BARCELONA – Katie Ledecky won gold and set a world record in the women’s 1500m freestyle Tuesday at the 15th FINA World Championships, turning in a time of 15:36.53.
Her performance was one of six medals for the United States on the third night of competition at Palau Sant Jordi.
Also winning gold for the U.S. Tuesday was Missy Franklin in the women’s 100m backstroke( 58.41) and Matt Grevers in the men’s 100m backstroke (52.93). Conor Dwyer took silver in the men’s 200m freestyle in 1:45.32, while David Plummer finished second behind Grevers in the 100m back in 53.12. Jessica Hardy won bronze in the women’s 100m breaststroke in 1:05.52.
The Americans’ medal count now stands at 14 – six gold, four silver and four bronze. They lead all countries in both gold medals and total medals won.
The Women’s 1500m Freestyle
Ledecky and Lotte Friis of Denmark quickly separated themselves from the pack in the women’s 1500m freestyle and were about four or five seconds ahead of world record pace the whole way.
Friis held a slight lead over Ledecky through the 1300-meter mark, when Ledecky pulled ahead. The two were neck-and-neck over the next 100 meters, before Ledecky surged ahead for good. Friis finished second about two seconds behind in 15:38.88, followed by Lauren Boyle of New Zealand in 15:44.71. American Chloe Sutton finished eighth in 16:09.65.
“The main goal was just to come out on top,” Ledecky said. “I knew we were going pretty fast, and I figured whoever was going to come out on top was going to get the world record. I had to be careful not to push it too early, not to push it too late, and just touch the wall first. Around the last 200, I knew I could take off.”
Both Ledecky and Friis finished ahead of the former world record time of 15:42.54, set by American Kate Ziegler in 2007. All three medalists swam faster than the former meet record of 15:44.93, set by Alessia Filippi of Italy at the 2009 World Championships in Rome.
“(The world record) means the world to me,” Ledecky said. “Kate Ziegler, who had the world record, is from my area (back home). I’ve looked up to her my whole life, and I really honored to break that world record and to keep it in Potomac Valley.”
The Women’s 100m Backstroke
Franklin led the women’s 100m backstroke from start to finish, touching a little more than a half-second ahead of her closest competitor, Emily Seebohm of Australia, who finished in 59.06. Japan’s Aya Terakawa was third in 59.23. Franklin’s teammate, Elizabeth Pelton, was fourth in 59.45.
“As bad as it always is at the end, I just kept pushing,” Franklin said. “I knew the field was going to be tough. It was right near my best time, so I’m very happy with that.”
The results were a repeat of last year’s 100m backstroke finals at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where the same three women finished in the exact same order.
“It feels awesome,” Franklin said. “I’m so, so happy. It was awesome being in that heat with Elizabeth Pelton, too. We’re going to be teammates next year at Cal together. She did a great job. Emily (Seebohm) also did really great. We were on the podium together last summer, so to be on the podium together again is such an honor.”
Men’s 100m Backstroke
The men’s 100m backstroke was classic Grevers, who used his trademark back-half speed to pull ahead in the final 50 meters for the win. Plummer was right there with him, finishing 19-hundredths of a second behind. Jeremy Stravius of France was third in 53.21.
“It fun to win these big events, so I’m happy,” Grevers said. “I thought I was going to do a little more. I turned the switch on a little bit early, and I should have expected with the sort of training I did this year, the last 15 to 10 meters were going to hurt bad. I was just hoping it wouldn’t.”
Tuesday’s race was the second straight year the Americans finished 1-2 in the men’s 100m back at a major international competition. Last year, it was Grevers and teammate Nick Thoman who took silver and gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“That’s what I’m most excited about,” Grevers said. “David’s an amazing guy. That win is big for him all around, so it’s really cool to see we were able to do that.”
Plummer was pleased to carry on the American tradition in the 100 back
“To be up there with matt in the top two spots for our country is really amazing,” Plummer said. “I think the whole heat would have liked to have been faster, but getting my hand on the wall second was all that mattered.”
Men’s 200m Freestyle
In the men’s 200m freestyle, Yannick Agnel of France was in control of the race from the very first turn, leaving the rest of the field fighting for second. Dwyer swam a controlled race, gaining ground on the pack at each wall.
Fifth at the 150-meter mark, Dwyer reeled his competitors in down the final 50 meters for silver. Agnel was first in 1:44.20, while Danila Izotov of Russia was third in 1:45.59. Lochte, who was third at the final wall, slipped to fourth in 1:45.64.
“(Michael Phelps) was texting me yesterday, just saying to go out quicker,” Dwyer said. “I guess I didn’t do that. But he said to hit the wall, come home, and don’t worry about anything but getting your hand on that wall. So I took his advice and it turned out well.”
Lochte was disappointed in his swim, but said he couldn’t dwell on it.
“Tonight wasn’t my night,” Lochte said. “I’ve just got to forget about that race and move forward. I still have a bunch more racing to go, so I can’t think about that any more. I wanted to do better, but I didn’t. I’ve just got to forget about it and move forward.”
Women’s 100m Breaststroke
Everyone was chasing Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte in the women’s 100m breaststroke. On Monday, Meilutyte set the world record in this event in the semifinals in 1:04.35. The former mark, set by Jessica Hardy in 2009, stood at 1:04.45.
Hardy was second behind Meilutyte at the turn in Tuesday’s race, and held on down the homestretch for bronze. Meilutyte won gold in 1:04.42, while Russia’s Yuliya Efimova took silver in 1:05.02. American Breeja Larson finished fifth in 1:06.74.
Despite holding the world record since 2009, Tuesday’s race marked the first time since 2007 that Hardy has swum the 100m breast at a major international competition.
“I had a lot lower expectations coming into this meet,” Hardy said. “I don’t know if that’s the right thing to say, but I’m really surprised with how this meet is going. To win a medal in that (event) is really fun after not swimming it for a while. It’s the kind of race I’ll remember forever because it’s the fastest field I’ve ever swum in. I was relaxed and had fun, and I think I trained pretty well this year, so I think that’s the difference.”
The following American swimmers competed in tonight’s semifinals: Kevin Steel, 12th, men’s 50m breaststroke (27.60); Franklin, 2nd, women’s 200m freestyle (1:56.05); Shannon Vreeland, 8th, women’s 200m freestyle (1:56.76); Tyler Clary, 4th (tie), men’s 200m butterfly, (1:55.97); Tom Luchsinger, 8th, men’s 200m butterfly (1:56.10).
The top eight swimmers in each event will compete in tomorrow night’s finals. In addition, the top eight swimmers from this morning’s prelims of the men’s 800m free will also compete in tomorrow night’s finals.
The 15th FINA World Championships continues Tuesday. For complete results, go to www.omegatiming.com.
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