Washington-born Katie Ledecky, the pacesetter for women’s long distance swimming, withdrew from two world championship events following a surprising second-place finish on Sunday to Australian Ariarne Titmus.
For top swimmers, the 2019 world championship meet is a dress rehearsal for the Tokyo Olympics, which start in one year.
Ledecky, a Bethesda native, had not been feeling well since she arrived in Gwangju, South Korea, for the competition, National Team Managing Director Lindsay Mintenko said in a statement.
Doctors have not yet diagnosed a specific illness, but her coach, Greg Meehan, said he hopes she will feel well enough to finish the meet.
Ledecky had been scheduled to race Titmus in the semifinals for the 200-meter freestyle and the 1,500-meter freestyle — swimming’s longest race— in a tight, one-hour turnaround Tuesday.
Titmus, 18, blasted past swimming’s endurance queen in the final 50 meters of the 400-meter freestyle Sunday, dethroning Ledecky on the world stage.
Meehan, Ledecky’s coach, told NBC Sports that her unusually slow finish showed “a little bit of a sign” of a problem.
Ledecky made no mention of feeling sick following the race.
“I need to get my fight back,” she said.
Meehan told NBC Sports that news of Ledecky’s illness is not meant as an “excuse” for the disappointing loss.
“This doesn’t take away from what Ari did,” he said of Titmus.
Ledecky, 22, still holds the world record in the 400-meter freestyle (3:56.46) and nine of the top 10 all-time performances. Titmus set the Australian and Oceanian records with her historic win.
Two other front-runners, Canadian Taylor Ruck and Australian Emma McKeon, also withdrew from the 200-meter freestyle race.
If she feels up to it, Ledecky could still swim the 4×200 freestyle relay on Thursday, and the 800-meter freestyle Friday and Saturday.