Budapest, Hungary. Kathy Ledecky has increased her record for the most medals since the World Championships to 21, two more than any other swimmer.
All but three are gold.
Ledecky, 25, took her 18th gold at the World Championships on Wednesday when the United States won the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay final in the fastest time of 1:53.67 to help the Americans win the championship with a record of 7:41 .45.
Claire Weinstein, Lea Smith, Ledecky and Bella Sims finished 2.41 seconds ahead of the Australian team and 3.31 seconds ahead of the Canadians.
“It’s amazing,” Ledecky said. “It’s so easy to get on these relay races and just not think and go. I had so much confidence in these three and I think we always calculate and we always follow through, which is why I’m so proud of this group.”
Ledecky has already won gold medals in the 1500m freestyle on Monday and 400m freestyle on Saturday, adding to the 15 gold medals she had ahead of the Budapest competition.
Her 21 World Championship medals are two more than her compatriot Natalie Coughlin (seven gold, seven silver, five bronze) had between 2001 and 2013.
FINA’s world swimming governing body does not include the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan on July 24, 2001, among the gold awards it attributed to Coughlin, as the American team was disqualified from that race and the gold eventually went to Great Britain .
Ledecky’s 18 gold medals equal Ryan Lochte’s record of being second on the all-time list for most swimming titles at the World Championships. Only Michael Phelps won more with 26 points.
The US has won the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay at eight of the last 10 World Championships, except for 2009 (second only to China) and the most recent competition in 2019 (second after Australia).
“I’m so proud,” Ledecky said of representing the US in the relays. “I think I realized when we were on the podium, it’s been a long time since we all sang the national anthem together, trying to hit those high notes together. So it was a lot of fun and just look how it came together and the timing was really fast too so I think we really proved we came to the race.”
Ledecky will still compete in the 800m freestyle on Thursday with the final scheduled for Friday.