BARCELONA – Katie Ledecky won gold and set a world record in the women’s 800m freestyle Saturday at the 15th FINA World Championships, turning in a time 8:13.86.
Also winning gold for the U.S. on the seventh day of competition at Palau Sant Jordi pool was Missy Franklin, who broke the meet record in the women’s 200m backstroke in 2:04.76.
Their efforts brought the Americans’ medal count to 26 – 13 gold, six silver and seven bronze. The U.S. leads all countries in both total medal count and gold medals won.
The Women’s 800m Freestyle
The women’s 800m freestyle was Ledecky’s fourth race of the meet. She also swam the 400m free, 1500m free and 800m free relay earlier in the week, winning gold in each and setting a world record in the 1500m free and an American record in the 400m free.
In the 800m free, Ledecky trailed Lotte Friis of Denmark by as much as a body length, but started gaining ground at the 600-meter mark. Ledecky took the the lead at 650 meters, and was twelve-hundredths ahead of world-record pace with 100 meters to go.
She finished about two and a half seconds ahead of Friis, who touched in 8:16.32. Lauren Boyle of New Zealand was third in 8:18.58. American Chloe Sutton, who has competed with Ledecky in each of Ledecky’s three individual races, was sixth in 8:27.75.
“It doesn’t really matter what’s going on in the middle of the race,” Ledecky said. “It’s all about getting your hand on the wall first. My coach really wanted me to push the last 200, and I just stayed patient throughout the race like I did the other day (in the 1500), and made my move where I had to.”
The U.S. has medaled in 14 of 15 World Championships in this event. The last American to win gold was Kate Zeigler in 2007.
“It’s good to finish off on a great note,” Ledecky said. “I exceeded all expectations I had going into this meet and met all my goals, and I’m really happy right now.”
Women’s 200m Backstroke
Franklin took the lead from the start of the women’s 200m backstroke and cruised to the meet record, finishing almost two body-lengths ahead silver medalist Belinda Hocking of Australia, who touched in 2:06.66. Hilary Caldwell of Canada won bronze in 2:06.80. Franklin’s teammate, Elizabeth Pelton, was fifth in 2:08.98.
Franklin’s time Saturday was seven-tenths off the world record she set in the 200m back last year in London. She has now won this event at back-to-back World Championships and is the top-ranked swimmer in the world in the 200m back for the third straight year.
“The 200 back is my favorite race, but it’s probably the most painful,” Franklin said. “I enjoy it, but it hurts a lot. I tried to swim a smart race and stick to my race plan. I’m really happy with a 2:04. It’s right where I was in London. I haven’t been there all season, so to be a 2:04 again, I’m really, really happy.”
It was the fifth gold medal of the meet for Franklin, who also took first in the in the 100m back, 200m free, 400m free relay and 800m free relay. She’s swum six finals so far, and is expected to cap the meet with the finals of the 400m medley relay on Sunday.
“It’s nice to end my individual races on that note, and then end the meet tomorrow hopefully on a great note,” Franklin said. “It’s incredible. I never could have imagined this (performance) coming into this meet. It’s nice knowing that after London I was still able to motivate myself, and that all the work I put in this past year has been worth it.
Women’s 50m Butterfly
American Dana Vollmer finished eighth in the women’s 50m butterfly in 26.46. Jeanette Ottesen Gray of Denmark was first in 25.24, followed by Lu Ying of China in 25.42 and Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands in 25.53. Vollmer was the only American swimmer in this final. She won bronze in the 100m fly on day 2.
An American has medaled just once in this event at a World Championship. Jenny Thompson won silver in 2003.
Men’s 50m Freestyle
While everyone had their eyes on the center of the pool for the final of the men’s 50m freestyle, the swimmers in lanes 6, 7 and 8 took all the hardware. Cesar Cielo of Brazil won gold in 21.32, while Vladimir Morozov of Russia took silver in 21.47 and George Bovel of Trinidad and Tobago took bronze in 21.51. Americans Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin finished fourth and sixth in 21.60 and 21.65.
The last time an American medaled in this event was 2007, when Ben Wildman-Tobriner and Cullen Jones took gold and silver.
Men’s 100m Butterfly
Despite his No. 1 seed coming into the final of the men’s 100m butterfly, Ryan Lochte finished sixth in this event in 51.58. It was his first time swimming the 100 fly at a major international competition.
Winning gold was Chad Le Clos of South Africa in 51.06, followed by Laszlo Cseh of Hungary in 51.45 and Konrad Czerniak of Poland in 51.46.
Saturday’s race marked the first time an American has not won this event in the last five World Championships. Ian Crocker won gold in 2003 and 2005, and Michael Phelps won gold in the last three, setting a world record in Rome in 2005.
Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte set the world record in the semifinals of the women’s 50m breastroke, turning in a time of 29.48. It marked the second time today the record has fallen in this event. Yuliya Efimova of Russia set the world record in this morning’s prelims in 29.78.
Here’s a look at how American swimmers fared in the rest of Saturday’s semifinals: Jessica Hardy, 3rd, women’s 50m breaststroke (29.90); Breeja Larson, 4th, women’s 50m breaststroke (30.20); Simone Manuel, 8th, women’s 50m freestyle (24.91); Natalie Coughlin, 11th, women’s 50m freestyle (25.02); Matt Grevers, 4th (tie), men’s 50m backstroke (24.79); David Plummer, 16th, men’s 100m backstroke (26.00).
The top eight swimmers in each event will compete in tomorrow night’s finals.
The 15th FINA World Championships concludes Sunday. For complete results, go to www.omegatiming.com.
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