By John Lohn
Photos by Peter H. Bick
MONTREAL, Canada, July 26. WITH the potential to be the greatest distance swimmer since Janet Evans, Kate Ziegler lived up to all the hype on Tuesday night, winning the 1,500-meter freestyle by a hefty margin and becoming the third-fastest performer in history. Clocking 16:00.41, the 17-year-old posted a three-plus second victory.
Ziegler took the lead on the opening lap and continued to distance herself from the competition while swimming in Lane 1, as the seventh-fastest qualifier. For the majority of the race, it appeared as if she would become just the second woman to break the 16-minute barrier. Still, Ziegler ranks third all-time, behind Evans (15:52.10) and Germany’s Hannah Stockbauer (16:00.18).
Switzerland’s Flavia Rigamonti, who trains at Southern Methodist University, earned the silver medal in 16:04.34 and Canada’s Brittany Reimer, to the delight of the home crowd, secured the bronze medal with a mark of 16:07.73. Reimer was fourth in the 400 free earlier in the week. The United States’ Laura Conway finished fourth with a personal-best mark of 16:17.17.
Ziegler is undoubtedly the favorite to win the 800 free when she next steps on the starting blocks. Splitting 2:04.68 at the 200-meter mark and 4:12.13 at the 400, Ziegler hit the 800 in 8:28.74. While Ziegler became the third-fastest woman in the event, her time ranks as the fifth-fastest performance in history. Evans holds the top three times and Stockbauer owns the fourth mark.