BUDAPEST • Katie Ledecky carved her own unique niche yesterday in the 1,500m freestyle final by becoming the first woman to win 12 swimming golds at the World Aquatics Championships.
The American touched the wall in 15min 31.82sec, coming in ahead of Spain's Mireia Belmonte (15:50.89) and Italy's Simona Quadarella (15:53.66).
Ledecky now stands alone as the most decorated female swimmer in the history of world championships, breaking out of a tie with compatriot Missy Franklin, 22.
Her victory also means she remains on track to finish with six golds in Budapest, which would match Franklin's feat at the 2013 edition, when she claimed the most titles ever won by a female swimmer at a single championships.
Ledecky picked up two golds on Sunday, when she won the 400m freestyle title for the third championships in a row, then helped the United States win the 4x100m relay.
Her remaining events are the 200m free, 800m free, and 4x200m free relay.
The 20-year-old Stanford University student's dominance in the 1,500m makes her the favourite to become the first woman to win an Olympic gold in the longest pool event.
Earlier this year, the International Olympic Committee added the event to the Tokyo 2020 swimming programme.
Ledecky has won the 1,500m gold at three straight world championships. The five-time Olympic champion owns the world record of 15:25.48 - set in Kazan two years ago in the final.
No other woman has swum within 13 seconds of it.
She owns the top seven times in the event's history, with yesterday's commanding performance the fourth-fastest time ever.
In an earlier final yesterday, China's Sun Yang won the men's 200m free gold in an Asian-record time of 1:44.39.
American Townley Haas (1:45.04) and Russian Aleksandr Krasnykh (1:45.23) took silver and bronze respectively.
Defending world champion James Guy of Britain (1:45.36) was fifth, behind compatriot Duncan Scott (1:45.27), who was the surprise fastest qualifier .
Sun had to settle for silver in 2015 when Guy beat him by 0.06sec.
But despite a tough battle in the 800m free heats in the morning, Sun prevailed, rewriting his own Asian mark of 1:44.47.
The previous record was set in 2013 at the Chinese National Games in Shenyang.
The 25-year-old Hangzhou native , who has won the men's 800m free for the last three world championships, was pushed all the way in the morning by Italy's Gabriele Detti and just won his heat.
Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri was the fastest qualifier at 7:45.31, with Sun 3.97sec back as the fifth fastest.
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