2020 Tokyo Olympics: How Team USA’s Katie Ledecky Bounced Back After Two Losses to Win Gold

by Leanne Stahulak

Six-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky made history at the Tokyo Olympics by winning the gold in the first-ever 15000-meter free race. But her win was made even more incredible by the fact that it was her first gold medal so far in Tokyo.

Many people call the American Olympian one of the greatest female swimmers of all time. It’s an impressive title to live up to, which made Ledecky’s early losses in Tokyo that much more surprising.

According to NBC News, Ledecky’s Australian “rival,” Ariarne Titmus, beat her out by about two-thirds of a second for the 400-meter freestyle race on Monday. Ledecky still took home the silver, but she’s also the world record holder for the event. Titmus just missed Ledecky’s 2016 Rio Olympics record time by about two-tenths of a second.

Then on Wednesday, Titmus and Ledecky matched up again for the 200-meter freestyle. Titmus clinched the gold again, while Ledecky didn’t even make it to the podium. She came in fifth, which The Associated Press says has never happened to her before. Titmus also managed to set a new world record for the 200-meter.

With these two losses representing the start of Ledecky’s Tokyo Olympics career, it’s no surprise that people started to wonder if she would ever be able to pull a gold medal out of the Olympic run. Then came the inaugural 1500-meter race.

Katie Ledecky Talks About Her Epic Comeback for the Tokyo Olympics

Ledecky not only finished the 1500-meter race in first place but also a solid four seconds ahead of the next swimmer. After the race, the Olympics champion talked to NBC and other news outlets poolside.

“I just wanted to get the job done tonight,” Ledecky said. “I just think of all the great female swimmers the U.S. has had that haven’t had that opportunity to swim that event.”

Ledecky competed in the 1500-meter race only a few hours after the 200-meter. Titmus did not participate in this event. But Ledecky opened up about how her earlier losses really motivated her to do well in the next competition, even if it wasn’t her only motivation.

“After the 200, I knew I had to turn the page very quickly,” she said. “In the warm-down pool, I was thinking of my family. Kind of each stroke, I was thinking of my grandparents. They’re the toughest four people I know, and that’s what helped me get through that.”

It also helped that Ledecky’s fellow teammate, Erica Sullivan, clinched the silver medal for the event.

“I’m so glad we could do it in the best possible way,” Ledecky said about winning with Sullivan.

Ledecky and Titmus will meet again in the 800-meter final on Saturday. We’ll see if Ledecky can triumph over her rival and add another gold medal to her resume.