Katie Ledecky Secures G.O.A.T. Status At Tokyo Olympics

by Julie Scagell
Katie Ledecky
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Ledecky now has seven gold medals in her three Olympic appearances

Katie Ledecky made history on Saturday at the Olympics winning gold in the 800-meter freestyle race. This means she’s won every single race of that distance she’s competed in for the past 11 years.

Ledecky’s time in her final race of the Games (the 800m) was 8:12.57, giving her the sixth individual gold and 10th Olympic medal of her career. Ledecky has the 22 best times in the history of the event, which is unfathomable for an athlete’s career. She won gold in the event in the last two Olympics, in the 2016 Rio Games and the 2012 London Games; and she’s, it goes without saying, the world record holder.

“Thank you, Tokyo, and thank YOU ALL for the tremendous support this week and over the years to get to this point…2 Golds, 2 Silvers, and countless memories coming back to the States!!!” Ledecky wrote on Instagram. She also took home gold in the women’s 1500m freestyle swim and two silvers in the 400m and 4x200m swim.

Her six individual gold medals are the most by any female U.S. Olympian ever. The only person whose record beats hers is the one and only Michael Phelps with 13, who competed in five Olympic Games over the course of his career.

Her latest gold also means she achieved a three-peat in the 800 free — just the fourth time in history a swimmer has won gold in an individual discipline in three consecutive Olympics. But the best news of the day wasn’t just her making history in Tokyo; Ledecky also confirmed this won’t be her last Olympic Games.

“That was not my last swim — I’m at least going to ’24,” Ledecky said on NBC. “Maybe ’28, we’ll see. But I knew [the 800] was going to be my last swim here. You never take anything for granted, you don’t know if you’re going to be back at the next Olympics, so just try to soak it all in.”

She will be 27 years old for the 2024 games in Paris.

Ledecky and Australia’s Ariarne Titmus split their four head-to-head meets in Tokyo, with Titmus taking gold in the 200 and 400 free. Watching them compete against each other was one of the highlights of the Games, each making the other better.

What’s truly remarkable is that Ledecky was the only swimmer to compete in a “sprint” race (the 200 free) and the 1,500, which was just added to the Olympics. To be a metal contender in a sprint and a marathon is something most athletes would not be prepared to accomplish. She did so looking effortlessly.

“It’s awesome,” Ledecky said on NBC. “I just wanted to finish on a really good note, and I’m just so happy.”