FLASH: Katie Ledecky Annihilates WR in Short-Course 1500 Freestyle; Wipes Nearly 10 Seconds Off Former Mark; 800 Split An American Record


FLASH: Katie Ledecky Annihilates World Record in Short-Course 1500 Freestyle

Sometimes, a world record can be seen coming. An athlete will be on a roll, his/her times inching ever closer to the standard in a specific event. Yet, rare are the days when a world record is basically a foregone conclusion, a countdown unfolding until the mark is wiped from the books and replaced with new digits.

Such was the case on Saturday night.

When Katie Ledecky stepped onto the blocks for the final of the 1500-meter freestyle at the FINA World Cup in Toronto, the previous record in the event was on life support. The greatest distance swimmer in history, Ledecky had never contested the event in the short-course meters format during her career, and that fact alone was the reason she didn’t possess the world record.

In her maiden outing in the short-course version of the 1500 freestyle, Ledecky blazed a time of 15:08.64. That performance obliterated the previous world record of Germany’s Sarah Wellbrock (nee Kohler) by nearly 10 seconds. Wellbrock clocked 15:18.01 in 2019 at the German National Championships. The previous American record was held by Kate Ziegler, who produced a time of 15:32.90 in 2007.

Ledecky cringed when she touched the wall, the toll of her 60 laps clearly evident. But she also managed a few fist pumps and a splash of the water, an indication that the world record was a clear target for the weekend.

If the slightest doubt concerning a world record existed prior to the race, it was erased on the opening lap when Ledecky was already more than a half-second under the world-record pace. By the 100-meter mark, Ledecky was nearly a second ahead of pace, and her margin only continued to grow with each lap. At the 400-meter point, Ledecky was timed in 4:00.22, a superb performance for the open 400 freestyle.

Ahead of her assault on Wellbrock’s record, Ledecky’s long-course global standard of 15:20.48 stood just more than two seconds off the short-course mark. That minimal separation served as additional evidence that Ledecky was not chasing the SCM record but was engaged in more of a rightful coronation. In addition to now owning both 1500 freestyle marks, Ledecky is also the fastest in history in the 1650-yard freestyle, giving her the distance-record trifecta.

On the opening night of the World Cup, Ledecky engaged in a stellar duel in the 400 freestyle with Canadian 16-year-old Summer McIntosh, as they clocked the second- and third-fastest times in history. McIntosh edged Ledecky down the last lap to set a World Junior Record of 3:52.80 while Ledecky set an American record of 3:52.88.

When the World Cup moves to Indianapolis next week, Ledecky is expected to make a run at the short-course world record in the 800 freestyle, which belongs to Spain’s Mireia Belmonte at 7:59.34. Like the 1500 freestyle, Ledecky is a newcomer to that event in the short-course meters format and anything less than a world record would be surprising. Stunningly, Ledecky went through the 800-meter mark in her 1500 freestyle in 8:00.58, just more than a second off Belmonte’s standard. Ledecky’s split time for 800 meters is an American record, almost seven seconds faster than the 8:07.67 of Leah Smith.

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