The final swim for Team USA's Katie Ledecky at the Olympics comes in the event that she has utterly dominated: the 800-meter freestyle.
Ledecky won the preliminary heat Thursday with a time of 8:15.67, which was almost two seconds better than the runner-up, her fellow countrywoman Katie Grimes. Excelling in distance swims, the 800-meter freestyle is arguably Ledecky's signature event.
She is the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist in the event, won gold at the World Championships in July 2019 and holds the current world record of 8:04.79.
Ledecky, 24, is the most decorated female swimmer in history and has already won three medals at the Tokyo Olympics. She won a gold in the first-ever women's 1,500-meter freestyle and two silvers in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay and 400-meter freestyle, which was her first-ever individual loss at the Olympics.
Given her track record in the 800-meter freestyle, Ledecky enters the final as the clear favorite to take gold. Yet, even though she's quick to acknowledge that she sets rigorous expectations for herself, she's entering the event with a pragmatic approach.
“I'm always striving to be my best, to be better than I have been,” Ledecky said Wednesday. “But it's not easy when your times are world records in some events. You can't just keep dropping time every single swim.”
She will have one more chance to try.
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6:30 p.m.: Golf – Men's individual stroke play third round (Golf Channel)
6:30 p.m.: Triathlon – Mixed relay (USA)
8 p.m.: Track & field – Qualifying rounds (NBC and USA)
8 p.m.: Beach volleyball – U.S. women vs. Brazil (CNBC)
9:30 p.m.: Swimming – Men’s 100-meter butterfly final; Women’s 200-meter backstroke final; Women’s 800-meter freestyle final; Mixed 4x100 medley relay (NBC)
10 p.m.: Volleyball – U.S. women vs. ROC (CNBC)
1 a.m.: Water polo – U.S. men vs. Hungary (USA)
1:30 a.m.: Gymnastics – men’s trampoline final (CNBC)
2 a.m.: Tennis – Women’s singles gold-medal match; Women's singles bronze-medal match; Men’s singles bronze medal; Women’s doubles bronze medal, Mixed doubles bronze medal (Olympic Channel)
2:15 a.m.: Archery – men’s semifinals, final (CNBC)
4:30 a.m.: Women’s rugby – final and bronze medal (USA)
6 a.m.: Baseball – U.S. vs. Korea (NBCSN)
7 a.m.: Track and field – Men's discus final, Mixed 4x400 relay final, Women's 100-meter final (Peacock and streaming on NBCOlympics.com and NBC Sports app)
8 a.m.: Basketball – U.S. men vs. Czech Republic (Peacock and streaming on NBCOlympics.com and NBC Sports app)
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Olympics 2021 schedule: Katie Ledecky swims 800m; track awards medals