Swimming: Ledecky breaks 800m record, claims fifth world gold

Ledecky of the US celebrates after setting a new world record and winning the women's 800m freestyle final.
Ledecky of the US celebrates after setting a new world record and winning the women's 800m freestyle final.REUTERS

KAZAN, Russia (AFP) - Katie Ledecky broke her own 800m freestyle world record on Saturday by claiming an historic fifth gold medal at the world swimming championships to complete her sweep of freestyle titles.

Ledecky, 18, clocked eight minutes, 07.39 seconds to shave 2.61secs off the record she set last year as New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle took silver at 10.26 back, with Britain’s Jaz Carlin in bronze at 10.76.

Having twice lowered her 1500m time in Kazan, this is the third time Ledecky of the USA has broken a world record at these championships and the 10th time in her career.

She is the first swimmer to win the freestyle sweep of 200, 400, 800 and 1500m world titles, while she also won gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

She holds the hat-trick of world records in the 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle, despite having only graduated from high school recently and has yet to get her driving licence.

Having won four gold medals at the Barcelona world championships two years ago, Ledecky has gone one better in Kazan by adding the 200m crown to her haul.

“I couldn’t be happier with how that swim went or how the whole meet has gone,” beamed Ledecky.

“It got tough around the 550m mark, but I knew I could finish hard.

“I set very high goals a couple of years ago after Barcelona and I still have a way to go.

“I am slowly chipping away at those and this was a great stepping stone towards Olympic trials.

“This one was very special in as much as the fatigue I could have got, so today shows that I can manage my schedule really well.

“I don’t really think about the historical aspects during the meet, but I guess I can now and I will cherish these moments.

“I race as hard as I can every time I go up on to the blocks. I control my race and try and execute my race plan as best I can.”

Ledecky said she would not have minded swimming a slightly slower world record to mark a personal occasion.

“I didn’t have any pressure but it would have been cool to go swim 8:08,” she revealed.

“It was August 8, I was swimming the 800m and believe it or not it would have been my grandfather’s 88th birthday.”

It was a mark of Ledecky’s dominance that second-placed Boyle set a new Oceania record of 8:17.65, but still finished at 10.26 behind the American.

“Katie is an amazing woman to swim with and I am really happy that I got to share the experience with her and see her success,” said the 27-year-old New Zealander.

“I think that I expected Katie to break the world record today in this distance.

“After seeing her breaking the 1500m world record twice, everybody knew that she could swim much faster in 800m.

“I really love to see what she can do and it shows what is possible for the human body.

“It’s very inspiring for me.

“I am very happy with my time, I have never swum so fast before and it’s really good to help me improve.”