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.

Katie Ledecky wins her third medal and second gold of the 2016 Olympics. USATSI

"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.