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Katie Ledecky breaks Michael Phelps’ record for most individual world titles

Olympic champion Katie Ledecky on Saturday broke Michael Phelps’ record for most individual world swimming titles.

At the World Aquatic Championships in Fukoka, Japan, Ledecky collected her 16th world title by winning the 800-meter freestyle, her favorite distance, with a time of 8:08.87. It marked her sixth consecutive time winning that distance — the longest ever streak in a single event in the championships’ history.

Ledecky had tied Phelps’ record on Tuesday when she won in the 1,500-meter freestyle — her fifth victory in that specific race.

Katie Ledecky of United States is seen after winning the women’s 800m freestyle final on day seven of the Fukuoka 2023 World Aquatics Championships on July 29, 2023 in Fukuoka, Japan.

Ian MacNicol / Getty Images

“I know Michael, I know how many events he swam at meets like this,” Ledecky said in a poolside interview. “It’s an honor to even be in that same sentence.”

While she recognized the magnanimity of beating Phelps’ record, Ledecky calmly took in her record-breaking victory, giving credit to her competitors for pushing her to perform at such a high level. 

“I’ve never even dreamt of even coming to meets like this, so to be here and to have been to a bunch of world championships is amazing,” Ledecky said poolside. “It is always a battle, it is always a great race. So I know I have to bring my best every single time.”

The 26-year-old said the 800-meter race is her favorite because she has worked the hardest at it over the years.

“It’s just the one that I hold closest to me given that the 1,500 was only added to the Olympics in 2021. I think it’s the one I’ve focused on the most,” she said. 

Ledecky beat out silver medallist Li Bingjie of China by almost 4.5 seconds. Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus came in third.

The Maryland native is the most decorated female swimmer of all time with six individual Olympic gold medals along, with her 16 individual world titles. The World Aquatics Championships are held every two years.

Ledecky began her Olympic career at age 15, picking up her first gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle in the 2012 London Olympics.

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