Katie Ledecky's unstoppable run in Rio continued with an Olympic record-breaking showing in the women's 800-meter freestyle heats Thursday. She simply wiped out the rest of the competition with a time of 8:12.86, which is now the lowest in Olympic history.
Nobody came even close to Ledecky. The No. 2 overall finisher, Hungary's Boglarka Kapas, finished in 8:19.43, over 6.5 seconds behind the leader. There was more distance between Ledecky and Kapas than Kapas and the ninth-place finisher who failed to advance. And remember, this was just a heat, so the American star likely wasn't going all out.
We already knew that Ledecky was operating on another level after her earlier performances in Rio, which included a record-shattering swim in the 400-meter freestyle. But seeing her just decimate the competition in a heat where she's saving energy is just ridiculous. For all the amazing athletes in Rio, Ledecky is showing she's in a class of her own.
The same goes for Michael Phelps, who clinched a spot in the men's 100-meter butterfly semifinals with a fine showing in the heats. He clearly was saving energy for the big events Thursday night, but still had no trouble finishing fourth overall to solidify a spot. He'll be joined by American teammate Tom Shields, who finished third in the heats.
In the heats for the men's 50-meter freestyle at the 2016 Olympics, Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin finished second and third, respectively, behind top finisher Andriy Hovorov of Ukraine.
Ervin, 35, is the oldest member of this year's U.S. swimming team. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, he shared the gold medal in the 50m freestyle with teammate Gary Hall Jr., but he stopped swimming competitively from 2003-11. At the 2012 Olympics, he finished fifth in the 50m freestyle in London.
This year, Ervin has already won another gold medal as part of the 4x100-meter relay team, which had Adrian as its anchor. These are two of the Americans' best short-distance swimmers, and when you're only racing for 50 meters, everyone goes all out.
The final heats for Thursday were in the women's 200-meter backstroke, where American swimmers Madeline Dirado and Missy Franklin each qualified for the semifinals. Dirado finished third overall, while Franklin finished eighth. Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who is having a stellar time in Rio, posted the top time in those heats.
* * *