Katie Ledecky is now up to seven career Olympic gold medals after winning her signature event, the 800-meter freestyle, by 1.26 seconds over Australian rival Ariarne Titmus.
Ledecky owns the 23 fastest times ever recorded in the 800, which is a bonkers stat, for sure, and it’s notable that Titmus’ swim in Tokyo was the fastest non-Ledecky 800 in history. But there’s an even better factoid about Ledecky’s dominance of the event — she’s both the youngest and oldest gold medalist ever in the 800.
And she’ll aim to extend that record in Paris, three years from now.
How hard is it to be both the youngest and the oldest to prove you’re the best? Well, earlier this year, Tom Brady broke his own record as the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, at 43, having also won a title as a 41-year-old. But even though Brady also won it all as a 24-year-old in his first season as an NFL starter, Ben Roethlisberger was 23 when he won his first Super Bowl.
Wayne Gretzky was 19 when he became the youngest Hart Trophy winner in 1980, but the last of his nine MVPs came at 28, in The Great One’s first year with the Kings. Gretzky made a bid for a 10th at age 37 with the 1997-98 Rangers, but finished fifth in the voting behind Dominik Hasek, Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, and Martin Brodeur.
Theoretically, Derrick Rose has a chance to do a basketball Ledecky, as he holds the distinction of being the youngest MVP in NBA history, as a 22-year-old in 2011. But that’s really only because he’s still active — the only way that Rose would have even an outside shot at the 2024 MVP and Karl Malone’s record as a 35-year-old winner of the award, would be if a real-life Space Jam scenario played out.
Usain Bolt’s remarkably long career at the top of sprinting? He won his first Olympic gold in the 100m at 21, and his third at 29… outdone at the younger end by 19-year-old Reggie Walker of South Africa in 1908 and 32-year-old Linford Christie of Great Britain in 1992.
On and on you could go, and still nobody would touch Ledecky: Just the way it is in the 800.