Katie Ledecky Becomes Most Decorated Female Swimmer In World Championship History


Katie Ledecky passed Natalie Coughlin to become the winningest female swimmer in the history of the World Aquatics Championships on Wednesday, helping the U.S. women claim gold in the 800 freestyle relay for her 21st career medal.

The 25-year-old earned her place atop the women’s medal tally by producing the third-fastest 200 free relay leg in history for the American women, splitting 1:53.67 swimming third as the team won gold by over two seconds in a time of 7:41.45.

While Ledecky already owned the distinction of having won the most gold medals at Worlds among female swimmers, she now stands alone in terms of the sheer medal tally, surpassing Coughlin’s 20 medals won across six championships.

Ledecky, who entered the competition having won 18 medals across four championship appearances from 2013 to 2019, has gone three-for-three in gold medals so far in Budapest with another opportunity forthcoming on Friday.

Ledecky has already won the women’s 400 and 1500 free individually at these championships, and could become the first swimmer in history to win the same event five times in a row if she comes out on top in the 800 free.

Ledecky’s World Championship Medal Tallies

  • Barcelona 2013 – 4 gold medals
  • Kazan 2015 – 5 gold medals
  • Budapest 2017 – 5 gold medals, 1 silver
  • Gwangju 2019 – 1 gold, 2 silver medals
  • Budapest 2022* – 3 gold medals

*Still ongoing

All-Time Individual Medal Table, LC World Championships (Women Only)

Rank Swimmer Gold Silver Bronze Total Appearances
1 Katie Ledecky (USA) 18 3 0 21 2013-22
2 Natalie Coughlin (USA) 8 7 5 20 2001-13*
3 Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 8 6 3 17 2009-22
4 Yuliya Efimova (RUS) 6 7 4 17 2009-19
5 Emma McKeon (AUS) 4 9 4 17 2013-19
6 Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) 3 8 6 17 2007-19
7 Simone Manuel (USA) 11 3 2 16 2013-19
8 Missy Franklin (USA) 11 2 3 16 2011-15
9 Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 9 1 5 15 2007-22
10 Libby Trickett (AUS) 8 3 4 15 2003-09

*Coughlin didn’t race at the 2009 championships in Rome.

Ranking third on the list is Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who will have three more individual medal opportunities in Budapest in the women’s 50 free, 100 free and 50 fly.

In the overall medal tally, Ledecky sits third, trailing Michael Phelps (33) and Ryan Lochte (27).

All-Time Individual Medal Table, LC World Championships

Rank Swimmer Gold Silver Bronze Total Worlds Contested
1 Michael Phelps (USA) 26 6 1 33 2001-11
2 Ryan Lochte (USA) 18 5 4 27 2005-15
3 Katie Ledecky (USA) 18 3 0 21 2013-22
4 Natalie Coughlin (USA) 8 7 5 20 2001-13*
5 Grant Hackett 10 6 3 19 1998-2015

Ledecky also owns 13 gold medals won in individual events, which is second only to Phelps’ 15. She could tie Lochte with 16 total medals for second in overall in that statistic behind Phelps’ 20.

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Canadian Fan
7 months ago

great for Katie! She is amazing! I think Missy F was the only one with 6 gold in one world championship? Also interesting that Missy’s 16 medals with 11 golds was only over 4 years! wow

Reply to  Canadian Fan
7 months ago

7 of 11 came from relays.

Judy Burlingham
7 months ago

So happy for Katie …. She is the whole package: competitive ,dedicated,smart,fun,loves her family,kind,confident,caring ….really almost perfect. So proud to have her represent the USA .

7 months ago

18 Gold Medals! Blows away the female contingent in the competition. LOL!

7 months ago

She probably could have won the 200 at this meet or worse case got another medal

M d e
Reply to  Taa
7 months ago

She probably wins against the current field, but summer, haughey would have had a solid chance at beating her and Titmus would have most likely done so relatively easily if we are talking hypotheticals.

Georgia Rambler
Reply to  Taa
7 months ago

Have a hunch she doesn’t think much about medal count, she didn’t know how many she had when asked in an interview.

7 months ago

And that’s wo 50’s of stroke, mixed relay medals or any medley relay or prelim relay hardware

Jean Marie
7 months ago

Katie is amazing!

7 months ago

Arguably the female GOAT

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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