USA's Katie Ledecky does it again, winning gold in 200 freestyle

Jeff PassanMLB columnist
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/olympics/rio-2016/a/1119883/" data-ylk="slk:Katie Ledecky">Katie Ledecky</a> smiles after winning gold in the 200 freestyle on Tuesday. (AP)
Katie Ledecky smiles after winning gold in the 200 freestyle on Tuesday. (AP)

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RIO DE JANEIRO – The golden girl won again Tuesday night, and now Katie Ledecky’s path to the finest Olympics of any American female swimmer looks clear as can be.

Ledecky, the 19-year-old prodigy from Washington, D.C., overwhelmed the rest of the field in the 200-meter freestyle race, nabbing her second gold in three days and her third medal of the Rio Games with a time of 1:53:73. It was the third gold of her Olympic career, after she won the 800-meter freestyle as a 15-year-old in London.

“That hurt pretty badly,” Ledecky said. “It’s the closest I’ve come to throwing up at the end of a race. I was just glad to get my hand on the wall first. It was a stressful race and I feel good now it’s over. I took it pretty fast and forced everyone and once I was ahead I was not going to let it out of my hands.”

With the 800 free left to swim, Ledecky is all but guaranteed a third gold. She is first expected to anchor the United States’ 4×200-meter freestyle relay team Thursday. The U.S. 4×100-meter team, anchored by Ledecky, won silver the first night of swimming.

The 200 free was supposed to pose the greatest challenge for Ledecky, with Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom qualifying fastest. Ledecky held off Sjostrom, who won silver. Australia’s Emma McKeon took bronze.

Ledecky is only the third woman and sixth swimmer to win gold in both the 200 and 400 freestyle at the same Olympic Games.

She is approaching rarefied air in the pool in these Olympics. American Missy Franklin won four gold medals and one bronze at the 2012 Games and Amy Van Dyken four golds in 1996. Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, who has two golds in individual events at the Rio Games, is favored to win two more in the 200-meter butterfly and 200-meter individual medley.

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