FUKUOKA, Japan (AP) — Katie Ledecky won the gold medal in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle in dominating fashion at the swimming world championships.

Ledecky, a native of Montgomery County, led throughout her race Tuesday to win in 15 minutes, 26.27 seconds. The victory was her 15th individual title at the world championships, equaling the mark set by Rodgers Forge native Michael Phelps.

Ledecky smashed the field in an event she has not lost at the worlds or Olympics in more than a decade. Her fifth victory in the 1,500 tied the record for the most wins at the worlds in a single event.

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Ledecky has won seven Olympic golds, the first coming more than a decade ago in London. And she’s talking about racing not just in next year’s Paris Olympics, but perhaps also in Los Angeles in 2028.

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“I never dreamed of winning one Olympic gold,” Ledecky said. “So after I did it, it was like, ‘OK, the rest is icing on the cake, a cherry on top,’ whatever you call it. I’m just trying to build a really big cake, I guess.”

That cake is getting bigger for one of the greatest freestylers the sport has ever seen.

Her time Tuesday was the third quickest of her career.

“The last couple of years I’ve just tried to be really locked in on my stroke,” Ledecky said, improving quickly post-pandemic. “That was a really good performance from me — very pleased.”

Italy’s Simona Quadarella finished 17 seconds behind Ledecky in 15:43.31, with Li Bingjie of China third in 15:45.71.

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Ledecky will compete in the 800 on Saturday as she seeks to become the only person to win six titles at the worlds in the same event.

American Ryan Murphy added the second American gold medal on Tuesday, winning the 100-meter backstroke.

Murphy overtook world record holder Thomas Ceccon of Italy in the final 20 meters to narrowly prevail in 52.22. Ceccon took silver in 52.27 with Hunter Armstrong of the U.S. third in 52.58.

Murphy will be the favorite in the 200 back later in the competition.

Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania captured the gold in the women’s 100 breaststroke in 1:04.62, ahead of Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa and third-place Lydia Jacoby of the U.S.

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Kaylee McKeown of Australia won the women’s 100 backstroke in 57.53, edging Regan Smith of the United States by 0.25, and her compatriot Katharine Berkoff, who took third in 58.25.

Matthew Richards and Tom Dean of Britain finished 1-2 in the men’s 200 freestyle in a big upset, with Hwang Sunwoo of South Korea taking third place.

David Popovici of Romania, the world champion last year, was seen as the favorite entering the race and led until fading in the final 15 meters when Richards, Dean and Hwang all swept past to deny fourth-place Popovici a place on the podium.

Richards won the gold in 1:44.30.

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