This one was a really tough decision. Katie Ledecky vs. Missy Franklin. There were only really two choices for the 2013 USA Women’s Swimmer of the Year – and both are just teenagers.
They combined for all 6 American individual gold medals at the 2013 World Championships, to which Franklin added three relay golds and Ledecky took one as well.
How do you decide between the two? Franklin won 6 golds, and while Ledecky only won 4, she also broke two World Records (and very nearly got a 3rd). These two, arguably, had the two best World Championships in the history of FINA by women (Missy, statistically, won more golds at a single meet than any woman ever has).
So how do we split hairs? Much of the broader international media has focused on Franklin, who is the bigger name still because of her Olympic exploits.
Both broke National High School Records in 2013. Ledecky got the 200 Independent High School Record and the 500 overall record, while Franklin broke the 200 IM Independent High School Record (though Kaitlyn Jones later broke her mark).
Also not to be ignored on Franklin’s 2013 resume is that she won the 2013 USA Swimming Grand Prix Series title.
The question for us comes down to “were Ledecky’s records enough to overcome Franklin’s golds?”
Ledecky broke the World Records in the 800 and 1500 frees in long course, and broke them by-a-country-mile. She became just the second woman under four minutes in the 400 free in long course, just missed Federica Pellegrini’s World Record, and broke the American Record. Ledecky ended her year with one more American Record in the 1650 free at Winter Nationals.
Two World Records, and four American Records, were enough to tip this one over the edge in Ledecky’s favor. It wasn’t just the records, it was the way she broke the records. She left the 1500 World Record line in the dust, with a 15:36.53 to clear Kate Ziegler’s old mark by six seconds. She beat Lotte Friis in that swim, who was also under the old World Record. In the 800 she was an 8:13.86 – that was by a much smaller margin, but in a much bigger event.
Missy Franklin, for the reasons stated above.