Ledecky, Sullivan Top Podium in First Olympic Women’s 1500 Freestyle

2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES


The Olympics have officially seen their first podium in the women’s 1500 freestyle, with American Katie Ledecky un-surprisingly on top.

In a less-likely turn of events, Ledecky’s American teammate Erica Sullivan ran down the field to touch second in her first Olympic Games. Sullivan, only 20-years-old, obliterated her personal best of 15:46.67 that she set in the prelims to finish in a time of 15:41.41. 

Behind Sullivan, German Sarah Kohler also set a personal best and German National record to win the bronze medal in a time of 15:42.91. 

With their performances, Sullivan and Kohler move up to 5th and 7th on the all-time performers list, respectively. 

Top-10 All-Time Performers: Women’s 1500 Freestyle

  1. Katie Ledecky: 15:20.48 (2018)
  2. Lotte Friis: 15:38.88 (2013)
  3. Lauren Boyle: 15:40.14 (2015)
  4. Simona Quadarella: 15:40.89 (2019)
  5. Erica Sullivan: 15:41.41 (2021)
  6. Jianjiahe Wang: 15:41.49 (2021)
  7. Kate Zeigler: 15:42.54 (2007)
  8. Sarah Kohler: 15:42.91 (2021)
  9. Alessia Filippi: 15:44.93 (2009)
  10. Maddy Gough: 15:46.13. (2021)

The podium marks the first-ever Olympic podium in the event, which was just introduced into the Olympic line-up. 

Ledecky, the world record holder, took out the race fast, splitting 4:06.98 over the first 400 meters. However, she was never alone as China’s Jianjiahe Wang, Italy’s Simona Quadarella, and Germany’s Kohler were nipping right at her heels. 

Gradually, Ledecky pulled away from the field, giving herself a 3.5 second lead. At the same time, Wang, Quadarella, and Kohler were all locked in a tight battle for second. Then, around the 1000m mark, Sullivan began to creep up on the field as Wang and Quadarella fell-off the pace. Overtaking them, Sullivan found herself in a race for silver with Kohler.

When all was said-and-done, Ledecky charged into the wall to win her first gold medal of these Olympic Games in a time of 15:37.34. Sullivan managed to hold off Kohler for second, earning her first medal from an major international competition in the process.

First Time Olympic Swimming Champions Throughout History

By country:

  • United States – 19
  • Great Britain – 6
  • Germany/East Germany – 3
  • Australia/Australasia – 2
  • Hungary – 1
  • Netherlands – 1
  • Yugoslavia – 1

Active Olympic pool events:

Women:

Event Year Swimmer Country
50m freestyle 1988 Seoul Kristin Otto East Germany
100m freestyle 1912 Stockholm Fanny Durack Australasia
200m freestyle 1968 Mexico City Debbie Meyer United States
400m freestyle 1924 Paris Martha Norelius United States
800m freestyle 1968 Mexico City Debbie Meyer United States
1500m freestyle 2020 Tokyo Katie Ledecky United States
100m backstroke 1924 Paris Sybil Bauer United States
200m backstroke 1968 Mexico City Lillian Watson United States
100m breaststroke 1968 Mexico City Durdica Bjedov Yugoslavia
200m breaststroke 1925 Paris Lucy Morton Great Britain
100m butterfly 1956 Melbourne Shelley Mann United States
200m butterfly 1968 Mexico City Ada Kok Netherlands
200m IM 1968 Mexico City Claudia Kolb United States
400m IM 1964 Tokyo Donna de Varona United States
400 free relay 1912 Stockholm Great Britain Great Britain
800 free relay 1996 Atlanta United States United States
400 medley relay 1960 Rome United States United States

Men:

Event Year Swimmer Country
50m freestyle 1988 Seoul Matt Biondi United States
100m freestyle 1896 Athens Alfred Hajos Hungary
200m freestyle 1900 Paris Frederick Lane Australia
400m freestyle 1908 London Henry Taylor Great Britain
1500m freestyle 1908 London Henry Taylor Great Britain
100m backstroke 1908 London Arno Bieberstein Germany
200m backstroke 1900 Paris Ernst Hoppenberg Germany
100m breaststroke 1968 Mexico City Don McKenzie United States
200m breaststroke 1908 London Frederick Holman Great Britain
100m butterfly 1968 Mexico City Doug Russell United States
200m butterfly 1956 Melbourne Bill Yorzyk United States
200m IM 1968 Mexico City Charlie Hickcox United States
400m IM 1964 Tokyo Dick Roth United States
400 free relay 1964 Tokyo United States United States
800 free relay 1908 London Great Britain Great Britain
400 medley relay 1960 Rome United States United States

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Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
1 month ago

Katie Ledecky is a leader and an inspiration!

What guts attempting the women’s 200 meter/1500 meter freestyle double/double (heats/final).

Congratulations Katie Ledecky! Congratulations Erica Sullivan!

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
1 month ago

you changed your name yet again before the medley relay has even been swum. you havent learnt? your previous fantasy wr team is not to be, so why change it again when the wr isn’t guaranteed? and you do realise that you’ll have to change it back to the actual wr if they don’t break it, right?

https://swimswam.com/regan-smith-breaks-100-backstroke-world-record-in-57-57-on-400-medley-lead-off/#comment-724713

sqimgod
1 month ago

Ledecky will lose the 800 to titmus

Anon5
Reply to  sqimgod
1 month ago

Ledecky was not at her best at trials and still went about a second faster than Titmas did at her trials and It was Titmas best time I believe 800 is def a different race than the 400.

