2012 London Games.
While Ledecky has been a fixture of the Olympics for almost a decade, Erica Sullivan, the silver medalist, is a first-time Olympian and the 1,500 is her only event in Tokyo. Her time of 15 minutes 41.41 seconds was four seconds behind Ledecky’s.
Sullivan has said that she visited her mother’s family in Japan often in her life, and that she is fluent in Japanese. Her mother’s family home is in Ofuna, about 30 miles from Tokyo.
But the journey to a homecoming at the Tokyo Aquatic Center was difficult.
“I’m proud of the mental health barriers that I got through, with my dad dying in 2017 and really hitting a rock bottom in 2018 from the stress of losing a parent at age 16 and having to get over the anxiety, the panic attacks, the depression, the PTSD, all that,” Sullivan said at the Olympic trials last month in Omaha.
A Las Vegas native and two-time open water national champion, Sullivan started swimming at age 6. She recently told Swimming World Magazine that she remembered being bullied for bringing bento boxes with rice wrapped in seaweed to elementary school.
“It wasn’t until I got out of high school and I really started to crave my Asian heritage and culture, and I really honed into it,” she told the publication. “Luckily I found a community through anime watchers, and I found my own little network that I grew to love.”
She’ll begin classes next month at the University of Texas, where she’ll swim for the Longhorns.
The 4×200-meter men’s freestyle relay was what everyone expected it to be — a coronation for British men.
Tom Dean and Duncan Scott claimed gold and silver medals in the 200 freestyle earlier this week and formed the backbone of a nearly impossible to beat British team.
The British men took control in the second half of the race and missed the world record by just three one-hundreths of a second. The Russian team took the silver, finishing a little more than three seconds back, and Australia edged out the American team by a little more than a half-second to take the bronze.
Katie Ledecky won her first gold medal of the Tokyo Games on Wednesday, dominating the 1,500-meter freestyle, just as she was expected to.
For Ledecky, the 1,500 victory in 15 minutes 37.34 seconds capped off a busy morning at the Tokyo Aquatics Center. It came a little more than an hour after she suffered the biggest disappointment of her Olympic career as she failed to get on the podium in the 200-meter freestyle race.
Erica Sullivan of the United States finished second in 15:41.41, more than four seconds behind Ledecky but good enough for silver. Sarah Kohler of Germany won bronze in 15:42.91.
This was the first time women have been able to race at 1,500 meters at the Olympic Games, even though men have been competing at the distance for decades.
Ledecky was a body-length ahead of Jianjiahe Wang of China after 200 meters and five meters ahead at the 300-meter mark. Breathing every other stroke, and stretching her lead on each turn, she swam in cruise control for the remainder of the race, a long test that is both mentally and physically exhausting.
But the longer the race, the stronger Ledecky is. The race quickly turned into a race for second place.
July 27, 2021, 11:07 p.m. ET
July 27, 2021, 11:07 p.m. ET
Ledecky is leading by nearly 3 seconds with 12 lengths to go.
July 27, 2021, 11:06 p.m. ET
July 27, 2021, 11:06 p.m. ET
With 20 lengths to go, Ledecky is already growing her lead on the rest of the field. She is showing no sign of fatigue from her last final, a little over an hour ago. It’s remarkable that she’s in there swimming about a mile so soon afterward.
July 27, 2021, 11:00 p.m. ET
July 27, 2021, 11:00 p.m. ET
In the 1,500-meter freestyle, the longest swimming event of the Games, Ledecky is already about a body length ahead of her closest competitor, Jianjiahe Wang of China.
Yui Ohashi of Japan won her second gold medal of the Tokyo Games in the women’s 200-meter individual medley, finishing in 2:08:52.
Ohashi came on strong in the final 25 meters to overtake Americans Kate Douglass and Alex Walsh by seven one-hundreths of a second.
Walsh finished just ahead of Douglass, her University of Virginia teammate, who won the bronze in 2:09.04.
Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, the defending champion and world- record holder, was in the race, but Hosszu has failed to match her previous form. She finished seventh.
This race was wide-open, especially after top-seeded Kaylee McKeown withdrew from the medley to focus on backstroke events. With Hosszu off, there was no obvious favorite, and the two American teenagers were unproven at the elite international level. They are not anymore, and neither is Ohashi.
Heading into the Tokyo Games, Katie Ledecky had never lost an individual race at the Olympics, a run that stretched to her surprise win as a 15-year-old nine years ago in London.
That undefeated record, combined with Ledecky’s dominance in races longer than 200 meters, had made her swimming’s version of Serena Williams, an athlete nearly everyone in the sport stops to watch when she hits the water.
