BARCELONA, Spain (CBSDC/AP) — After swimming nearly a mile, Bethesda-native Katie Ledecky knew it was time to get going.
Did she ever.
Looking stronger at the end of the grueling race than she did at the beginning, the 16-year-old Marylander obliterated the world record in the 1,500-meter freestyle by more than 6 seconds Tuesday night for her second gold medal at the world swimming championships.
“She’s absolutely fit,” marveled Mereia Belmonte of Spain, who finished far back in fourth. “Impressive. She’s probably made in the same factory as Michael Phelps.”
It was a good night for the Americans after they failed to win gold the previous day, and Ledecky is clearly in top form. She went stroke for stroke much of the race with defending world champion Lotte Friis, the Danish swimmer slightly ahead and both well under the world-record pace set by Kate Ziegler in 2007.
Ledecky edged out front at the 1,300 mark and began to pull away, touching in 15 minutes, 36.53 seconds. A woman ran through the crowd with a blue flag that proclaimed “World Record” — Ziegler’s mark of 15:42.54 never standing a chance.
Friis also went under the old record, 15:38.88, but it was only good enough for silver. New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle took the bronze.
“Around the last 200, I knew I could take off,” Ledecky said.
The 1,500 is a non-Olympic event — the longest women’s race at the Summer Games is the 800 — but that made the achievement no less impressive.
Ledecky looks even stronger than she did last year while winning Olympic gold in the 800 free, a stunning breakthrough for someone barely known on the international stage.
Naturally, after that performance, she arrived in Barcelona dealing with the weight of expectations. Plus, she decided to take on an exhausting program that also includes the 400 and 800 free.
Not to worry. Ledecky nearly broke the world record while winning the 400, and she’ll be a huge favorite in the 800 — a worthy successor to Janet Evans and the proud U.S. history in the women’s distance events.
“It was really tough, my hardest race ever,” Ledecky said. “I knew we were going pretty fast and I figured that whoever was going to come out on top was probably going to get the world record. So I just had to be careful not to push it too early or push it too late and just touch the wall first.”
Follow WNEW on Twitter.
(TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)