Katie Ledecky, the 19-year-old swimmer, was the star of Team USA on Wednesday with a dominating performance in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.
Ledecky won her third gold medal and fourth overall at the Rio Olympics despite Team USA’s slow start in the freestyle relay. At one stage, Sweden, China and Australia swapped the top spot and most analysts didn’t give U.S. a shot.
The turning point came when it was Ledecky’s turn on the anchor leg. She blew past her competition by registering a split of 1 minute and 53.74 seconds to put U.S. firmly in control.
In fact, Ledecky was so dominant that only one other swimmer, Australia’s Emma McKeon, got within a second of the American’s four-lap time.
Team USA’s Allison Schmitt finished with a fastest lap of 1 minute and 56.21 seconds, nearly 2.5 seconds slower than Ledecky. While Schmitt was great in her own right, Ledecky was a cut above the rest of her American teammates.
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Katie Ledecky was clutch
After Ledecky’s clutch anchor leg, she was embraced by her joyous teammates. “That was so much fun. We just had so much fun with it. We were smiling the whole time – before, during and after,” Ledecky said at the podium while speaking of the bond she shares with her teammates.
During the London Games four years ago, Ledecky was a 15-year-old who was no allowed to race until Day 6. Four years later, she is viewed as a senior member in the team.
“I did kind of think back a couple of days ago that I don’t think I was thinking in London that I would be swimming all this in Rio. It’s crazy how fast things can happen and how much the hard work can pay off,” said the ace swimmer.
Team USA finished the rally with a total time of 7 minutes and 43.03 seconds. Tamsin Cook helped Australia win the silver with a total time of 7 minutes and 44.87 seconds. Canada came in third for the bronze at 7:45.39.
Katie Ledecky replaced Missy Franklin in the team. Franklin, who won four gold medals in London, was left off the relay on Wednesday after a series of poor performances.