With Ledecky staying home, Italy’s Quadarella takes another world title in 1,500 free

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — With Katie Ledecky deciding to stay home, Simona Quadarella of Italy romped to another gold medal in women’s 1,500-meter freestyle swimming at the World Aquatics Championships on Tuesday.

Quadarella began to pull away from the field around the 500-meter mark and finished nearly a half-lap ahead in 15 minutes, 46.99 seconds.

“I tried to start slowly,” Quadarella said, “then tried to build my speed.”

Ledecky, the U.S. star who has dominated the freestyle distance races over the past decade, had won five of the last six world titles in the 1,500. But, like many of swimming’s biggest names, she decided to skip these COVID-delayed worlds to focus on this year’s Paris Olympics.

Quadarella also took the 1,500 title in 2019 when Ledecky scratched because of an illness. But the 25-year-old Italian will have to go much faster to have any chance for gold in Paris.

Ledecky, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, won the world championship last summer in Fukuoka at 15:26.27 — more than 17 seconds ahead of Quadarella in the runner-up spot.

Li Bingjie of China took the silver in 15:56.62, just ahead of bronze medalist Isabel Gose of Germany at 15:57.55.

In the opening race of the night at Doha’s Aspire Dome, Hwang Sun-woo gave South Korea its second gold medal of the championships with a victory in the men’s 200 freestyle.

Hwang pushed the pace through the first two laps before American Luke Hobson grabbed the top spot with 50 meters to go. But Hwang powered back to the front on the final lap, holding off fast-charging Danas Rapsys to win in 1:44.75.

Rapsys, the top qualifier out of the semifinals, settled for silver in 1:45.05. The bronze went to Hobson at 1:45.26.

The 20-year-old Hwang, a two-time short course world champion, earned the biggest victory of his career in the big pool.

“I don’t have a long-course gold medal,” Hwang said. “But I did it today, so I’m very happy.”

Hwang’s victory came on the heels of countryman Kim Woo-min winning the 400 freestyle.

Hobson, part of a scaled-back team for these world championships, gave himself a big boost with the Paris Olympics just five months away.

“I’m super excited for this summer,” said Hobson, a Nevada native who competes for the University of Texas. “I think that’s a promising result for what’s to come, so I can’t wait.”


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