2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Katie Ledecky in League of Her Own in Women’s 1500 Free

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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The USA’s Katie Ledecky is aiming for her fourth straight world title in the 1500 free. Ledecky set world records on her way to gold at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds and became the first woman to win the event three times in 2017. Ledecky is now aiming to take after Australia’s Grant Hackett, who won the 1500 four consecutive times, at the 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2005 Worlds.

Ledecky has been in a whole other stratosphere in this event since she first set the world record at the 2013 Worlds at the age of 16. She is 18 seconds ahead of the second fastest swimmer all-time and owns the fastest eight times in history. Only two women have ever broken 15:40, the other being Denmark’s Lotte Friis, and Ledecky is pushing the 15:20 barrier. This type of dominance is unprecedented, and she is showing zero signs of vulnerability in the 1500.

China’s Wang Jianjiahe (15:46.69) and Italy’s Simona Quadarella (15:48.84) are within three seconds of Ledecky’s season best of 15:45.59. But Ledecky swam that 15:45 in the middle of January at a TYR Pro Swim Series in Knoxville. It seemed like a routine swim for Ledecky, who could be in line to push her world record of 15:20.48 from last year. Behind Ledecky, the race for second is wide open.

Wang moved up to sixth all-time with her 15:46 at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Des Monies. Quadarella moved up to ninth all-time with her 15:48 at the Sette Colli in June. Wang took the gold medal at the Asian Games last summer while Quadarella won the Europeans gold medal. Quadarella seems to get better the longer the event. She won the bronze medal in Budapest two years ago with a 15:53 behind Spain’s Mireia Belmonte, who has flown under the radar in 2019, only managing a 16:09 at the Mare Nostrum in her home country. Belmonte has always been a mystery heading into the major meet at the end of each summer. She sat out the European Championships a year ago and she did not compete at the FINA Champions Series so her rivals don’t know what kind of shape she is in.

Argentina’s Delfina Pignatiello, who trains under Hall of Fame coach Bill Sweetenham is a dark horse to win a medal. She was the 2017 world junior champion and won the silver at the 2018 Youth Olympics in her home country. Pignatiello also set a South American Record this year with her 15:51, which puts her 11th all-time, ahead of distance great Janet Evans.

Australia’s Madeline Gough and Kiah Melverton are the only other swimmers this year (that will be at Worlds) to break 16:00 in the event.

The other American set to swim the 1500 is Ashley Twichell, who will have a full open water schedule with the 5K and 10K the week prior. If Twichell chooses to swim the 1500 during the second week, then she could fight for a medal. She was a 15:55 at US Nationals last summer for fifth in the world.

EDIT: Pignatiello was listed above as a medal favorite but it has been pointed out to us that she is not swimming at World Championships to focus on the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

Current Records:

World Record: 15:20.48, Katie Ledecky, USA – 2018
Championships Record: 15:25.48, Katie Ledecky, USA – 2015
American Record: 15:20.48, Katie Ledecky – 2018

2017 World Champion: Katie Ledecky, USA, 15:31.82
2018 Virtual World Champion: Katie Ledecky, USA, 15:38.97 (Pan Pacs)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 15:45.59, Katie Ledecky, USA
  2. 15:46.69, Wang Jianjiahe, CHN
  3. 15:48.84, Simona Quadarella, ITA
  4. 15:51.68, Delfina Pignatiello, ARG
  5. 15:56.39, Madeline Gough, AUS
  6. 15:56.46, Kiah Melverton, AUS
  7. 16:06.68, Sarah Kohler, GER
  8. 16:08.67, Boglarka Kapas, HUN

*Erica Sullivan was a 15:55.25 in June at the TYR Pro Swim Series but will not be swimming the 1500 at Worlds.

Swimming World’s team of Andy RossDan D’AddonaDavid RiederDiana Pimer and Taylor Covington will be selecting their picks for the medalists in each event at the World Championships. Read below who everybody picked.

Andy’s Picks:

  1. Katie Ledecky
  2. Simona Quadarella
  3. Wang Jianjiahe

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Katie Ledecky
  2. Simona Quadarella
  3. Wang Jianjiahe

David’s Picks:

  1. Katie Ledecky
  2. Simona Quadarella
  3. Wang Jianjiahe

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Katie Ledecky
  2. Simona Quadarella
  3. Wang Jianjiahe

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Katie Ledecky
  2. Simona Quadarella
  3. Wang Jianjiahe

2019 FINA World Championships Predictions:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3: