GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) — Adversity finally found Katie Ledecky and when it did, it hit hard.
Headaches, irregular pulse, elevated heart rate, sleeplessness, nausea. The symptoms she experienced struck the American star out of nowhere at the world swimming championships and derailed what had promised to be a stellar meet.
She suffered a loss in an event she’s dominated, withdrew from two others and spent seven hours in a Gwangju hospital enduring a battery of tests that never produced an exact diagnosis.
She still managed to win one gold and two silver medals.
“I know I can tough it out now if something like this comes up,” she said.
Ledecky has been on an upward trajectory ever since she won the 800-meter freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics as an unheralded 15-year-old.
In 2013, she won four golds at the worlds in Barcelona, setting a pair of world records. Two years later in Kazan, Russia, she swept every freestyle from 200 to 1,500, setting two more world records. Then came the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and she knocked off two more world records.
Her accomplishments, coupled with Michael Phelps’ retirement after Rio, made Ledecky the star of the U.S. team.
“The external expectations are just outrageous,” said her coach, Greg Meehan.
Still, Ledecky came into Gwangju more prepared than ever to meet or exceed them. Until she started feeling poorly.