|Date||26 – 28 July 2021|
|Location||Olympic Aquatics Centre, 2-1, 2chome, Tatsumi, Koto-ku, Tatsumi-no-Mori Seaside Park, Tokyo, Japan|
|Participants||33 from 22 countries|
Women had never before swim 1,500 metre freestyle at the Olympic Games, although the event had been on the World Championship Program since 2001. It was elected to add the event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and also add the 800 freestyle for the men.
Katie Ledecky had won the World Championship in 2013, 2015, and 2017, but had to withdraw from the event at the 2019 Worlds because of illness. She had also set the last six world records in the event and had the 23 fastest times ever swum, marking her a prohibitive favorite.
The only possible problem for Ledecky was that she was swimming the 1,500 final on 28 August, less than 75 minutes after she had swum the 200 free final, in which she finished fifth. Ledecky led the qualifying by six seconds over China’s Wang Jianjiahe, with American Erica Sullivan setting a PR to qualify third in 15:46.67.
The final was dominated by Ledecky as she never trailed and eventually won the first gold medal in this event by over four seconds. Wang was in second for the first half of the race, but then Germany’s Sarah Kohler took over second. Over the last 200 metres Erica Sullivan came back on Kohler, and passed her with only 3 laps remaining. Sullivan would hold on for silver in a big PR by over 5 seconds, as the USA went 1-2. Kohler maintained her position for the bronze as Wang finished fourth.
For Sullivan, a medal in Tokyo was special as her mother was Japanese and Erica spoke the language fluently. Ledecky’s gold medal was her 7th gold and 10th overall medal at the Olympics.