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Katie Ledecky breaks tie with Michael Phelps for swimming world titles

Ledecky cruises to historic 800m freestyle title
Katie Ledecky continues her dominance in the 800m freestyle by winning her sixth-straight title at the 2023 FINA World Championships, passing Michael Phelps with 16 individual world titles.

Katie Ledecky broke her tie with Michael Phelps by winning a record 16th individual swimming world title. In a little over a year, Phelps may be the only person to own more Olympic titles than Ledecky.

Ledecky won her trademark race, the 800m freestyle, on Saturday to also become the first swimmer to win any event six times at worlds.

She clocked 8 minutes, 8.87 seconds, giving her the 29 fastest times in history. She won her first Olympic title in the 800m free at age 15 in 2012 and is undefeated in the event since.

Ledecky finished the world championships in Fukuoka, Japan, with two golds (800m and 1500m frees) and two silvers (400m free, 4x200m free relay). There is still one more day of competition, but Ledecky’s events are done.

SWIMMING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

“It was special,” Ledecky said on Peacock of Saturday’s win, which was the seventh-best time in history. “I’m happy with that swim. I wanted to be a little bit better [time-wise], but I’ll take it. I’m really pleased with how the week went.”

She largely confirmed her place in swimming going into the meet: dominant in the two distance events, a medal contender in the 400m free (she also took silver at the Tokyo Olympics) and a leader for the 4x200m free relay (she dropped the individual event from her worlds schedule the last two years, at least in part due to its overlap with the 1500m, but swam the fourth-fastest relay split of the 32-swimmer field).

It sets her up to chase more history at next year’s Olympics.

Currently at seven gold medals, she is two shy of second place in Olympic history (shared by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, American swimmer Mark Spitz and track and field athlete Carl Lewis and Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi).

Currently at 10 total medals, she is two medals shy of second place in swimming (Natalie Coughlin, Ryan Lochte, Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres).

Michael Phelps holds both records — 23 golds and 28 total medals.

Also Saturday, Swede Sarah Sjöström tied Phelps’ record with a 20th career individual world medal, her fifth consecutive gold in the 50m butterfly, which is not on the Olympic program.

About 20 minutes later, Sjöström, 29, lowered her six-year-old world record in the 50m free from 23.67 to 23.61 in the semifinals.

Australia won three more gold medals to match its best total in history — 13 — with one day left. It will be the first worlds since 2001 that a nation other than the U.S. wins the most golds.

Aussie Kaylee McKeown became the first swimmer to sweep the 50m, 100m and 200m backstrokes at a worlds, overtaking American Regan Smith in the last 50 meters of the 200m.

McKeown, who swept the Tokyo Olympic backstrokes, clocked 2:03.85 to distance Smith by 1.09 seconds. Smith, who took silver to McKeown in all the backstrokes, became the fourth U.S. female swimmer to win four individual medals at a worlds after Shirley Babashoff, Tracy Caulkins and Ledecky.

Aussie Cameron McEvoy became the fourth-fastest man in history in the 50m freestyle, winning by 51 hundredths over American Jack Alexy in 21.06.

McEvoy went into the 2016 Olympics as the world No. 1 in the 100m free and No. 2 in the 50m free, had a best individual Olympic finish of seventh between Rio and Tokyo, then in June lowered his 50m free personal best for the first time in seven years and on Saturday earned his first global title.

Alexy, a rising Cal junior in his first major international meet, took silver in the 100m free and 50m free this week.

The Australians finished the night by breaking their world record in the mixed-gender 4x100m free relay, which is not on the Olympic program. Mollie O’Callaghan anchored it, giving her five golds this week and four world records.

Frenchman Maxime Grousset won the 100m butterfly in 50.14, two tenths ahead of Canadian Josh Liendo and 32 hundredths ahead of American Dare Rose. Rose, a rising Cal senior who was 30th at the Olympic Trials, lowered his personal best this year by 94 hundredths.

In a semifinal, Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte tied the world record in the 50m breaststroke of 29.30, a decade after she first broke it. Meilutyte, who won the 100m breast earlier this week, now shares the world record with Italian Benedetta Pilato in the 50m, which is not on the Olympic program.

Swimming worlds finals finish Sunday at 7 a.m. ET, live on Peacock, headlined by Olympic champion Bobby Finke in the 1500m free.

McKeown completes historic sweep in backstroke
Australian Kaylee McKeown becomes the first swimmer ever to sweep all three distances in the backstroke as she takes home gold in the 200m at the 2023 FINA World Championships.