RIO DE JANEIRO — America got its first swimming gold medal of these Olympics from a predictable source Sunday night.
To the surprise of no one, Katie Ledecky dominated the 400-meter freestyle, getting her personal assault on history underway with a world-record time of 3:56:46.
Of course, the record she broke was her own.
The only suspense in the race was whether she would set a new benchmark, and the Brazilian fans loudly urged her on. Ledecky’s time gave her a whopping margin of almost five seconds over silver medalist Jazz Carlin of Great Britain (4:01:23). American Leah Smith, a senior-to-be at Virginia, took the bronze (4:01:92). Ledecky remains the only woman in history to break 3:59.
The 19-year-old now has two medals in two days, with more on the horizon.
Ledecky anchored the Americans’ silver-medal-winning 400 freestyle relay Saturday night. She will likely battle Swedish star Sarah Sjostrom in the 200 free final Tuesday night, swim the anchor leg in the 800 free relay Wednesday night and the defending Olympic champion will be the prohibitive favorite in the 800 free Friday night.
Ledecky will be trying to take down her own world record in the 800 as well, and should have a shot at the seven-year-old 200 record currently held by Frederica Pelligrini of Italy.
If Ledecky sweeps the freestyle events from 200 through 800, she will be the first Olympian to record the feat since American Debbie Meyer in 1968.