Katie Ledecky & Swim Stars Challenge FINA: World Records at League Should Stand (VIDEO)

Katie Ledecky swims for DC Trident in the ISL. Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

There are very few distance world records that Katie Ledecky doesn’t hold.

She almost reached one during Sunday’s second session of the International Swimming League (ISL) opening meet in Indianapolis.

But even if she had reached it, there are questions of whether it would have counted.

FINA, international swimming’s governing body, has stated that world records would not count because it is not a FINA-sanctioned event.

Ledecky won the 400 free in 3:54.06, to finish a little more than a tenth behind the global standard of Australia’s Ariarne Titmus, which sits at 3:53.92. It broke the American record set by Katie Hoff in 2010 (3:57.07) — Hoff’s last American record standing.

This is how close it came:

  • 56.08; 1:55.37; 2:54.94; 3:53.92 Ariarne Titmus WR – December 2018
  • 56.31; 1:55.58; 2:55.17; 3:53.97 Wang Jianjiahe WR – October 2018
  • 56.33; 1:55.24; 2:55.04; 3:54.06 Katie Ledecky – October 2019

Ledecky said of FINA’s stance on the records:

“I didn’t even know that was true, or if it is true. I think all times should count if we are following all the rules, which we are. That is the way it should be.”




Other star swimmers agreed, especially since it wasn’t the only record broken. Melanie Margalis also set an American record in the 200 IM (2:04.18).

“I think in the future I hope it will change,” Sarah Sjostrom said. “Everyone will still know which time is the fastest time. It would be weird if she got a world record and it wasn’t recognized. I really hope it will change in the future.”

These are some of the reasons professional swimmers believed something like the ISL was needed.

“When we first heard about the ISL, we were excited. For me, it was a bit of a shame that FINA didn’t approve it to start with,” Mitch Larkin said. “I hope FINA will come on board and approve records. It would be a disappointment to see a great swim that was a world record not recognized.”

Last December FINA, after a period in which it threatened swimmers with bans if they raced at a League test event that had to be cancelled because FINA would not give approval, stated:

“As to the issue of alleged athlete bans resulting from participation in unsanctioned events, FINA merely stated that results achieved in competitions for which approval and sanction were not duly sought and obtained would not be recognised”.

The trouble with that statement (and other like it) is twofold: it does not answer the question of a world record directly; it does not alter the fact that rules currently in the FINA handbook could still be used to ban and refuse to ratify. As one observer out it: “The rule book of FINA needs changing to take account of the new reality.”
Ratification of records would not be a problem in terms of FINA rules, all conditions met, including anti-doping tests, which are being conducted by national testing agencies at each of the ISL events.

“It is a shame FINA wouldn’t recognize our team. We are growing the sport, which would in turn, grow FINA’s meets,” Olivia Smoliga said. “They should go hand-in-hand.”

It was still the fastest time by an American.

Ledecky won head-to-head against Titmus in Indianapolis — their first meeting since the World Championships in Gwangju and where Titmus beat the American for gold.

“I honestly didn’t know if that was a fast time until someone told me it was the American record and a tenth off the world record,” Ledecky said. “I wasn’t aiming for any records or anything at this meet. It is about getting up and going fast and scoring as many points as I can for my team.”

The reason she doesn’t hold the short-course record is simple. She hasn’t competed much in short course during her career, like most of the American swimmers.

“I had probably the best September of training I have ever had, so I feel like I am a little ahead of where I have been at this point of the season,” Katie Ledecky said. “I haven’t really had a big short-course meet. I did Duel in the Pool in Scotland in 2014, but I had a really bad sinus infection, so I think I went 4:02 or 4:03. So I knew I would go a couple best times in this meet.”

She just didn’t know she would be at a record pace.

“It felt really good to race healthy, happy and feel like I am making some good steps already this fall,” she said. “It went about as well as it could have gone.”

Condors general manager Jason Lezak‘s take:

“These are professional athletes that really have never been treated like professionals. Although some of them have sponsors or make a little money to get by, some of them also have jobs. This will hopefully continue to grow into something where this is all they’re going to do and they’re going to focus on this like the other big sports.”

“It’s taken some minor changes to get to something big,” Katie Ledecky said.

“And I think we’re finally at somewhere pretty big. It’s going to continue to get tweaked and everything. But I think we’re at a point where professional swimmers are really benefiting from the changes that ISL has created, really, from top to bottom.”


  1. Rik Parker

    Oh, it feels like yesterday when people were saying Ledecky was done and the new class was stepping up… also FINA needs to wake up and smell 2019.

  2. Shawn Cowper Daniels

    Cmon FINA get with the program! It’s about the athletes not you!

  3. Katy Dean

    How is the 400 SC? This article is confusing me because they are talking like it is an SC meet??? What am I missing?

    • John Mcleod

      Katy Dean it is a SCM competition.

    • Katy Dean

      John Mcleod oh geez, haven’t wrapped my head around one of those in awhile. Thanks!!!

    • avatar
      Craig Lord

      It is a short-course meet: you are not confused, Katy, unless you thought it was long-course (which it was not and was never planned to be…)

  4. Colm Joyce

    Preparation off to a good start for the run up to an Olympic year! Good luck in Tokyo next summer Katie ??????????

  5. avatar
    Eric Rhodes

    It appears that no videos of races are available without some kind of special access; right? Well, we wouldn’t want to deprive a super wealthy Russian of his just deserts, would we ? But usually for big international competitions the tapes are available for later….. ! And for the results not to include noting the relevant World records for each event is kind of tit for tat in response to FINA not sanctioning times…. I guess. $ sure brings out the best in all of us! I think I like Sarah Sjostrom in a yellow cap better. Do these “teams” ever train together ? Was there an autograph session at the meet? And who doesn’t blow bubbles, anyway….. ?

    • avatar
      Craig Lord

      Eric, yes, some of the kids do train together… Energy the biggest example of that. Grigorishin is not Russian: he’s from Ukraine.

    • avatar

      Eric, the replay is available on demand for $0 on ESPN online (or with a smart tv) Just search for ISL and scroll down to the on demand section for a full playback of both day one and day 2.

  6. avatar
    David Abineri

    So announcers will be saying …. and the world record is …… and the fastest time in world is ….? And FINA is supposed to be for the swimmers?

  7. avatar

    Fina wants the whole pie. This has happened in Olympic Sports from the beginning. The best thing these athletes can do is keep breaking records. Make Fina look foolish for listing records athletes and fans know to be untrue. It’s the only way to push change: