World Championships Preview — Women’s Distance Freestyle: Katie Ledecky Aims for Unprecedented Six-Peat (Predictions)

Katie Ledecky -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Editorial content for the 2023 World Aquatics Championships is sponsored by FINIS, a longtime partner of Swimming World and leading innovator of suits, goggles and equipment.


World Championships Preview — Women’s Distance Freestyle: Katie Ledecky Aims for Unprecedented Six-Peat (Predictions)

The last time Katie Ledecky did not win a race of 800 or 1500 meters was prior to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, a meet when the then-15-year-old qualified for her first Olympic team with an 800 freestyle win over more-established swimmers Kate Ziegler and Chloe Sutton. Just over one month after that, Ledecky stunned hometown favorite Rebecca Adlington in the 800 free final at the London Olympics. And it took less than a year after that for both the 800 and 1500 free world records to belong to Ledecky.

Now, Ledecky will try to become the first swimmer in history, female or male, to win six consecutive world titles. The only sort-of blemish on her ledger came at the 2019 World Championships, when she withdrew from the 1500 free final and the 200 free due to illness before returning in-time to outduel Simona Quadarella for 800 free gold in a clutch performance. If not for that illness, Ledecky would be aiming for six-in-a-row in both the 800 and 1500. Instead, she will seek to tie the record of five titles in the 1500 free before turning attention to the 800 six days later.

Previous Events:

Women’s 800 Freestyle
WR 8:04.79 Katie Ledecky USA Rio de Janeiro (BRA) Aug. 12, 2016
CR 8:07.39 Katie Ledecky USA Kazan (RUS) Aug. 8, 2015
WJR 8:11.00 Katie Ledecky USA Shenandoah (USA) June 19, 2014
Women’s 1500 Freestyle
WR 15:20.48 Katie Ledecky USA Indianapolis (USA) May 16, 2018
CR 15:25.48 Katie Ledecky USA Kazan (RUS) Aug. 4, 2015
WJR 15:28.36 Katie Ledecky USA Gold Coast (AUS) Aug. 24, 2014


Jillian Cox (USA): Cox was the surprise runnerup in the 800 free at U.S. Nationals, recording a time of 8:20.28 to drop 10 seconds from her best time and beat out the likes of Claire WeinsteinLeah Smith and Katie Grimes. That mark won’t be quick enough to win a medal in Fukuoka, but she is definitely finals-worthy. Contending in: 800 free

Beatriz Dizotti (BRA): Dizotti, 23, finished sixth in the 1500 free at last year’s Worlds and has been as fast as 16:04.21 this year. Contending in: 1500 free

Erica Fairweather (NZL): Better known for her abilities in the 400 free, Fairweather swam a mark of 8:18.00 at the New Zealand Open Championships earlier this year. The 19-year-old won silver medals in the 400 and 800 at the Short Course World Championships. Contending in: 800 free

Isabel Gose (GER): Gose won three medals at last year’s European Championships (gold in the 400 free, silver in the 800 free and bronze in the 200 free), and she was sixth in the 800 free at Worlds. She is one of four women to break 8:20 in the 800 this year (8:19.65), and she swam a time of 15:56.80 in the 1500 free. Contending in: 800 free & 1500 free

Katie Grimes (USA): Grimes originally made an international impact in the 800 free, finishing fourth in the race at the Tokyo Olympics, but her only freestyle race for Worlds this year is the 1500, an event in which she won silver last year in Budapest. Yes, Grimes was 14 seconds behind Ledecky but four seconds ahead of the rest of the field, and her best time of 15:44.89 ranks ninth all-time. Contending in: 1500 free

Moesha Johnson (AUS): Johnson took fourth in the 1500 free at last year’s Worlds, her time of 15:55.75 coming up seven seconds short of the podium. Contending in: 1500 free

Katie Ledecky (USA): Her recent U.S. Nationals performances in the 800 free (8:07.07) and 1500 free (15:29.64) were her fastest in years, quicker than anyone else in history and faster than her winning times from last year’s Worlds. Ledecky is almost nine seconds ahead of the second-fastest swimmer in history in the 800 free and 18 seconds clear of anyone else in the mile. Contending in: 800 free & 1500 free

Li Bingjie (CHN): It has been a strong year for Li, the silver medalist in the 800 free at the 2017 World Championships and 400 free bronze medalist at the 2017 Worlds and 2021 Olympics. Li won the 800 free at Chinese Nationals in 8:20.34, and her 15:51.21 in the 1500 free is ahead of any swimmer in the world this year except for Ledecky. Contending in: 800 free & 1500 free

Lani Pallister (AUS): Pallister looks like a real force in the distance races. She won 1500 free Worlds bronze last year and was seeded second in the 800 free final, but she was forced to withdraw from a likely medal chance after testing positive for COVID-19. Pallister also swept gold medals in the 400, 800 and 1500 free at the Short Course World Championships in December. She won the 1500 free at Australian Trials in 15:56.31, and her second-place finish in the 800 free (8:20.56) denied last year’s Worlds silver medalist, Kiah Melverton, a spot. Contending in: 800 free & 1500 free

Simona Quadarella (ITA): Aside from Ledecky, Quadarella is the only swimmer in the field to ever win a long course world title in a distance race, having won in Ledecky’s absence in 2019. Her only medal at last year’s Worlds was an 800 free bronze, but she won her third consecutive European titles in the 800 and 1500 free six weeks later. The 24-year-old ranks fourth all-time in the 1500 free (15:40.89) and fifth in history in the 800 (8:14.99). Contending in: 800 free & 1500 free

Ariarne Titmus (AUS): She is best known for her exploits in the 200 and 400 free, but Titmus is the second-fastest woman ever in the 800, with her best time of 8:13.59 from last year’s Commonwealth Games. She won bronze in the 800 free at the 2019 World Championships and silver behind Ledecky at the 2021 Olympics. Contending in: 800 free


Women’s 800 Freestyle

Gold: Katie Ledecky (USA)
Silver: Ariarne Titmus (AUS)
Bronze: Lani Pallister (AUS)

Ledecky completes the six-peat in dramatic fashion, making a run at the world record but beating her eight-year-old championship record and swimming the second-fastest time in history.

Women’s 1500 Freestyle

Gold: Katie Ledecky (USA)
Silver: Katie Grimes (USA)
Bronze: Simona Quadarella (ITA)

No world record here, either, but no drama either. Grimes rebounds from an up-and-down U.S. Nationals for a second consecutive 1-2 finish for the United States.

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x