American swimmer Katie Ledecky on Wednesday won gold in the Tokyo Olympics women’s 1,500-meter freestyle.
Ledecky, 24, of Washington, touched the edge after 15 minutes, 37.34 second—well behind the world record run she completed three years ago, but enough to finish first.
When Ledecky saw the “1” beside her name, she wasn’t so concerned about the time that went along with it. Maybe for the first time in her entire career, she wasn’t consumed with being better than she was the last time.
She could see the value of being good enough.
“I’m always striving to be my best, to be better than I have been,” Ledecky said. “But it’s not easy when your times are world records in some events. You can’t just keep dropping time every single swim.”
Team USA’s Erica Sullivan, 21, of Nevada, won silver, coming about four seconds behind Ledecky. Germany’s Sarah Sohler took third, finishing about two seconds behind Sullivan.
Ledecky and Sullivan hugged after the race, as Ledecky became emotional following disappointing finishes in the 200-meter freestyle—she finished fifth in a race Australia’s Ariarne Titmus won—and in the 400-meter freestyle, coming in second behind Titmus.
Ledecky’s gold was the sixth in her career.
Sullivan told reporters that Ledecky is “a legend and she’ll forever be a legend.”
“The fact that I get to swim in the same generation as her, it’s just so cool,” she added.
The United States was locked out of medals in the men’s finals on Wednesday.
Gunnar Bentz, 25, of Georgia, finished seventh in the men’s 200-meter butterfly. Hungary’s Kristof Milak won gold, Japan’s Tomoru Honda won silver, and Italy’s Federico Burdisso took bronze.
The United States finished fourth in the men’s 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay. Great Britain took first, followed by Russia and Australia.
Americans did grab two more medals in the women’s 200-meter individual medley. Alex Walsh, 19, of Tennessee, took silver, and Kate Douglass, 19, of New York won bronze. Japan’s Yui Ohashi won gold.
America was first in total medals by the end of the day with 30, but trailed Japan and China in the number of gold medals. Japan had 12, China had 11, and the United States had 10.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.