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By Andy Ross
It was a quiet Wednesday night at the 2018 TYR Pro Swim Series meet at Indianapolis. There were only two races to be contested–the 1500 free for men and women. The stands were bare except for a few parents and young fans. No one was really expecting anything because, you know, it’s May, and it’s the 1500. What could happen?
But oh wait, Katie Ledecky was there.
Still, Ledecky hadn’t broken a world record since the 2016 Olympics in Rio where she won three individual gold medals and set two world records. Since then she moved to Stanford, changed coaches, won a couple of NCAA titles, and also turned professional — all in a two year span.
With all the changes in Ledecky’s life, the swimming community wondered if she would ever get back to her unstoppable form from the 2016 Olympics.
She had her first major international loss in her career last summer at the World Championships in Hungary when she was gunned down by Italy’s Federica Pellegrini in the 200 free final. She did win three individual gold medals and was a part of two winning relays at those Worlds but didn’t set any best times. So had she peaked?
She answered the critics with a World Record on Wednesday night in Indianapolis in the 1500 free with a 15:20.48. This was her sixth time breaking the mark in her career as she shaved five full seconds off the old record from the 2015 Worlds.
“I wasn’t really expecting that,” she said.
“I knew I was going to have a good swim. I’ve just been training really really well, doing some things I haven’t done before.”
This is Ledecky’s 14th world record in her career – her first since the 2016 Olympics. This is also the fourth time she has broken a world record in a non-taper meet, as she did at an in-season meet in Shenandoah, Texas in the 1500 and 800 in 2014, as well as at the Austin Pro Swim Series in 2016 in the 800.
So how does Ledecky break records when she isn’t fully rested?
“I need my confidence to be skyrocketing to swim fast. It’s not really about the rest, it’s how I feel my training has been.
“My confidence level is just really high right now. I didn’t know if the good training I put in these last six weeks was going to translate immediately here or if it was going to be down the road.”
Even though her confidence was super high and she felt good during the race, she was still surprised at how fast she went.
“I was pretty surprised when I saw the 20. I knew as it was going on that it was a great swim that maybe it was going to be 24, 25, 26…somewhere around there. When I saw the 20, I was pretty shocked.”
It’s Ledecky’s first world record under Stanford coach Greg Meehan and her first in nearly two years. It was certainly unexpected and it only slightly changes her focus for the rest of the summer. She said her original goal for the end of the summer was to break 15:30, something she had not done since she broke the world record in 2015. But that definitely has changed.
As for the rest of the meet here in Indianapolis, she is just excited to “get up and race.”
“It’s always nice to have a great swim like that on the first day,” she said with a laugh. “It gets the adrenaline and confidence going.”
She may have gone professional recently, but even Ledecky says it’s not about the money. It is about being the best swimmer she can be. And we would say that breaking a world record in the month of May is pretty good.
It’s the Ledecky that everyone has come to know and love. The humble, hard-working girl who even surprises herself when she can drop five seconds in a 1500 while not fully rested.
Now that she has some more confidence under her belt, who knows what to expect from Ledecky the rest of the summer and beyond. One thing is certain, Ledecky is back to world record form.