Ledecky Sails in 1,500, Ties Phelps with 15th Individual World Gold

Katie Ledecky swims to victory in the women’s 1500-meter final at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka on Tuesday.

FUKUOKA (AP) — Katie Ledecky won the 1,500-meter freestyle with ease on Tuesday at the World Aquatics Championships in a landmark victory which made her the most decorated female swimmer at the worlds with 20 golds overall, 15 of which have come in individual events.

That ties Michael Phelps’ record at the worlds for individual gold medals.

American Ryan Murphy added the second American gold medal on Tuesday, winning the 100-meter backstroke. But as usual when the 26-year-old Ledecky swims, she’s the story.

Ledecky has won seven Olympic golds, the first coming more than a decade ago in London. And she’s talking about racing not just in next year’s Paris Olympics, but perhaps also in Los Angeles in 2028.

“I never dreamed of winning one Olympic gold,” Ledecky said. “So after I did it, it was like, ‘OK, the rest is icing on the cake, a cherry on top,’ whatever you call it. I’m just trying to build a really big cake, I guess.”

That cake is getting bigger for one of the greatest freestylers the sport has ever seen.

She won Tuesday in 15 minutes 26.27 seconds, the third quickest time of her career.

“The last couple of years I’ve just tried to be really locked in on my stroke,” Ledecky said, improving quickly post-pandemic. “That was a really good performance from me — very pleased.”

Italy’s Simona Quadarella finished 17 seconds behind in 15:43.31, with Li Bingjie of China third in 15:45.71.

Ledecky will compete in the 800 on Saturday — her favorite race — and is set to become the only person to win six titles at the worlds in the same event.

Murphy, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and the defending world champion in the 200 backstroke, edged Italian Thomas Ceccon by .05 seconds. Murphy clocked 52.22 and Ceccon 52.27, with bronze for American Hunter Armstrong in 52.58.

“It’s awesome to go against a great field, and it’s awesome to get two Americans on the podium,” Murphy said. “The USA is off to a start. We’re starting to build some momentum and we can just keep it rolling from here.”