Now she has lost twice, both times in races where she was defending a gold medal from the 2016 Rio Games, and both times to Ariarne Titmus of Australia, who has quickly become one of the biggest stars of the Tokyo Olympics.
Titmus beat Ledecky by two-thirds of a second in the 400-meter freestyle on Monday, with Ledecky settling for silver. Then Titmus crushed her in the 200 free on Wednesday, as Ledecky finished fifth, 1.71 seconds behind Titmus’s new Olympic record.
In fairness to Ledecky, most champions lose, even in races they dominate. Michael Phelps has a silver medal in the 200 butterfly from the London Olympics, a race he was never supposed to lose (he won it again four years later).
Coming into the Tokyo Games, Titmus was the only swimmer who had beaten Ledecky in a distance race at a major meet. But that was at the 2019 world championships, when Ledecky was battling a virus. Still, Titmus had put a target on her rival’s back, saying at Australia’s Olympic trials that the U.S. champion and her American teammates wouldn’t have everything their way in Tokyo.
Ledecky had long been considered nearly untouchable at any distance more than 200 meters. But swimming is the ultimate sport of one-upsmanship. Records fall with surprising frequency, and Titmus had been chasing Ledecky’s for the past three years.
Ledecky is still expected to dominate in the 1,500 freestyle later on Wednesday, which Titmus is not competing in. But it is clear that her unchallenged reign over shorter distances is over.
For the first time, there will be a women’s 1,500-meter freestyle Olympic champion. The final starts at 10:54 p.m. Eastern. Katie Ledecky of the U.S. is the heavy favorite, having raced to the fastest qualifying time. Astonishingly, she is also the solo owner of the top ten times in the women’s event in history.
What is the history of the event?
It has been a men’s event at the Olympics since 1904. Women have been competing in it at the world championships since 2001, but they’re swimming in it for the first time in the Summer Games in Tokyo.
How many laps is the 1,500 meters?
Olympic-size pools are 50 meters in length, so it takes 30 laps to reach 1,500 meters, which is 0.93 miles. It is the longest Olympic swimming event that’s not in open water.
If you’re swimming in your local pool, which is usually 25 yards long, that’s 66 laps.
How long does that take for the world’s fastest women?
Katie Ledecky swam her 1,500-meter qualifying time in 15 minutes, 35.35 seconds. Her world record, set in 2018, is 15:20.48.
How do the swimmers keep track of all those laps?
Attendants display hand-operated lap counters above the water as a swimmer is about to make her turn.
Why do some of the swimmers slap themselves before racing?
It’s a way for them to warm up their muscles by increasing blood flow to them right before their race.
Kristof Milak of Hungary did what he usually does in the 200-meter butterfly: destroy the field in a race that was never in doubt.
Milak, the world-record holder, won the gold medal with a breathtaking time of 1:51.25, just off his world record of 1:50.73. It was a new Olympic record.
Milak had little competition in the event. He was more than a full body and two seconds ahead of Tomoru Honda of Japan, who won the silver, and three seconds ahead of Federico Burdisso of Italy, who won the bronze.
Michael Phelps won this race at three of the past four Olympic Games. But Milak is the kind of swimmer who should keep Phelps in retirement, and his win Wednesday was very likely the first of many Olympic medals he will collect in his career.
Five days into the Olympic swim meet, one thing has become perfectly clear: Ariarne Titmus is fast becoming swimming’s new queen.
For the second time in three days, Titmus, the young Australian sensation, won a gold medal, this time in the 200-meter freestyle, beating a field that included Katie Ledecky, the reigning Olympic champion in the event.
Five years after her victory in Rio de Janeiro, though, Ledecky was far off Titmus’s pace, finishing fifth, and she clearly has all that she can manage at distances of 400 meters or less.
Titmus claimed her second gold medal of the games and a sweet victory for swimming-mad Australia, winning in 1:53.50, a new Olympic record. Ledecky finished fifth in 1:55.21. Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong took the silver and Penny Oleksiak of Canada took the bronze.
The outcome was not a surprise. Titmus had been faster than Ledecky in the 200 meters this year, though the two have not raced against each other in two years. It is Ledecky’s weakest individual event. Still, Ledecky came into these Games chasing five gold medals — four individual and one in a relay. So far she has one silver medal.
That should change in roughly an hour, when Ledecky swims the 1,500-meter freestyle, a race in which she has little competition.
Ever since the schedule for the Olympic swim meet was released years ago, Wednesday has been considered Katie Ledecky day.
It’s the day the world’s top female swimmer — yes, even though she lost the 400-meter freestyle Monday, she is the world’s most versatile and impressive swimmer — gets to go for the gold medal in two races that are vastly different.
