PHOENIX, Arizona, August 12. THE only sad thing about Katie Ledecky’s world record in the 400 freestyle on Saturday at the USA Swimming nationals in Irvine, California, is that it immediately put all other contenders for the best performance out of contention.
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Sometimes there is something that stands out more than a world record in a given week, but how can you deny that what Ledecky did was the most absolutely astounding swim we’ve seen since, well, last June when she broke the 800 and 1500 world records in Texas. Ledecky’s has not even begun to reach her ceiling in freestyle, which makes us excited about the future.
For now, let’s celebrate this remarkable swim. In the prelims, Ledecky put a scare into Federica Pellegrini’s world record of 3:59.15 with a 3:59.86. That was just a tick off her own American record, and got people buzzing for what she’ll do in finals.
Boy, did she deliver. Out in 57.74 at the 100, things got very interesting when she turned at 1:57.72 at the 200, 1.7 seconds under record pace. She posted a 1:00.6 for the third 100, staying 1.7 seconds ahead of pace. Though she faltered a bit to a 31.01 on the seventh 50, she made a big rally thanks to the entire facility cheering her on that final 50 with a 29.45 to post a 3:58.86. Four days later, it still feels weird to say that time. It was amazing when Pellegrini first broke four minutes, though many said her full-body rubber suit in 2009 helped her greatly. Now, Ledecky has broken four minutes three times, and we wonder how much lower she’ll go, and how long it will take for someone else to join her in the exclusive sub-4:00 club.
Ledecky is racing the 400 free on August 23, a day after the 800 free. I’m not sure how doing an 800 free will affect her the following day, but it’s possible that she won’t feel the need to attack the 400 free as strongly with this fresh world record.
So congratulations, Katie. You’ve won the Speedo Performance of the Week.