2016 Trials Throwback: Katie Ledecky Takes Victory Lap in 800

Katie Ledecky, left, and Leah Smith at the 2016 Trials Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2016 Trials Throwback: Katie Ledecky Takes Victory Lap in 800

Each day during the pre-scheduled days of the 2020 US Olympic Trials, Swimming World will take its readers back four years to the 2016 Trials in Omaha to recap each event, and will offer some insight into what the events will look like in 2021.

By Day 7 of the 2016 Trials, Katie Ledecky had proven to be everything that had been foretold by her previous four dominant years in the pool. She reinforced her supremacy by winning the 400 freestyle. She won the 200 free by more than a second. She stated a convincing case for a spot in the 400 free relay, finishing seventh in the 100 free in breaking 54 seconds.

The final installment of this tour de force should have been merely a victory lap for Ledecky, the world record holder in the event.

The Race

… And it was. Leah Smith, who’d followed Ledecky to Rio in the 400 and earned a relay spot by finishing third in the 200 at 2016 Trials, was the clear second choice again thanks to a pair of personal-bests: 8:21.64 in prelims, 8:20.18 in finals, four and a half seconds clear of the challenge by Stephanie Peacock.

But Ledecky opened up acres of space from Smith. She drilled an 8:10.91 in prelims, then 8:10.32 in finals. It didn’t scare her world record of 8:06.68, but it more than did the job to get to Rio.


  1. Katie Ledecky 8:10.32
  2. Leah Smith 8:20.18
  3. Stephanie Peacock 8:24.71
  4. Lindsay Vrooman 8:29.10
  5. Ashley Twichell 8:29.95
  6. Hannah Moore 8:31.01
  7. Haley Anderson 8:33.66
  8. Sierra Schmidt 8:36.09

On to Rio

In the longest race available to the women in Rio, a logically bankrupt imbalance that has been rectified in time for the Tokyo Games, Ledecky did … Katie Ledecky things. The race was effectively over shortly after Ledecky arrived at the arena for finals. She set an Olympic record in prelims, downing Rebecca Adlington’s time from Beijing with an 8:12.86. It was the quickest of the session by seven seconds.

In the final, Ledecky was up by .85 seconds after 50 meters and more than a body length after 100. The only question was if she’d take down her world record. The answer was in the affirmative: 8:04.79, besting the field by more than 11 seconds and downing her world mark by nearly two seconds. She nearly even-split the 800, going out in 4:01.98, back in 4:02.81. She clocked a 59.35 over her last 100. Ledecky became the first woman to sweep the 200, 400 and 800 free at a single Games since Debbie Meyer in 1968.

Great Britain’s Jazz Carlin picked up her second silver of the meet, two tenths ahead of Boglarka Kapas of Hungary. Smith was fifth in 8:20.32.

2016 Trials Throwbacks:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6:

Day 7:

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