Multi Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky stressed there was more to life than winning on Wednesday and said she was at peace with her performance in Tokyo, after a run of rare defeats that could end the American’s near-decade of freestyle dominance.
The winner of 15 world titles said the notion that her winning anything less than gold meant failure and disappointment was way off the mark.
The American won gold in the inaugural’s women’s 1,500 meters freestyle on Wednesday, equalling the feat of Hungary’s Krisztina Egerszegi in winning a fifth individual Olympic swimming gold medal.
But it came just an hour after Ledecky’s shock fifth-place finish in the 200m freestyle, one of four events she won in Rio in 2016.
“I’m kind of at peace with it, I kind of laugh when I see things like ‘settles for silver’,” Ledecky said.
“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or feel like silver or any other medals besides gold is a disappointment.”
“I would much rather people be concerned about people who are really, truly struggling in life.”
Ledecky was out of contention throughout the 200 freestyle and finished fifth as Australia’s Ariarne Titmus pulled off another thrilling fightback to win gold, using the same strategy that defeated the American on Monday in the 400 freestyle.
Ledecky, who has two remaining events in Tokyo, described her determination to succeed and break records as a blessing, and a curse.
“My past performances … it puts pressure on myself, I’m always striving to be my best and be better than I’ve ever been,” she said.
“I’m really tough on myself and I literally approach each race with the belief in myself that I can swim a best time. And that’s pretty darn tough.”
Ledecky dominated the 1,500 freestyle final, leading by as much as 10 meters over the final third to finish in 15:37.34, four seconds ahead of compatriot Erica Sullivan.
The 24-year-old fought back tears when she described what she called the power of the Olympic gold.
“I’ve gone to children’s hospitals and met wounded warriors and their faces light up when they see the gold medal,” Ledecky said.
“That means more to me than anything, the ability to put a smile on someone’s face. And I just really wanted to get a gold medal and have that opportunity again.”