To see all of the 2014 Swammy Award winners, presented by TYR, click here.
2014 HONOREE: KATIE LEDECKY
When deciding upon the world female swimmer of the year the Swimswam team had a tough discussion about who to choose. There were arguments made for American superstar Katie Ledecky and arguments made for the Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu, however after a tough decision the Swimswam team made a decision: Katie Ledecky.
Every sort of record imaginable, Ledecky broke this season. She broke meet records, high school records (yeah, she’s still in high school), age-group records, state records, US Open records, American records, as well as multiple world records to put together one of the most impressive years of swimming ever.
She started off her 2014 year at the Austin Grand Prix in the middle of January which would be her first big long course meet since the 2013 World Championships. She came away from the meet with two golds and a silver after competing in five events.
A distance swimmer through and through, Ledecky added the 100m freestyle to her program and managed to make the championship final and finish eighth in 55.57. She won the 400 free in 4:04.46, a few seconds off her best time but still so fast that only four women would swim below that time throughout the entirety of the 2013-2014 season. She finished second in the 200m freestyle in 1:57.76, fourth in the 200m IM in 2:16.27, and first in the 800m freestyle with a 8:26.70.
With her first long course meet wrapped up and some very fast times already displayed, Ledecky swam at the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships in early February. Although she was a world champion and Olympic champion, Ledecky was competing in high school and absolutely crushing the competition.
She swam two individual events and competed on the relays. She won the 200 freestyle in 1:42.38, an extremely fast time and slightly off her personal best. In the 500 freestyle, she broke her first American record of her 2014 year with a 4:28.71, which she swam in prelims. The time also doubled as a 15-16 year-old age-group record. She won the final in 4:34.01 later on.
The next big meet on Ledecky’s calendar for 2014 was the Mesa Grand Prix held at the end of April. With the meet doubling up as Michael Phelps’ return to competition, a lot of Ledecky’s performances went a little under the radar, however she posted some very fast times to demonstrate her skill-set to the rest of the world. She swam the exact same program as she did in January at the Austin Grand Prix.
In the 100m freestyle she was fourth in 55.22, a personal best time for her. In the 200m freestyle she was a 1:56.27, a time which would have finished second at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships. She rocketed to a 4:03.84 in the 400m freestyle to take the win in a time which only two swimmers would beat during the 2013-2014 season. In the 800 she was a 8:20.10, and in the 200m IM she was a 2:18.17 in the prelims.
It was only April and it was clear that Ledecky was already having an amazing season. She had broken an American record and was consistently swimming world-class times at grand prix events. What happened next though was completely unpredictable and demonstrated just how talented Ledecky really was.
It was late June and up until that point Ledecky had only broken world records at the 2013 World Championships. She set the 800 freestyle and 1500 freestyle world records there when she established herself as the greatest distance freestyler currently on the planet. That all changed at a smaller meet in Texas, the Woodlands Invitational, where Ledecky broke two world records and shocked the world.
Untouchable and wickedly fast, Ledecky swam an 8:11.00 in the 800m freestyle and a 15:34.23 in the 1500. She took just over two seconds off her world record in the 1500 and did the exact same with her previous world record in the 800. She also swam a 4:03.09 400m freestyle at the meet, a time which nobody would beat all season. She was a 1:56.45 in the 200 free, a 56.02 in the 100 free, a 2:16.61 in the 200 IM, and a 4:43.92 in the 400m IM.
It was about two months away from the Pan Pacific Championships and Ledecky had just established herself as one of the most feared competitors in the water heading into the US Nationals in Irvine, California.
August rolled around and Ledecky seemed to be a lock in just about any event she swam at nationals. She entered herself in every single freestyle event, although in the end she only swam four of them.
In the 100m freestyle, Ledecky only swam in the prelims and put up a personal best time of 54.96. In the 200m freestyle she was up against Missy Franklin. The two were out together on the first 50 with Franklin slightly ahead. At the 100m mark they were still together, however this time Ledecky turned first ahead by a very small margin. At the 150m mark it was still anybody’s race although Ledecky had slightly extended her lead to 0.4 seconds going into the last 50. With 50m to go Ledecky ripped a 28.94 to blow Franklin away by 0.8 seconds on the last 50 split and claim gold in 1:55.16.
The 800m freestyle gave way to another win for Ledecky. She swam a 8:18.47, slower than her world record performance at the Woodlands Invitational, but was still able to finish first.