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Reply to  Anon5
1 month ago

Katie Ledecky won’t be swimming doubles (women’s 200 meter/1500 meter freestyle double/double) for the rest of the competition. Ariarne Titmus best time is 8:15.57 in the women’s 800 meter freestyle.

Yozhik
Reply to  sqimgod
1 month ago

Is there any reasoning behind your statement? Or it was just a simple attempt to remind people about your existence?
What do you think Titmus’ time will be in 800 race?
The most recent information about Ledecky is the following:
400 – 3:57.36
800 (in 1500) – 8:16.39

Yozhik
1 month ago

Everybody but Sullivan were noticeably slower in this final race than they were in preliminary race. Isn’t it strange?

Last edited 1 month ago by Yozhik
Coach
Reply to  Yozhik
1 month ago

Sullivan is used to racing the 10K on day 1 and the 5K on day 2. The 1500 double was a breeze for her!

Yozhik
Reply to  Coach
1 month ago

You misunderstood me. I’m not questioning Sullivan’s rapid and impressive improvement during last several months. I am wondering why every finalist was much slower their times shown in preliminary race or even than in-season times.

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Reply to  Coach
1 month ago

Erica Sullivan (Sandpipers of Nevada) should be an inspiration to Katie Grimes (Sandpipers of Nevada) in the women’s 800 meter freestyle.

Last edited 1 month ago by Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
The White Whale
Reply to  Yozhik
1 month ago

It ain’t like the good old days when the top swimmers could hold back a bit in the 1500 prelims.

boknows34
Reply to  Yozhik
1 month ago

Kohler improved by nearly 10 seconds

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Reply to  boknows34
1 month ago

Better German than Russian, I say.

Yozhik
Reply to  boknows34
1 month ago

You are right. I missed it.

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Reply to  Yozhik
1 month ago

Your world has crashed and burned!

Women’s 1500 meter freestyle
Gold – Ledecky (USA)
Silver – Sullivan (USA)

Meanwhile, Russia has yet to medal in a women’s swimming event.

P.S. Yefimova is done, finished, kaput.

Marklewis
1 month ago

Erica Sullivan was brilliant in the final 400 meters. Passed three swimmers to take silver.

She sat out two years of college for this chance. And she delivered.

Her dad would be so proud.

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Reply to  Marklewis
1 month ago

The Sandpipers of Nevada have delivered one silver medal. Erica Sullivan’s performance should inspire Katie Grimes in the women’s 800 meter freestyle. You gotta believe!

Yozhik
Reply to  Marklewis
1 month ago

Sullivan outpaced Ledecky after 1100m mark with the exception of last 100m. There Ledecky was significantly faster anybody else in final. Good sign for Katie.

Yozhik
1 month ago

Will be next Olympic record holder in the 1500FR event older than 24? Is her achievement comparable with the Anthony Ervin’s Olympic gold medal in spring at the age of 36?
When I saw her completely unexpected overwhelmed emotions after finish I felt very strongly for her. She isn’t a freak of the nature but the exceptionally gifted person who with the hard work has been bringing her talent to the perfection for 9 years already and as any human has her difficult moments.

Last edited 1 month ago by Yozhik
Texas Tap Water
1 month ago

No article for Titmus’ 200 free win in OR?

anonymous
Reply to  Texas Tap Water
1 month ago

The Australian media wrote articles. Go to those websites troll.

Eyeballer
Reply to  anonymous
1 month ago

There is also an article already written about it haha

Texas Tap Water
Reply to  Eyeballer
1 month ago

Nope. Up to now there isn’t any

The White Whale
1 month ago

I thought Katie looked a bit tired in the race, too, which shouldn’t be surprising. She did exactly what she needed to do to get the victory. Sullivan was simply superb.

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Reply to  The White Whale
1 month ago

I predict that will be the last time Katie Ledecky swims the women’s 200 meter freestyle at a major international competition. Katie Ledecky will primarily focus on the following events in the future:

women’s 400 meter freestyle
women’s 800 meter freestyle
women’s 1500 meter freestyle
women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay

The women’s 200 meter freestyle interferes with the women’s 1500 meter freestyle. The current schedule is too damn taxing.

Ger
1 month ago

The double was gutsy and no one deserves victory more, but I wish she had dropped the 200 to preserve energy. It makes the 800 a more difficult task and it will be very close. Titmus is on a high and I think she will be about 3 seconds faster than her trials swim.

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Reply to  Ger
1 month ago

Based on what?

2021 Australian Trials
Women’s 200 meter freestyle
1:53.09

2021 Summer Olympics
Women’s 200 meter freestyle
1:53.50

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Reply to  Ger
1 month ago

Based on what?

2021 Australian Trials
Women’s 400 meter freestyle
3:56.90

2021 Tokyo Olympics
Women’s 400 meter freestyle
3:56.69

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Nicole has been with SwimSwam since April 2020, as both a reporter and social media contributor. Prior to joining the SwimSwam platform, Nicole also managed a successful Instagram platform, amassing over 20,000 followers. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is an active …

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