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Katie Ledecky wins gold in first-ever Olympic women's 1,500-meter freestyle

Katie Ledecky on Wednesday won the Olympic gold medal in the events first-ever women's 1,500-meter freestyle. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI
Katie Ledecky on Wednesday won the Olympic gold medal in the events first-ever women's 1,500-meter freestyle. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

July 27 (UPI) -- Olympic history was made in the pool at the Tokyo Aquatic Center in Japan on Wednesday when U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky won gold in the Summer Games' first-ever women's 1,500-meter freestyle.

Ledecky, 24, who holds the world and Olympic record in the length, was the favorite to win the race, despite having yet to win a gold at two attempts in the pool during these games, including failing to medal in the 200-meter freestyle about an hour before the long-distance race.

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But when the time came, she swam unfettered.

From the kick off from the blocks to the final touch of the wall, Ledecky led with confidence, leaving the rest of the swimmers to fight for silver and bronze.

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Though she wouldn't break her Olympic record set days earlier, her 15 minutes 37.34 seconds was 4 seconds faster than the second-place finisher, her U.S. teammate Erica Sullivan, 20.

"I just wanted to get the job done tonight," Ledecky told a reporter on the sidelines of the pool. "And it was tough after the 200 but I really just moved the page forward and moved on and got my mind right."

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Sullivan said her surge at the end was part of her game plan but seeing Ledecky beside her in the final few hundred meters was an inspiration.

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"There was a point when I saw Katie ahead of me and she was the only one and it really gave me the energy having someone you look up to for years and seeing them a few meters, or several meters, in front of you and using it to get home," she said.

Ledecky's first gold medal of the Tokyo games was accomplished about an hour after she failed to medal in the women's 200-meter freestyle final.

It was a highly anticipated rematch between the American and Australia's Ariarne Titmus who has become the swimmer to watch in these Olympics.

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Titmus, 20, bested Ledecky on Monday for the gold in the women's 400-meter freestyle, leaving the American, who was the favorite as she was the reigning champion in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the silver.

Going into the first race on Wednesday, Ledecky had also captured the gold in the 200-meter freestyle in Brazil, and was among the favorites now with Titmus to win the coveted hardware.

It was a tight pack from the start but after the first turn, with Siobhan Bernadette Haughey, 23, leading by a hair followed by China's Yang Junxuan, 19, and Penny Oleksiak, 21, of Canada with spectators waiting for Titmus and Ledecky to make their moves.

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On the final 50 meters, Titmus surged past Haughey in the last few strides to take her gold with an Olympic record of 1 minute 53.50 seconds. The Hong Kong swimmer took silver and Oleksiak captured bronze for her sixth Olympic medal cementing her in the record books as the most decorated summer Olympian from the Great White North. She also ties speed skater Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen for most decorated Canadian Olympian.

"It's pretty unreal," she told a reporter from the sidelines of the pool. " I'm tied, I think, right now with two other women, which is super special, and I'm just excited to keep going."

She said the title will be motivating going forward.

"To have it, it's like an extra boost of confidence," she said.

The American women continued their prowess in the pool on Wednesday, winning two medals in the 200-meter medley final.

Japan's Yui Ohashi, 25, won gold with a time of 2 minutes 8.52 seconds but Alex Walsh, 19, finished 0.13 seconds after followed by Kate Douglass, 19 to win the silver and bronze respectively.

The American men on the other hand failed to medal in two events.

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In the men's 200-meter butterfly, Hungary's Kristof Milak, 21, gave a blistering 1 minute 51.25 second performance to not only capture the gold by nearly 2.5 seconds over second-place finisher Honda Tomoru, 19, of Japan but he broke U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps' record of 1 minute 52.03 seconds set in Beijing in 2008.

Italy's Federico Burdisso, 19, took the silver.

U.S. swimmer Gunnar Bentz, 25, finished seventh.

In the men's 4 x 200-meter freestyle, the final medal race in the pool on Day 5, Kieran Smith, 21, who won a bronze in the 400-meter on Sunday, gave the Americans a early but shallow lead over Britain that was evaporated by the half-way point of the race and was never to be regained.

Britain would take gold, the Russian Olympic Committee team silver and Australia bronze.

The Americans finished fourth.

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