The 400m freestyle was her best event of the meet without a doubt. She was out like a rocket in 57.74 and at that point it was already decided that it was her race as she had about two seconds of a lead over Cierra Runge. At the 200m mark Ledecky was a 1:57.72 on her feet, a time which would have finished second behind herself in the 200 freestyle final. She split her third 100 over one minute to touch in at 2:58.40 and let it all go with 100 meters remaining. She ended up touching in at 3:58.86 to make her the first women under 3:59 and set a new world record in the event. That swim also made her the first female swimmer since Janet Evans to hold the world record in the 400, 800, and 1500m freestyles all at the same time.
With Ledecky’s performances at nationals she secured a spot on the Pan Pac roster and made it almost certain that she would be representing the United States at the 2015 World Championships (the process was decided based off of performances at nationals and Pan Pacs). Pan Pacs were the major championship meet for the Americans during the 2013-2014 season, and it was clear that Ledecky was one of the American’s best assets heading into the competition having already set three world records that year.
She swam a similar program to what she swam at nationals at Pan Pacs with the addition of the 1500m freestyle and the 800m freestyle relay.
On the first day of competition Ledecky had a hard double with the 200m freestyle and 800m freestyles. In the first event, the 200m freestyle, there’s reason to believe that Ledecky held back a bit to win the event in 1:55.74. Although that was still a stellar time and a new Pan Pac record, she had been significantly faster at nationals and had been close to that time at multiple meets throughout the year. Despite that, she still won the event by 1.48 seconds over Australia’s Bronte Barratt.
The 800m freestyle was next and the world record holder had some stiff competition with the likes of New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle and Canada’s Brittany MacLean. Ledecky was out first beginning her journey to her start-to-finish 800m freestyle victory. Boyle stuck with her up until the 200m mark where Ledecky left her sitting and started increasing her lead significantly. There was only one person racing against Ledecky; and that was Ledecky’s world record performance of 8:11.00 from June. Ledecky was chasing that record down and toyed with the world record pace throughout the race, but at the touch she was just 0.35 seconds off the record with a time of 8:11.35 to finish first. That time was a Pan Pac and Australian All-comers record along with the second fastest performance ever in the event.
After an extremely eventful day one, Ledecky was slated to swim only the 100m freestyle during the prelims on day two. She finished 13th overall with a time of 55.25, and chose to scratch the ‘B’ final that night to focus on the 4x200m freestyle relay.
The American’s stiffest competition in the 4x200m freestyle relay was the Australian team and after 600 meters the Australians had almost two seconds on the Americans. Melanie Schlanger jumped in for the Australians and Ledecky followed suit. At the 150 meter mark Ledecky had cut the lead by a huge margin and was just about 0.7 seconds behind Schlanger. With 100 to go Ledecky had taken over the lead and wasn’t about to let go. She carried the lead all the way through to the touch where the team set a new Pan Pac and Australian All-comers record with a 7:46.40. Ledecky split a 1:54.36 on the anchor leg. Nobody had been within a second of Ledecky’s split, and only one other swimmer was even under 1:56.
Ledecky had only two more events to focus on, the 400m freestyle and the 1500m freestyle, events where she was already the world record holder and absolute favorite in. The first event was the 400m freestyle. In prelims she set a new Pan Pac record of 4:03.09 to take the top seed over American Cierra Runge, however it was clear based on previous results that she had more in the tank.
She stepped up on the blocks for the 400m freestyle final flanked by Runge and Venezuela’s Andreina Pinto. Just like in the 800 she was out like a rocket, splitting a 27.85 on the first 50 to take an early lead by over half-a-second. At the 100m mark she turned in 57.87 to lead Runge now by a whopping 1.12 seconds. She turned at the halfway point in 1:58.30 to extend her lead to just about three seconds. At this point, she was about 0.60 seconds off her world record pace from nationals, and at the 300m mark she stayed in a similar range turning in 2:58.74. At nationals, Ledecky had fallen off the pace a bit after 300 with a 31.01 50 split, but here she was significantly faster with a 30.33. She turned in 3:29.07 to dip under world record pace by 0.34 seconds with 50 meters remaining. Ledecky tore into that last 50 and again out-split her world record performance with a 29.30 to touch the wall in a new world record of 3:58.37.
