KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - For the first time at this year’s world championships, Katie Ledecky, the world’s most dominant swimmer, experienced a fleeting moment of vulnerability after three days of hard racing.
It came on Tuesday at the Kazan Arena, as the 18-year-old American attempted a double that no other rival has in their schedule -- the 1500 metres freestyle final followed a little under 30 minutes later by the 200m freestyle.
In carving her way to a world record and the women’s 1500m title, Ledecky, who won the 800m freestyle title at London 2012 as a 15-year-old, secured her second gold of the championships.
After beating second-placed Lauren Boyle of New Zealand by 14.66 seconds, Ledecky said her legs “felt like jelly”.
She warmed down in the adjacent training pool, turning over 700m in the process, and was soon back in the water to race the 200m freestyle semi-finals.
She had qualified fastest from the heats, but this was going to be an altogether different challenge.
“I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t do this,” she reflected. ”But it was something that I knew I was capable of doing and I wasn’t afraid to fail.”
Swimming seventh at the 150m mark of her semi-final, Ledecky mustered every drop of energy to touch third and qualified sixth overall heading into Wednesday’s final.
“It was nerve racking being behind a few of the girls and getting my hand to the wall,” she said. On touching, Ledecky let out a sigh of relief before being embraced by compatriot Missy Franklin, the race winner.
Ledecky’s bid for four individual titles had been kept alive and having the morning off on Wednesday, she said, was a welcome bonus.
As Lotte Friis, the 2011 1500m world champion, told Reuters: “Katie is a monster and she has just proved that we don’t stand back.
“Women are stronger than we look and we can compete just as well as men can. That is an inspiration to not only me but to all swimmers round the world.”
Editing by Toby Davis