Swimming World’s Pick For Top Performance At World Championships: Katie Ledecky’s 800 Freestyle

Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

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It was never a question of who would receive our nod for the top performance of the 2015 FINA world championships. The only conundrum was: Which event?

Anyone who followed the meet from Kazan, Russia, knows that Katie Ledecky was by far the standout swimmer of the meet. Not only did she win four individual gold medals, but she won the 200, 400, 800 and 1500 freestyles by a combined 28.98 seconds. That’s the embodiment of dominance.

When it comes to picking one race to highlight, the 800 freestyle stands out. Her other races were jaw-dropping, but “head-scratching,” “mind-blowing,” “history-making” and “unbelievable” were also applicable to the 800. Her winning time of 8:07.39 has taken the event to an entirely new stratosphere. Seven years ago we were saying goodbye to Janet Evans’ world record of 8:16.22, a time that stood as the world’s best for 19 years. Ledecky is now nine seconds faster than that, and 10 seconds ahead of the rest of the world.

If you need further proof that Ledecky’s 800 was the best swim done inside the Kazan Arena, consider this: Her average 100-meter split was 1:00.92. Ponder that for a little bit longer. A woman averaged 1:00.9 per 100 meters eight times. Her 58.97 opening 100 and 59.11 final 100 skew the numbers a bit, but it’s all very impressive no matter how you crunch the numbers.

We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but imagine what will happen if/when Ledecky dro[s her average split by a full second per 100. When will “7:59” show on the scoreboard? Two years from now? Three years? Next year in Rio?

Either way, her 8:07.39 is a major step forward for Katie Ledecky, one of many steps forward in her march toward legendary status in the sport. Congratulations on earning the Swimming World Performance of the World Championships!


  1. avatar

    The whole race was surreal, but the way she sprinted to the end that last 10 meters was almost unbelievable and left me wondering, “could she go even faster?” Evans was similarly incredible almost 30 years ago, and now Ledecky has lowered that record by another 10 seconds. I didn’t think a sub 8:00 by a woman would be possible in my lifetime but for the first time she is planting that seed in my mind and that of young aspiring champions.

  2. avatar

    Performance of the champs? I’d say performance of the century!

    Phelps’ performances in the mid 2000s were unbelievable (great props to the 4:03 400 IM), but I think this single performance is as good as any of them.

    • avatar

      I agree. When I saw this I was astonished, the best single performance I have ever seen and been my privilege to see. Breathtaking. But I can’t see her going below the magic 8:00, that would need some kind of divine intervention. I suppose I should start praying.

      • avatar

        Not by Ledecky. But possibly within my lifetime now! That’s what champions do– they change what we think is possible. Even Bowman said about Phelps the other night. “This weekend changed what I thought was possible.”

  3. avatar
    Mark Schwartz

    It would be nice if our friends at Universal Sports posted the entire race video instead of the Readers Digest version.

  4. avatar
    Old John

    Good choice, but in a way her combined 1500 performance was even better. Never before in history (to my knowledge) has anybody set a WR in the heats of the 1500, and then to come back the next day and beat the WR again is mind-bogging. And if you just want to compare the 800 to her 1500 in the finals, a 15:25 is essentially two 8:13’s back to back, which probably compares favorably to her 8:07. Then, when you throw in the WR in the heats, I think the 1500 overall was the more impressive performance. Plus, she was swimming it knowing that she would have an all out 200 to swim 25 minutes later, which would be a huge psychological burden for most swimmers.

    • avatar

      You make some good points. All 3 of those swims left me so speechless it’s hard to choose.

  5. avatar

    As her fastest 16 50’s in her 1500m WR were 8:09.76 the 8:07 should not have been that much a surprise.
    Ledecky or Hosszu for best swim in Kazan but best of all time? Has to be Mary T. 2:05.96 which would still win most today (and prob. at next year’s US Trials).

  6. avatar
    Jim C

    I like Ledecky’s 1500 free final/200 free semi-final double.

  7. avatar

    Hmmm not sure, but Hosszu’s 2:06.12 probably still takes the cake