With one event remaining, Ledecky had four golds and one world record with the opportunity to grab one more of each in the 1500m freestyle the next day.
Just like in the 800 and 400, Ledecky ran out to an early lead. She was almost a second ahead of her closest competitor after the first 50, and continuously extended her lead. The race was all about her, as she made it clear early on that nobody was going to touch her. She dropped almost six full seconds off her world record swim from June to take the gold in a new world record time of 15:28.36 and make history being the first woman under 15:30 in the 1500. She beat second place finisher, Lauren Boyle of New Zealand by approximately 27 seconds and even managed to lap three swimmers in the final. Although she started fast, one of the most impressive aspects of her race was her last 800 meters. Incredibly, she split a 8:14.11 on the last 800, a time which nobody else in history had every swam in a textile suit in the actual 800m freestyle event. In fact, it was so impressive that only one swimmer had ever been under that time in an individual 800, and that was Rebecca Adlington with a 8:14.11, precisely one one-hundredth faster.
With that incredible swim Ledecky ended her 2013-2014 season at the Pan Pacific Championships. She showed drastic improvement over the course of the season, going from a personal best of 8:13.86 in the 800 to almost splitting identically that time on the back-half of her 1500.
With the 2013-2014 season wrapped up, Ledecky didn’t race much until December where she showed up at the short course Winter Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. There, Ledecky swam magnificently and even managed to break another American record before the end of 2014.
She was third in the 100 freestyle with a time of 48.60, an incredible feat for a swimmer who focuses primarily on the distance events. She swam a 1:42.39 in the 200, came close to her American record in the 400 with a 4:29.54, and finished second in the 200 IM with a 1:56.04. Her best result was her 1650 freestyle where she took off close to two full seconds off her American record from the year before with a 15:13.30 performance.
After winter nationals Ledecky swam her final meet of the 2014 calendar year at the Tom Dolan Invite. There she placed first in the 100 freestyle with a personal best time of 48.31 and came extremely close to Katie Hoff’s American record in the 1000 freestyle. There she was a 9:11.52 to come within a second of Hoff’s 9:10.77 record from 2007.
With that swim, Ledecky finished her 2014 year, a year which proved to the world that she’s one of, if not the best swimmer in the pool in the present day. She set five world records, two short course American records, and dropped a total of 11.81 seconds off the world records in the 400, 800, and 1500 freestyles. The most impressive drop was 8.17 seconds in the 1500m freestyle.
Ledecky was the only female swimmer to break a world record during 2014 and based on all of her incredible performances there is no doubt that she is the perfect recipient of the 2014 Swammy award for female swimmer of the year.
- Katinka Hosszu – The Iron Lady had one of the best seasons making her one of the top contenders for the award. After careful consideration, Swimswam chose Hosszu to be an honorable mention although there’s plenty of evidence to support her case for swimmer of the year. Hosszu was brilliant all season, taking down world records, Hungarian records, and swimming more races than anybody could imagine. Internationally, Hosszu was very successful at the European Championships winning a total of six medals, three of which were individual golds. Following the meet, Hosszu went on to rock the world cup circuit where once again she was the most dominant swimmer there. She broke several world records, and followed that pace heading into the short course World Championships. At Worlds in Doha, Hosszu won eight medals which included four victories. She was named the FINA swimmer of the year, and continued her slaughtering of the Hungarian records all the way into the last week of 2014 where she grabbed a couple more to end a fantastic year.
- Mareia Belmonte – Mareia Belmonte was incredible successful this season taking home wins at multiple competitions and coming home with several world records. Belmonte won six medals at the European Championships in August, two of which were gold medals. She showed a wide range of talents, winning the 200m butterfly, a rather short pool event, and also medalling in the 5km open water swim. Later on, she was one of the driving forces at the short course world championships in Qatar where she grabbed four golds and set two world records. There’s no doubt that Belmonte was one of the best swimmers in 2014.
- Sarah Sjostrom – Sjostrom was most successful at the European Championships this summer, however she demonstrated her speed and skill-set all season long. In July she absolutely smashed the world record in the 50m fly with a brilliant 24.43. That time was ridiculously fast as she took a huge chunk off the previous world record. Earlier in the season she set several national records at Swedish nationals. At The European Championships Sjostrom won three golds and for silvers. She translated that success to short course worlds where she won three golds and a silver. At short course worlds she set two new world records, one in the 200m freestyle and one in the 100m fly.