Budapest, Hungary. Katie Ledecky increased her record for most medals at the World Swimming Championships to 22 with her latest win in the 800m freestyle on Friday.
Ledecky set a time of 8:08.04 and won the event for the eighth time in a row at the World Championships or the Olympics. She is the first swimmer to win a specific individual event in five consecutive world championships.
The American finished more than 10 seconds ahead of her rivals. Australia’s Kia Melverton was 10.73 seconds behind, and Italy’s Simone Quadarella was 10.96 seconds behind in third place.
Ledecky was less than four seconds behind the world record she set at the 2016 Olympics.
“I remember London,” Ledecky said of her first victory at the 2012 Olympics. “I made it my goal to not be a one-hit wonder, and here we are, 10 years later, so I’m really proud of that and still looking forward to the future.”
This is her 19th World Championship gold and her fourth this week. She helped the United States win the final 4×200 freestyle relay on Wednesday, two days after she won the 1500m freestyle, which came two days after she won the 400m freestyle on the first day of racing in Budapest.
She completed the 400/800/1500 trio for the fourth time at the World Singles Championships, more than all other swimmers to accomplish this feat combined. Hannah Stockbauer of Germany, Grant Hackett of Australia and Sun Yang of China did it once each.
Ledecky has the most medals by a female swimmer in world championship history. Only Michael Phelps, who won 26, has more.
“This is just the beginning and I’m very excited about it,” Ledecky said, adding that changes to her approach are paying off. “There were a couple of things that were a little different — training with men, Bobby. [Finke] and Kiran [Smith] and Trey [Freeman]who are all here, trying to keep up as best I can, and they push me. I hope they feel like they benefited from my presence and just a lot of work on my punch and my rhythm.”
In other events, Australia set a world record in the final mixed 4×100 freestyle.
Jack Cartwright, Kyle Chalmers, Madison Wilson and Molly O’Callaghan finished in 3:19.38, two hundredths of a second off the record set by the United States at the last World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in July 2019.
In this tournament, the Australians also ended the Americans’ three-title winning streak from 2015 to 2019. All four were won with a world record.
“I don’t think there was any mention or any expectation or even the thought that we could break it,” Wilson said. “So doing it and seeing it at the end was just incredible and a real surprise for us.”
The Canadian team of Joshua Liendo, Javier Acevedo, Kayla Sanchez and Penny Oleksiak were 1.23 seconds behind the Australians, while the US team of Ryan Held, Brooks Curry, Torrey Haske and Claire Curzan were third, 1 behind .71 seconds.
Canada’s silver was the country’s ninth medal this week, eclipsing eight medals won in Gwangju.
Ben Proud won the first British championship gold by finishing the men’s 50m freestyle in 21.32 seconds, 0.09 seconds ahead of American Michael Andrew and 0.25 seconds ahead of France’s Maxime Grousset.
“We are missing a few key players today,” Proud said, referring to the absence of Caleb Dressel, Florent Manaudu and Bruno Fratus. “All the podium from last year’s Olympics was not in the final.”
Dressel was scheduled to race but withdrew from the World Championship on Wednesday for unspecified reasons.
“Things aren’t the same without him,” Proud said. “Once he left, it changed the dynamics of the competition a lot. A lot of people have experienced a different type of pressure.”
Sarah Sjostrom won her fourth consecutive 50 butterfly title with a time of 24.95 ahead of France’s Melanie Enik and China’s Yufei Zhang for her eighth gold medal in the World Championships butterfly competition.
American Torri Huske was sixth, 0.50 behind Sjöstrom, who won her 18th individual medal at the World Championships. Only Phelps has 20 of them, and there are more.
Christoph Milak followed up his win in the 100m butterfly where he lowered his own world record to add the 200m title. The Hungarian swimmer delighted home fans by finishing in 50.14 ahead of Japan’s Naoki Mizunumu and Canada’s Josh Liendo.
Milak joined Phelps and South African Chad Le Clos as the only male swimmers to achieve 100/200 butterfly in singles.
After five silver medals, Australia’s Kaylie McKeown finally won gold, beating American Phoebe Bacon by four hundredths of a second in the women’s 200m backstroke. Bacon’s teammate Ryan White finished third in his first World Championship medal.
It was the closest result in this race at the World Championships since 1986, when East Germany’s Cornelia Sirch beat American Bestie Mitchell by two hundredths of a second. Sirch later developed health problems that she attributed to her country’s government doping program.
With one day of racing remaining at the Duna Arena, the United States has 37 medals, one short of the record 38 medals achieved the last time Budapest hosted the World Championships in 2017.