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Team USA: Katie Ledecky nearing nearly 50-year-old record

By
Alex Butler
Katie Ledecky, of the United States, competes and wins the gold medal in the Women's 200m freestyle with a time of 1:53.73 at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 9, 2016. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Katie Ledecky, of the United States, competes and wins the gold medal in the Women's 200m freestyle with a time of 1:53.73 at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 9, 2016. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Someone not named Michael Phelps could wind up leaving Rio de Janeiro as this Olympics' most decorated swimmer.

American Katie Ledecky already has three gold medals and a silver medal. Phelps has four gold medals. Both claimed the top prize in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. Phelps also has gold medals in the men's 200-meter butterfly, 4x100-meter freestyle relay, and the 200-meter individual medley.

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Ledecky, 19, has gold medals in the women's 400-meter freestyle and 200-meter freestyle. Her team placed second in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.

Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom told NPR what it feels like to chase Ledecky, after placing second in the 200-meter freestyle.

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"It feels like gold that I'm after her," Sjostrom told NPR. "I couldn't have gone any faster, it's impossible."

But Ledecky's biggest feat lies ahead. She has a chance to match a 48-year-old record, set by Debbie Meyer. If Ledecky wins the gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle Friday night, she would become the second woman all-time to win gold in the 200-, 400-, and 800-meter races.

"She reminds me so much of me 48 years ago," Meyer told USA Today. "It brings back so many wonderful memories of when I was swimming, things that this old brain has forgotten. I love watching her swim, absolutely love it. I love seeing that drive. I love seeing the way she attacks things. The way she swims is very much the way I tried to swim."

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Meyer and Ledecky have bonded of their shared greatness. Meyer accomplished the feat first at age 16 during the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City.

"I'm just honored to be part of the tradition of American freestyle swimming, and I want to make them proud," Ledecky said, according to USA Today. "[Debbie] told me she wanted me to do it. I don't want to let (her) down."

Ledecky's world-record 3:56.46 in the 400-freestyle made her only the second woman in history to swim the event in under four minutes. She has set a dozen world records since the 2012 Summer Games in London.

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"The similarities seem more and more as time goes on," Meyer told TeamUSA.org.

The women's 800-meter freestyle is set for 9:20 p.m. in Rio. Ledecky qualified for first place in the event Thursday with an Olympic record swim of 8:12.86.

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