About an hour after she was shut out of the medal podium for the first time ever in her Olympic career, U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky claimed gold in the Olympic debut of the women’s 1500-meter freestyle race.
The star swimmer took the lead in the event and never lost it. Team USA's Erica Sullivan came in second with the silver.
Ledecky's first gold medal of the Tokyo Games is her sixth career gold.
Her win came after losing two shorter races to Australia's Ariarne Titmus in the Games, including the 200-meter freestyle earlier Wednesday.
Wednesday's gold was history-making, as it was the first women's 1500-meter freestyle in the Olympics, despite it being a fixture in world championships. Athletes swim 30 lengths of the pool, and Ledecky did it in 15 minutes 37 seconds.
"I just think of all the great female swimmers the U.S. has had that haven't had that opportunity to swim that event," Ledecky said.
She said she was especially happy that Sullivan took the silver. "I'm so glad we could do it in the best possible way," she said. It is Sullivan's first Olympics.
Sullivan, 21, said that she stuck to her game plan and stroke count during the long race.
"But honestly there was a point when I saw Katie ahead of me, and she was the only one — and it really gave me the energy of having someone that you look up to for years, and seeing them a few meters, or several meters in front of you," she said.
Germany’s Sarah Kohler won the bronze.
Earlier Wednesday, Ledecky came in fifth and did not medal in the 200-meter freestyle race, which Titmus won.
On Monday, Titmus came from behind to beat Ledecky in the 400-meter freestyle. Ledecky came in second and won the silver.
"It hasn’t really set in," Titmus said when asked how it felt to win two golds.
"Off the 400, I had to try to kind of like forget about it for this race," she said. "Now that I have the afternoon off, it's going to be nice to kind of let it settle in a bit."
In other action in the pool Wednesday, Americans Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass won the silver and bronze in the women's 200-meter individual medley. Japan's Yui Ohashi won the gold.
In the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final, defending champs Team USA came in fourth — which is the first time they have not won a medal in the event other than the 1980 Moscow Games, which the U.S. and other countries boycotted.
Great Britain won the gold and almost beat a world record set by the U.S. in 2009. The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team came in second, and Australia took the bronze.