Katie Ledecky at peace with her Olympic form
"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me or feel like silver or any other medals besides gold is a disappointment," said the 1,500-meter champion and 400-meter runner-up.
TOKYO — Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky stressed there was more to life than winning on Wednesday and said she was at peace with her performance in Tokyo, after a run of rare defeats that could end the American's near-decade of freestyle dominance.
Ledecky, who has won 15 world titles, said the notion that her winning anything less than gold meant failure and disappointment was way off the mark.
The American won gold in the inaugural's women's 1,500 meters freestyle on Wednesday, recovering from her shock fifth-place finish an hour earlier in the 200m freestyle and a silver on Monday in the 400 freestyle — events she won in Rio in 2016.
"I'm kind of at peace with it, I kind of laugh when I see things like 'settles for silver,'" Ledecky said.
"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me or feel like silver or any other medals besides gold is a disappointment."
"I would much rather people be concerned about people who are really, truly struggling in life."
Ledecky was out of contention throughout the 200 freestyle and finished fifth as Australia's Ariarne Titmus pulled off another thrilling fightback to win gold, using the same strategy that defeated the American in the 400 freestyle.
Ledecky, who has two remaining events in Tokyo, described her determination to succeed and break records as a blessing, and a curse.
"My past performances... it puts pressure on myself, I'm always striving to be my best and be better than I've ever been," she said. "I'm really tough on myself and I literally approach each race with the belief in myself that I can swim a best time. And that's pretty darn tough."
Ledecky dominated the 1,500 freestyle final, the first-ever such event for women at an Olympic Games, leading by as much as 10 meters over the final third to finish in 15:37.34, four seconds ahead of compatriot Erica Sullivan.
The 24-year-old fought back tears when she described what she called the power of the Olympic gold.
"I've gone to children's hospitals and met wounded warriors and their faces light up when they see the gold medal," Ledecky said. "That means more to me than anything, the ability to put a smile on someone's face. And I just really wanted to get a gold medal and have that opportunity again."
Ledecky is another example of high-profile Olympic athletes standing up for the mental health strains of competition at the Tokyo Games. After gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from competition for mental health reasons, Ledecky said their compatriots should be more concerned about what is happening in the world than whether she wins an Olympic title.
"Being Olympians it's something that we all have to watch out for each other and help each other through and in times of need," Ledecky said.