BARCELONA, Spain — After swimming nearly a mile, Katie Ledecky knew it was time to get going.
Did she ever.
Looking stronger at the end of the grueling race than she did at the beginning, the 16-year-old from Bethesda, Md., obliterated the world record in the 1,500-meter freestyle by more than 6 seconds Tuesday night for her second gold medal at the world swimming championships.
“She’s absolutely fit,” marveled Mereia Belmonte of Spain, who finished far back in fourth. “Impressive. She’s probably made in the same factory as Michael Phelps.”
Missy Franklin picked up her second gold medal, as well.
Cruising through a demanding double, the 18-year-old star of the London Olympics easily won the 100 backstroke, then returned about an hour later to post the second-fastest time in the semifinals of the 200 free.
“It’s tough but it’s fun,” Franklin said. “I’m super happy with my 100 back. It really got me pumped up for the 200 free.”
It was a good night for the Americans after they failed to win gold the previous day.
Matt Grevers and David Plummer went 1-2 in the 100 backstroke for the third U.S. victory of the session. Conor Dwyer picked up a silver behind France’s Yannick Agnel in the 200 free, and Jessica Hardy chipped in with a bronze in the 100 breaststroke won by Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte.
The only disappointment for the U.S. was Ryan Lochte, who labored to a fourth-place finish in the 200 free.
“It wasn’t my night,” the three-time Olympian said. “But I have to put it behind me because I still have many races to swim.”
He hopes to compete in seven events in Barcelona, despite not being able to train as much as usual this year while taking part in his reality television show, “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?”
No such concerns for Ledecky, who is clearly in top form. She went stroke for stroke much of the race with defending world champion Lotte Friis, the Danish swimmer slightly ahead and both well under the world-record pace set by Kate Ziegler in 2007.
Ledecky edged out front at the 1,300 mark and began to pull away, touching in 15 minutes, 36.53 seconds. A woman ran through the crowd with a blue flag that proclaimed “World Record” — Ziegler’s mark of 15:42.54 never standing a chance.