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Freestyle queen Katie Ledecky won her third gold medal of the Rio Olympics by anchoring the US women to victory in the 4x200m freestyle relay on 10 August.
Australia, who led until Ledecky dived in and turned the race around, took silver and Canada the bronze on another glorious night for the US swim star.
In a dramatic finale the 19-year-old American produced a starting anchor leg of 1 min 53.74 secs – more than a second faster than any other competitor – to overhaul Australia’s Tamsin Cook and blast the USA relay quartet, which also comprised Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith and Maya Dirado, to an emphatic win.
The US were the defending champions but only veteran Schmitt, who swam the lead-off leg in Rio, was in the race line-up from that London 2012 golden quartet that also beat Australia into second place.
Smith and Dirado swam second and third respectively before Ledecky, who won the 400m freestyle on 7 August and 200m freestyle on 9 August, brought home the gold with a typically powerful swim.
On overtaking her Australian opponent, Ledecky said: “I was prepared for any circumstance, whether we were ahead or behind. I just knew that these three girls were going to put me in a good position to close it out, and I knew I could do it.
“This race was a little different to the 4x100m relay because that was our first race and we were kind of underdogs. With this one we came in as favourites. We knew this was our relay and I think we were really confident.”
Ledecky has three gold medals to her name in Rio and four Olympic gold medals in total. Four years ago at London 2012 at the age of 15 she won the 800m freestyle, a title she hopes to successfully defend when the final is held on 12 August.
“This week’s gone great so far and I think I’ll be able to top it off well in the 800m,” she added. “The best part about being here is that each day seems like it gets more fun. There is something unique and special about each day with the team and it’s just crazy being part of it. I couldn't have had more fun tonight. We were smiling the whole time – before, during and after – and knew we could get the job done.”
Dirado found out only on the afternoon of the event she would be taking part in it, saying it was a special occasion.
“I was so excited to get the call-up to be on this relay. It was a dream to be on a US relay team and win gold. I’m just so happy I didn’t mess it up and gave Katie a chance. Watching my team-mates finishing the race, I kind of started welling up and thinking, ‘We’re going to win an Olympic gold medal.’ It was just so awesome.”