Katie Ledecky showed she was at the peak of her powers at the age of 26, winning the women’s 800-meter freestyle on Saturday to retain her title and surpass Michael Phelps with a record 16th individual gold at the world championships.
Ledecky led from start to finish and touched the wall in 8:08.87, four seconds outside of her 2016 world record, to become the first swimmer to win a single worlds event six times — doing so consecutively as well.
It was Ledecky’s second gold at these worlds, along with winning the 1,500 free earlier this week, giving her 21 worlds golds overall.
She went 4.44 seconds faster than silver medallist Li Bingjie of China, with Australia’s Ariarne Titmus collecting bronze.
Sarah Sjoestroem cruised to her fifth straight world title in the women’s 50 butterfly before breaking the world record in the 50 freestyle in the semifinals.
The 29-year-old Sjoestroem finished the day’s opening event in 24.77 seconds to hold off China’s Zhang Yufei, who was 0.28 seconds behind. Gretchen Walsh of the United States took bronze.
“That was amazing, I’m very proud of this gold, which is the fifth one. It’s amazing,” said Sjoestroem, who tied Phelps with 20 individual medals at the world championships. “I feel like I enjoy it more than ever at the moment.”
Sjoestroem then produced a superb effort of 23.61 seconds in the freestyle to better her own mark of 23.67 seconds, which she had set in the 2017 worlds in Budapest.
Another world record fell when the Australian mixed 4x100m freestyle relay team of Jack Cartwright, Kyle Chalmers, Shayna Jack and Mollie O’Callaghan lowered their world record in the final race of the evening as they finished in 3:18.83.
Australia’s Olympic and world champion Kaylee McKeown sealed a memorable treble at the meet as she roared to the women’s 200 backstroke title after prevailing in the 50 and 100 earlier in the week.
McKeown, who holds the 200 backstroke world record, finished in 2:03.85 to beat American Regan Smith, who finished more than a second behind despite leading early in the race. China’s Peng Xuwei took bronze.
“That means a lot. I didn’t think I’d be able to do that tonight, especially after a long week,” McKeown said. “That’s the best thing about sport, you have to focus on your own race, and that is exactly what I did tonight.”
French swimmer Maxime Grousset took gold in the 100 butterfly in 50.14 seconds to finish ahead of Canada’s Josh Liendo and American Dara Rose. It was France’s fourth gold of the meet, with Leon Marchand grabbing the other three.
Australia’s Cameron McEvoy won the men’s 50 freestyle gold in 21.06 seconds, outclassing silver medalist Jack Alexy of the U.S. by 0.51 seconds. British swimmer Benjamin Proud took bronze.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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