KAZAN, Russia (AP) — Katie Ledecky is unbeatable in the distance races. Turns out she’s awfully good going shorter, too.
The 18-year-old American rallied to win the 200-meter freestyle at the world swimming championships Wednesday night, beating a stellar field that included defending champion Missy Franklin of the United States and two-time winner Federica Pellegrini of Italy.
Ledecky had a good view of the competition from lane 7. Breathing to her right, she saw all but one of her rivals and halfway through she knew another gold medal was hers.
She rallied from fourth after the first two laps to touch first in 1 minute, 55.16 seconds for her second gold medal of the championships. She already won the 1,500 free, lowering her own worldrecord in the preliminaries and final.
Pellegrini of Italy finished second in 1:55.32, and Franklin was third in 1:55.49.
“I knew it was going to be a really competitive field and that was something that was really special for me,” Ledecky said. “It was an honor to be in a heat like that.”
Femke Heemskerk of the Netherlands took it out strongly, dipping under world-record pace on the opening lap. She was still in front through the third lap before fading to eighth.
Franklin was second and Ledecky fourth halfway through the most anticipated women’s race in Kazan. Ledecky moved up to second behind Heemskerk on the third lap while Franklin dropped to third.
“After racing with Katie for the last couple of years, I know her last 25 is always just ridiculous and that’s how Katie is too,” Franklin said. “I knew she was going to come back really strong.”
Two years ago in Barcelona, Ledecky won four golds and set two world records. The recent high school graduate shows no signs of slowing down in Kazan, where she still has the 400 and 800 freestyles remaining.
“I never really feel pressure,” said Ledecky, who burst onto the world stage with a gold in the 800 free at the 2012 Olympics. “Going into London I didn’t and since then I’ve just tried to maintain that same mentality.”
Better known as a distance specialist, Ledecky was competing in the 200 free for the first time at the worlds.
“I had plenty of training to do all of these races and I knew that I could trust in my training,” Ledecky said. “That confidence has fueled my swims this week.”
Ledecky’s successes have been the lone bright spot for the U.S. team halfway through the meet in Kazan.
Franklin picked up her second bronze medal, having helped the U.S. finish third in the 4x100 free relay Sunday. She was fifth in the 100 backstroke. She recently turned professional after swimmingin college for two years, and has yet to regain the form that carried her to a record six gold medals two years ago at the worlds.
Sun Yang of China rallied to take the lead on the next-to-last lap and won the 800 free in 7:39.96 to go with his earlier victory in the 400 free.
Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy finished second in 7:40.81 after leading for six laps until he was passed late by Sun, who earned his third consecutive world title.
Mack Horton of Australia, who led the first eight laps, settled for third at 7:44.02.
Laszlo Cseh of Hungary overtook Chad Le Clos to win the 200 butterfly as the oldest man in the final at age 29.
Cseh trailed Le Clos after the first two laps before passing the South African midway through the third lap. He hung on and touched first in 1:53.48.
Defending champion Le Clos settled for silver in 1:53.68, and Jan Switkowski of Poland earned bronze in 1:54.10.
“I tried to take it out really hard. I wanted to see if I could scare them off the first 100 but it didn’t work out,” Le Clos said.
It was Cseh’s first gold at the worlds since 2005 in Montreal, where he won the 400 individual medley. He has reunited with his childhood coach ahead of next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“I know I need to keep working on the race,” Cseh said. “My last 20 was a little bit hard but it was an enjoyable race and I’m very happy.”
Michael Phelps, the world-record holder, was forced to miss the world meet as part of his suspension by USA Swimming after a second drunk-driving arrest. He will be competing at U.S. nationals in Texas this week.
Adam Peaty of Britain earned his second individual gold medal with a victory in the 50 breaststroke, a non-Olympic event. He set the world record in the semifinals Tuesday and came back to win in 26.51.
Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa finished second in 26.66. Kevin Cordes of the United States was third in 26.86.
Peaty and van der Burgh also finished 1-2 in the 100 breaststroke.
Vladimir Morozov of Russia, a gold-medal favorite in the 100 free, was disqualified for a false start after winning his semifinal heat. He sat on the lane line in shock at the announcement.
“When I jumped, I knew it was a false start,” he said. “The really painful thing was that I gave it everything and got that kind of result, 48.1, pretty much a gold medal. I had the best chance over that distance.”
Britain’s Chris Walker-Hebborn, Peaty, Siobhan O’Connor and Fran Halsall won the mixed relay in 3:41.71, a world record in the new event.
The United States was second and Germany third.