SwimmingWorldMagazine.com had the chance to speak with Kate Ziegler Wednesday afternoon.
By John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, October 25. AT this point, we really shouldn't be shocked by what Kate Ziegler accomplishes. Such is her excellence as the premier distance freestyler in the world. The two-time defending world champion in the 800 and 1500 freestyle events, Ziegler is storming toward the Beijing Olympics, where she'll be the favorite for gold in the 800 free and a medal contender in the 400 free.
A little more than a week ago, Ziegler ventured to Germany for some short-course action in Berlin and walked away from the competition with three more world records on her resume. The effort was vintage Ziegler. As was the case last summer, when she shaved nearly 10 seconds off Janet Evans' world record in the long-course version of the metric mile, Ziegler blasted the short-course standards in her pet events. She doesn't just lower records. She obliterates them.
Swimming the 1500 free, Ziegler clocked 15:32.90 to slice more than nine seconds off Laure Manaudou's former record of 15:42.39. In that same race, Ziegler clocked 8:09.68 at the 800-meter mark to better Manaudou's global standard of 8:11.25. But, that mark lasted just a short period of time as Ziegler went 8:08.00 in the open 800 free.
Ziegler has since settled back into her routine in the United States, where she's a sophomore at George Mason University. Upon her return to America, Ziegler tended to her mid-term examinations and turned in a handful of papers that were due for class. She'll be in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center Thursday through Monday morning for some altitude training. Of course, as a professional, Ziegler is not eligible to compete collegiately.
"I knew I had a good shot at the 1500 and my time in the 800 was two years old," Ziegler said of her record hopes heading over to Germany. "But, it's still real early in the season and we've been training pretty hard. I guess the flight over was my taper. I was really happy with my times. It was definitely a good sign."
Aside from handling a hefty training load under the guidance of her coach, Ray Benecki, Ziegler is maintaining a busy schedule away from the pool. She's currently taking three courses at George Mason and balancing her academics, a high priority, with her workload in the water. She indicated she worked on some of her schoolwork during the flight to Germany. Ziegler, though, is a master of balancing a jam-packed schedule.
"Sometimes it can be hard to balance everything, but I've been doing this for a while," she said. "I have to make sure I communicate with my professors and schedule makeups when I need to. Coming back (from Germany), there was a sense of wishing I could take it easy when I got back, but school is very important to me. School and being with my friends help me balance things away from swimming."
Following her brief stint in Colorado Springs, Ziegler said that she'll compete at the Minnesota Grand Prix in November and will participate in the Tom Dolan Invitational in early December. Ziegler has competed in the Dolan meet for a number of years and, with the meet scheduled for George Mason, she simply needs to make the walk from her apartment.
Of course, the ultimate goal is next summer. Provided everything falls into place at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Ziegler figures to be one of the primary figures at the Beijing Games. Not only is she expected to make noise in the 400 and 800 freestyles, Ziegler is in position to earn a berth on the American 800 freestyle relay, which will be favored to win the gold medal.
"I'm taking everything in stride," she said of the Olympics. "I think about it all the time, but there are a lot of steps along the way. I'm focused on my training and staying healthy."