First up is the 200-meter freestyle final. Ledecky is the defending gold medalist in the event, but the race is a rematch between her and Ariarne Titmus of Australia, who beat Ledecky on Monday and is faster at shorter distances at the moment. Ledecky is going to need a special gear to come out on top in this one.
After that race concludes, she will have 62 minutes to get ready for the 1,500-meter freestyle final. It’s the first time women have been given the chance to compete at this distance at the Olympics, even though the men have been racing the 1,500 meters for years. (Misogyny dies a slow and painful death in international sports.)
Ledecky has been a distance freak since she was a small child, and she appears nearly untouchable in the 1,500 — unless she is a bit worn out from the 200. There will not be another swimmer in the 1,500 who raced in the 200 final an hour before.
Still, it would be beyond shocking if Ledecky did not win the gold medal in the 1,500.
Katie Ledecky is competing in two swimming finals this morning in Tokyo. The other medal events in the lineup are the men’s 200-meter butterfly and 4×200-meter freestyle relay, and the women’s 200-meter individual medley.
The men’s 200-meter butterfly features the kind of swimmer that makes Michael Phelps glad he is retired. Phelps won this race in three of the last four Olympiads. But in 2019 Kristof Milak of Hungary shattered Phelps’s record in the event by eight-tenths of a second. No one is even close to him in this race.
In the women’s 200-meter individual medley, Kate Douglass of the United States had the fastest time in qualifying, but this is a fairly wide-open race. Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, the defending champion and world-record holder, is in the race, but she has not been in her past form so far this week.
The 4×200-meter freestyle relay should be a coronation for Britain, especially after Tom Dean and Duncan Scott went one-two in the 200 free on Tuesday. They are going to be tough to beat, but never count out Americans and Australians in a swimming relay.
Ariarne Titmus of Australia won gold in the women’s 400-meter freestyle on Monday, beating defending champion and world-record holder Katie Ledecky from the United States.
Now the two will duel again in the 200-meter freestyle, the first final on today’s program.
Titmus, who is competing in her first Olympics, called her triumph in the 400 free “surreal,” adding that it was “the biggest thing you can do in your sporting career.”
Titmus, 20, is from Tasmania, a small island-state off the south coast of Australia. According to her profile on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics website, she began swimming at 7, and her success has earned her the nickname the Terminator.
Titmus joined the Australian Dolphins Swim Team in 2016, and a year later, went on to win a bronze medal in the women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay at the 2017 World Championships.
At the world short course championships in 2018, an international swimming competition, Titmus won gold medals in the 200-meter freestyle and the 400-meter freestyle, where she also set a world record for the event with her time of 3:53.92.
That year, Titmus also won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, a multisport event among the various nations of the British Commonwealth held every four years.
Her medal haul continued at the 2019 FINA World Championship in Gwangju, South Korea, where Titmus handed Ledecky her first-ever major international loss, when she won gold in the 400-meter freestyle.
At that same competition, Titmus went on to win gold with her team in the 4×200-meter freestyle, setting a world record in the process. Titmus also won silver in the 200-meter freestyle and bronze in the 800-meter freestyle.
Starting at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time, NBC will broadcast some of the most anticipated swimming competitions as part of its prime-time Olympics coverage.
They include the women’s 200-meter freestyle, where Katie Ledecky of the United States will once again be challenged by Ariarne Titmus of Australia, who beat her at 400 meters, and the Olympic premiere of the women’s 1,500 free, where Ledecky is the favorite for gold.
Other gold medal events on deck are the women’s 200-meter individual medley and the men’s 200-meter butterfly.
The scheduled times of the medal events are:
9:41 p.m. Eastern time: Women’s 200-meter freestyle final
9:49 p.m.: Men’s 200 butterfly final
10:45 p.m.: Women’s 200 individual medley final
10:54 p.m.: Women’s 1,500 free final
11:26 p.m.: Men’s 4×200 free relay final
NBC’s coverage can also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com and on its Peacock service.
TOKYO — As expected, an American woman was edging ahead in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke on Tuesday morning.
But the American was not named Lilly King, the defending Olympic champion and world-record holder. Instead, in the race of her life, Lydia Jacoby, a 17-year-old Alaskan, tapped the wall first and then gazed toward the scoreboard at the Tokyo Aquatics Center. It took her a nanosecond to register the result.
“Insane,” she said.
Swimming has delivered surprises at the Tokyo Games, and Jacoby’s gold medal performance ranked among the most shocking so far. The first Alaskan to compete in Olympic swimming, she trains with her local club, the Seward Tsunami Swim Club, which is not to be confused with the usual powerhouse programs from California and Texas.
