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After Winning Her 1st Gold Medal In Tokyo, Ledecky Will Try For 2 More


The American swimmer Katie Ledecky won her first gold medal today at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. She and her fans celebrated the win, but there were enormous expectations for her at these games. Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: This was going to be a day when Katie Ledecky's Olympic legend, forged at the 2016 games, grew even larger. The schedule called for two races in a little over an hour, covering more than a mile of distance in the Tokyo Aquatic Center pool. First, she tried to defend her Olympic title in the 200 freestyle and then add a gold in the first-ever Olympic women's 1,500 meters - a marathon of a race. But Olympic predictions have a way of not happening. Australia's Ariarne Titmus dashed the plan and won the 200, beating Ledecky for a second time at these games.


ARIARNE TITMUS: She was definitely there for the first part of the race, and then I guess she wasn't at the end.

GOLDMAN: Which was a nice, albeit halting, way to describe Ledecky surprising fifth place finish. After the race, her coach told her to be angry if she wanted. And then Ledecky thought about her grandparents.


KATIE LEDECKY: They're four of the toughest people I know. And so I knew that if I was thinking about them during the race that I wasn't going to die. I wasn't going to have a bad swim. That would power me through.

GOLDMAN: She touched the wall first after 1,500 meters, more than four seconds ahead of American silver medalist Erica Sullivan. It was a familiar sight, Ledecky winning a long distance race by so much she has time to turn and watch the others come in. It was a narrative-shifting performance from the earlier whispers of, has she lost the magic, to, yeah, she's still got it. But the shifting narratives and emotions got her talking about the tenuous life of an Olympic star, evidenced the night before, when U.S. teammate Simone Biles - like Ledecky, 24 years old - withdrew from a gymnastics final due to the pressure and stress.


LEDECKY: Every move you make is being watched and judged. And as much as we say that we try to ignore it, you know, I think some of that is just trying to keep that positive mindset and move forward. And certainly you've seen Simone did a terrific job of that over the years.

GOLDMAN: Ledecky has more events and is buoyed by today's win. Biles announced today she's withdrawing from this week's individual all-around competition, an event she easily won at the 2016 Games, which feel like a long time ago.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Tokyo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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