Katie Ledecky entered her Tokyo Olympics today with pure gold. She won the 800-meter freestyle for the third Olympics in a row and made history. Still, as NPR’s Tom Goldman reports from Tokyo, there is a sense the 24-year-old didn’t quite live up to unfair expectations that were set for her.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Katie Ledecky led from start to end within the 800, and though her winning time was nowhere near her record at the 2016 Games, it had been still a satisfying 16 laps of revenge. At least, that’s how the surface world characterized her victory over silver medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia. Titmus beat Ledecky within the 200- and 400-freestyle races in Tokyo, fueling swimming’s new rivalry that Ledecky says is extremely friendly.
KATIE LEDECKY: you recognize, there’s nothing between us. We’re just getting to keep moving forward. And if we happen to urge side-by-side, we’re getting to put up really great races and be fierce competitors once we dive into the water. GOLDMAN: Titmus, who’s only 20, concurred. There’s mutual respect, no animus, although those two wins against Ledecky were sweet.
ARIANE TITMUS: I mean, to possess her on the sector, the good swimmer she is – that probably makes it a touch bit more satisfying. GOLDMAN: Ledecky ends her Tokyo run tons more satisfied. With the 800-freestyle win, she has more individual Olympic medals than any female swimmer in history, six of them, stretching back to the 2012 London Games. LEDECKY: you recognize, I’m really happy. i assume that’s just the simplest thanks to putting it. It’s, you know, hard just to form an Olympics. It’s hard to win a medal. So to win even one gold at the past three Olympics has been amazing.
GOLDMAN: But she’s had to battle a perception that her Tokyo performances are but amazing. because of – or perhaps cursed by – her dominance in 2016. She was one among those Olympians entering Tokyo with weighty expectations. So was Caeleb Dressel, another U.S. swimming star. He says the prognosticators seem to forget what all athletes went through to urge here after a year’s delay.
CELEB DRESSEL: We couldn’t train for an enormous chunk. then we’ve more months than ever to create a base up, tough to urge everything lined up appropriately ’cause nobody knew what to try to to. nobody had the book that says, oh, this is often what you are doing when there is a global pandemic to urge ready for the Olympics.
GOLDMAN: Which makes Dressel’s three golds, including his record within the 100-meter butterfly Saturday, amazing, to use Ledecky’s word. Dressel’s not done racing in Tokyo. Ledecky is but says she’ll be back for subsequent Olympics in 2024 to battle her rival and therefore the ever-present expectations. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Tokyo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.