On Tuesday, against the very best in the world, Jacoby proved that geography did not seem to matter that much at all.
“I think that me coming from a small club and a state with such a small population just shows everyone that you can do it no matter where you’re from,” said Jacoby, who will be a senior in high school this fall.
Classmates and friends cheered her on from afar at watch parties in Seward — and went bonkers when she chased down Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa in the closing meters. (The videos went viral within minutes.)
King, 24, claimed the bronze — an anticlimactic result for one of the sport’s most outspoken personalities. Despite having aimed to become the first woman to win two gold medals in the event, she said she was pleased with her race.
“And so excited for Lydia,” said King, who had not lost a race in the 100-meter breaststroke since 2015. “I love to see the future of American breaststroke coming up like this and to have somebody to go at it head-to-head when we’re in the country.”
Another relative upset played out in the men’s 100-meter backstroke, an event that Americans had won at every Olympics since 1996. This time, however, Ryan Murphy, the defending Olympic champion, got off to a slow start and finished third behind a pair of Russians, Evgeny Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov.
Murphy said he was not disappointed.
“That was my best swim of the year, so it’s nice to be able to do that in the pressure-packed final,” he said, adding: “Shoot for the stars, land on the moon. That’s kind of what it is. Winning an Olympic gold means you’re the best in the world. Being third in the world is no slouch.”
King had made waves at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for engaging in a personal rivalry with Yuliya Efimova of Russia, a six-time world champion. Ahead of Rio, Efimova had served a 16-month suspension for doping, then was allowed to compete despite failing another drug test.
King was highly critical of that decision. After outswimming Efimova in the Olympic final, King splashed water in Efimova’s lane. (King later said it was unintentional.)
Yet in the run-up to the Tokyo Games, King continued to be outspoken about cheating, expressing concern about spotty drug-testing protocols during the pandemic.
On Tuesday, there was no apparent controversy — only good vibes. King was finishing up her interviews in the media area when Jacoby arrived.
“Off to you, kiddo,” King told her. “No international incidents today.”
Swimming: Women’s 100m Breaststroke Final
In her third Summer Games, Katie Ledecky was finally able to swim for Olympic gold in what is essentially her best event: the 1,500-meter freestyle, the longest race contested in the pool.
Since 1904, the event had been available only to men in the Olympic Games. Women who contested the event in other meets had to settle for the 800 meters at the Games, an event that Ledecky will try to win for a third time on Saturday.
On Wednesday morning, though, she finally got her chance in the 1,500 and delivered her first gold of the Tokyo Games. Ledecky’s time of 15 minutes 37.34 seconds was more than four seconds faster than her American teammate Erica Sullivan (15:41.41), who won the silver, and more than five seconds ahead of the bronze medalist, Sarah Kohler of Germany (15:42.91).
Ledecky holds the world record and had the top qualifying time on Monday. Her victory in the swimming equivalent of a 5-kilometer run — a grueling marathon that requires 30 trips up and back the length of the pool — came a little more than an hour after Ledecky had finished fifth in the 200 freestyle final.
But in just competing in the race, Ledecky — who has won three 1,500-meter world championships and has set world records six times, more than any swimmer in the event, male or female — was getting an opportunity denied to distance-swimming greats like Janet Evans, Debbie Meyer, Shane Gould and Jennifer Turrall.
Until 1968, the longest Olympic event in women’s swimming was only 400 meters. Meyer won the first 800-meter Olympic race for women at the Mexico City Games that year, as well as the 200 and 400 freestyle.
She held the world record in both the 800 and the 1,500 back then, and she told The Times in 2014 that she questioned why the longer race was not available at the Olympics. Meyer said she had been told that there weren’t enough countries with women competing in the 1,500.
“It really was all about the thinking then,” she said, “which was, women were the weaker sex and because men were stronger people, they could last the distance.”
Over the years, other discrepancies in swimming have been resolved. From 1984 to 1996, for example, the men had three relays and the women two. At the Atlanta Games, the women gained parity, with a 4×200-meter freestyle relay.
But FINA, the international governing body for aquatics, had long resisted allowing women to compete in the 1,500 at the Summer Games, despite efforts in every sport to make the Olympic experience equal for women and men.
In 2015, Julio Maglione, the FINA president, said he doubted that the 1,500 could be added to the Olympic program, which was already packed with races at multiple distances for every stroke.
Yet now, not only have women gained the 1,500, but male distance swimmers also have an 800 on their schedule for the first time since 1904. A mixed medley relay has been added, with two men and two women on each team.
The longest swim in Tokyo, however, will not take place in the pool. The 10-kilometer open-water event was added to the Olympics in 2008, with races for men and women.