In 1968, a teenager in North Dakota watched transfixed as Debbie Meyer won the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle races at the Mexico City Olympics. The next time the teenager, already a competitive swimmer, got in the pool, she cut through the water repeating to herself, “I am Debbie Meyer.”
That teenager would grow up to become the mother of Katie Ledecky, who on Friday night became the first Olympian since Meyer to complete the 200, 400 and 800 trifecta. Ledecky lowered her seven-month-old world record in the 800 freestyle by two seconds with a time of 8 minutes 4.79 seconds. Her 400 split of 4:01.98 would have won the bronze in the 400 final last Sunday.
She finished 11.38 seconds ahead of the runner-up, Jazz Carlin of Britain, who clocked an 8:16.17. That was two-tenths of a second better than the bronze medalist, Boglarka Kapas of Hungary. The slim margin separating second and third threw into sharp relief the dominance of Ledecky, who owns the 13 fastest performances in history.
Four years ago, a 15-year-old Ledecky won the 800 freestyle in 8:14.63. She and Hungary’s Krisztina Egerszegi are the only swimmers to win gold medals in consecutive Olympics as teenagers. Ledecky started crying as she talked about completing this Olympics cycle by hitting all her goal times.
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