Katie Ledecky Continuing To Make History In Distance Freestyle

Katie Ledecky
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Republic-USA TODAY Sports

Editorial content for the 2015 Arena Pro Swim Series Mesa is sponsored by Arena. For full Swimming World coverage, check out our coverage page

Commentary by Jeff Commings

Watch out, world. If you thought Katie Ledecky couldn’t top the amazing performances she put up in 2014, you’re going to be stunned by what you see this summer when she races at the world championships.

As I watched her churn through the 800 freestyle tonight at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Mesa, Ariz., a thought came into my head: She’s going to break 8:10 this year. Out under world record pace for 500 meters, Ledecky kept churning out splits that would outlast 98 percent of the male swimming population to post an 8:13.01. Her splits in the middle 500 meters ranged from 30.83 to 31.39. Taking note of those splits at the turning end of the pool was coach Bruce Gemmell, who also recorded her stroke rates and studied her stroke with the same intent as nearly every swimmer in attendance. Gemmell, who shed the business suits in his days as an engineer for a hoodie and shorts tonight in Mesa, joined the crowd in applauding her effort at the end of the race. Then, he walked away and studied the splits, thinking about what sets he could give Ledecky to get her paces a little faster.

Ledecky said she’s been putting in the best training of her life these past two months since her last record-setting performance, an American record in the 500-yard freestyle this past February. Even some of the men who attended the altitude training camp in Colorado Springs recently were amazed by the work Ledecky was putting in against them.

“She did some ridiculous stuff up there,” Conor Dwyer said. “She was on our heels going some times that Ryan and I were going. I’ve never seen a female do that in training before. She’s obviously the top female in the world right now at what she does.”

And that’s not going to change for quite some time. Her fastest 800 free of the season – 8:11.21 – is 10 seconds faster than anyone has gone this year, and pretty much all of them did their times shaved and tapered. In the 400 free, she’s three seconds ahead of the field, though her 4:00.47 is still two seconds slower than her world record. Ledecky won’t say what her goals are, but you can tell by the smile on her face that she’s right on track.

“I just try to be consistent and get as close to good times as I can,” Ledecky said.

To put tonight’s “good time” into perspective, no one else has gone faster than that. It’s the fourth-fastest performance in history. And it was done less than a week after completing some of the toughest swimming she’s done in her career. While most would be happy to get within 10 seconds of their best time at a meet of this type, Ledecky is rewriting history.

“It’s amazing how you go so long with (a world record) not changing, and then somebody can break through and do it, and do it so many times,” said Bob Bowman, the guide behind Michael Phelps’ history-making performances. “It’s great to see that breakthrough.”

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8 years ago

Great piece Jeff. Ledecky is so consistent that sometimes its easy to forget that what she’s doing is absolutely historic. She is simply the most dominant swimmer we’ve seen in a very long time. It reminds me of Phelps in the mid 2000s, when he was completely untouchable in the 200 fly and 400IM. Amazing.

8 years ago

Ledecky = Thorpe ..but she didn’t have The same beautiful perfect style

8 years ago

She is the BEST distance swimmer ever.

8 years ago

She was awesome in Mesa! So very happy to have gotten to see her

8 years ago