The intensity and gripping drama of a final stretch is swimming is so much of what makes the Summer Olympics so captivating. We got that on Tuesday night with the women's 200-meter freestyle final.
This was the only individual event that wasn't a mortal lock for American swimming superstar Katie Ledecky to win.
She took it, but barely. Maybe that will make it all the more rewarding.
Ledecky out-touched Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom, hitting the wall in 1:53.73; Sjostrom touched in 1:54.08. Australia's Emma McKeon took the bronze (1:54.92). Sjostrom, who is the best sprinting swimmer in the world -- she won the 100m fly earlier in the day -- never led at any turn but was consistently second or third with each touch.
"I pretty much went on auto-control once I dove in and just let it happen," Ledecky said on NBC afterward. "I saw I had the lead and I wasn't about to let it go.I could feel her there, and I knew the last 50 I wasn't going to be able to see her at all, so I just knew I had to really dig deep. That's the closest I've gotten to having to throw up in the middle of a race.It was really nice to have that competition. It's really cool when you get to race other really fast world record holders and I couldn't be happier."
After trailing by .06 at the halfway point to McKeon, Ledecky took a .40 lead on the final turn on Sjostrom. From there, Sjostrom got close but never got ahead of the 19-year-old from Maryland who's going to leave these Rio Games as an American superstar. This marks the third medal and second gold at these Games for Ledecky.