Katie Ledecky wanted to finish her stellar week of swimming at the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, on a good note. For any other swimmer, that might have meant a personal-best time or a place on the podium.
Neither of those would have been satisfying for Ledecky, a four-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist. She wanted both.
Ledecky, 17, punctuated her week in Australia with a fifth gold medal and another world record in her last race of the championship meet, winning the women’s 1,500 freestyle in 15 minutes 28.36 seconds.
It was her second world record in two days — she broke the mark in the 400 freestyle the previous night — at the newly constructed Gold Coast Aquatic Centre. She lowered her own world record of 15:34.23 set in June by more than six seconds.
In 13 months, she has lowered the world mark previously held by Great Falls native Kate Ziegler three times — and by more than 14 seconds.
“Six seconds was a little surprising,” Ledecky told reporters. “I figured pretty early on in the race that I was under world record pace. I didn’t know about the middle because I fell off a little bit.”
After her first length of the outdoor pool, Ledecky said she settled into a “good rhythm” and was under world record pace for the first 200 meters before falling off for the next 800.
“That was probably one of my most painful races,” said Ledecky, whose final 400 would have been fast enough to win bronze behind her own world record. “It was painful, but it paid off in the end.”
A year ago, when she first broke the record at world championships, Ledecky was pushed for nearly the entire race by Denmark’s Lotte Friis until the Bethesda native took off in the final 200 meters.
On Sunday, Ledecky might as well have been swimming in a pool by herself.
“I knew it was my last race of the meet and last race of the season,” Ledecky said. “I’ve had a really good season. I wanted to finish on a good note. I didn’t want to walk away from the meet with a ‘That was okay’ feeling. I dug in deep for the last 50. Put it all in there, the last 25.”
After she finished, Ledecky hung on the wall — alternating among sucking in air, trying to catch her breath and smiling at her fifth world record in three months — for nearly half a minute before New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle cruised in for silver in 15:55.69. Brittany MacLean of Canada was third in 15:57.15.
Not bad for a rising high school senior at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart who doesn’t even train for the event.
“The 1,500 is not a huge priority of mine because it’s not an Olympic event — [but] it’s certainly one of my favorite events,” she said. “It was the last day of the meet — last time I broke it, it was the first day of the meet — so pretty different.”
Ledecky’s victory gave her four individual gold medals in four days, a first by a female swimmer at a Pan Pacific meet. Not even Michael Phelps at his gold-medal-winning peak won four individual events at the 2002, 2006 or 2010 championship. She won the 200 through 1,500 freestyle distances and added a relay gold.
In other events, Japan’s Kosuke Hagino edged Phelps to win the men’s 200 individual medley. Hagino won in 1:56.02, two-hundredths of a second ahead of Phelps. Ryan Lochte, relegated to the “B” final after finishing behind Phelps and Tyler Clary in prelims, won his heat with the exact same time as Hagino.
Maya DiRado, 21, won the women’s event in 2:09.93, upsetting Australia’s Alicia Coutts, 26, the fifth-fastest woman in the history of the event.
Phelps, who won his first individual gold Saturday since ending his retirement in April, added a gold in the men’s 4x100 medley relay. He finished the week with three gold medals and two silvers.
“It was, I think, a successful year,” Phelps said. “Obviously I’d like to win every single race I swim in. But [that] doesn’t always happen. It was a learning experience. That’s most important.”
The United States finished the pool portion of the meet in first place with 40 medals — 14 gold.
Australia won the women’s 4x100 medley relay; the United States took silver. Missy Franklin led off the relay to pick up her second silver of the meet. After winning 13 gold medals in her last three international appearances, Franklin failed to find the top of the podium this week.
Bruno Fratus of Brazil picked up his country’s only gold medal with a victory in the men’s 50 freestyle.
He touched out U.S. teammates Anthony Ervin, 33, and Nathan Adrian, who claimed silver and bronze. Australia’s dynamic sister duo of Cate and Bronte Campbell went 1-2 in the women’s 50 free, adding to their gold-silver finish in the 100 freestyle.