When Katie Ledecky finally saw that familiar number next to her name, the emotions flooded to the surface at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. She tumbled over the lane rope to give her runner-up teammate a hug. She let out an uncharacteristic scream toward the American cheering section in the mostly empty arena. Finally, as the tears seemed ready to flow, she pulled the goggles back down over her eyes before exiting the pool. On her third try at these Olympics, Ledecky finally touched first. Bouncing back from the worst finish of her brilliant Olympic career, Ledecky claimed the first-ever gold medal in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle Wednesday, the AP reports. About an hour earlier, she was blown away by Australia's Terminator, Ariarne Titmus, who made it 2-for-2 in their rivalry with a victory in the 200 free.
Ledecky didn’t even win a medal—the first time that’s ever happened to her in an Olympic race. She was far behind all the way, never getting any higher than her fifth-place finish. “After the 200, I knew I had to turn the page very quickly,” Ledecky said. “In the warm-down pool I was thinking of my family. Kind of each stroke I was thinking of my grandparents.” Her voice choked with emotion. She crunched her eyes trying not to cry. “They’re the toughest four people I know,” Ledecky said, “and that’s what helped me get through that.” The metric mile wasn’t quite the breeze that everyone expected, given Ledecky's longtime dominance in an event that was finally added to the Olympic program for these games. She built a big lead right from the start, then worked hard to hold off American teammate Erica Sullivan’s blazing finish.
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