Katie Ledecky continued her romp through Rio on Friday night by demolishing the field in the 800-meter freestyle event.
She broke her own world record from earlier this year in the process and established herself as the sport’s preeminent figure going forward.
The 19-year-old finished her swim in the longest women’s Olympic race in 8 minutes, 4.79 seconds — breaking her previous mark of 8:06.68 — giving her a fourth gold medal in these Olympics. She becomes the third American woman to win four gold medals at a single Olympics, joining swimmers Missy Franklin and Amy Van Dyken.
Ledecky also accomplished her three individual golds through impressive diversity, winning the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle races. She’s the second woman in Olympic history to sweep those races, joining the United States’ Debbie Meyer from 1968 in that exclusive club.
The Washington D.C. native beat the field by more than 11 seconds and enhanced her cumulative Olympic haul to five gold medals. At age 15, the middle- and long-distance swimmer claimed gold in the 800 free at the London Games in 2012.
With Michael Phelps retiring, announcing such intentions for the second straight Olympics, Ledecky surges to the forefront despite not being set to turn 20 until next March. Enjoying the most dominant Games for a swimmer in Brazil, she went 4-for-4 in her second Olympics, anchoring the U.S. women to gold in the 4×200 free relay, and has not lost an Olympic final to date.
Displaying rare diversity in her catalog of events, Ledecky also holds the world record in the 1,500 free. But that event is not on the Olympic program for women, depriving her of a chance to win every freestyle event past the 200. Although swimming records are broken regularly, Ledecky now owns the world’s best marks at 400, 800 and 1,500.