Perhaps it was the fact that Bethesda swimmer Katie Ledecky thrives on pulling away early thanks to fast starts. Or maybe it was that Denmark's Lotte Friis chose to challenge her, even outpace her at times, in the women's 1,500-meter freestyle on the third night at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.
But when it was all said and done at Palau Sant Jordi, Ledecky not only sped away after 1,300 meters of racing to take the world title by 2.35 seconds, but in the process, she did it in 15 minutes, 36.53 seconds.
Her effort broke the longest-standing women's world record, set by Great Falls, Va., native Kate Ziegler in 2007, by 6.01 seconds. The win also marked the second gold medal of the meet and first career world record for Ledecky, who turned 16 years old in March.
"I knew we were going pretty fast, and I figured whoever was going to come out on top was going to get the world record," Ledecky said. "I had to be careful not to push it too early, not to push it too late, and just touch the wall first. Around the last 200 [meters], I knew I could take off.
The world record "means the world to me," she continued. "Kate Ziegler, who had the world record, is from my area [back home]. I've looked up to her my whole life, and I really honored to break that world record and to keep it in Potomac Valley."
Ledecky wasn't the only swimmer with local ties, though, to strike gold on Tuesday in Barcelona. Yannick Agnel, a Frenchman who trains at North Baltimore Aquatic Club, won the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:44.20.
American Conor Dwyer, who is Agnel's training partner at NBAC under coach Bob Bowman, earned a silver medal by finishing 1.12 seconds behind Agnel.
Elizabeth Pelton of Towson, swimming in her first individual World Championships final since 2009, finished fourth in the women's 100 backstroke in 59.45, just 0.23 of a second from a bronze medal. She will swim in her best event, the 200 backstroke, later this week.
Other Americans who earned medals Tuesday night included Missy Franklin (58.42), who won gold in the women's 100 backstroke; Matt Grevers (52.93) and Jake Plummer (53.12), who earned gold and silver, respectively, in the men's 100 backstroke; and Jessica Hardy (1:05.52), who raced to a bronze in the women's 100 breaststroke.
Racing continues today with finals in the women's 200 freestyle and the men's 200 butterfly, 50 breaststroke and 800 freestyle. The session including those finals will begin at noon.
NOTE: Johns Hopkins junior Ana Bogdanovski (Macedonia) and freshman Pilar Shimizu (Guam) will compete in the World Championships this week. Bogdanovski will represent Macedonia in the 50 free heats Saturday and 100 free heats Thursday, and Shimizu will swim for Guam in the 50free and 50 breaststroke heats Saturday.
twitter.com/JordanLittmanCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun