2022 World Champs Previews: Ledecky Set To Reclaim Gold In Women’s 1500 Free

2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships

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By The Numbers: 

Katie Ledecky

We’re giving women’s freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky her own section because it would be shocking if she doesn’t win this race. The world, Olympic, and Championship Record holder in the event, Ledecky has been 18.4 seconds faster than any other woman in history in the long course 1500 freestyle. Her 15:20.48 is one of the greatest races we’ve ever seen in any event, and we can safely say that record will stand for a while.

Ledecky isn’t just the fastest swimmer ever by a wide margin in this event, she holds the 12 fastest times in history. She’s been under 15:30 five times, the last of which came in March of 2020, right before the United States’ initial shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ledecky went 15:38.99 at the U.S. International Team Trials in late April, winning the event by well over 12 seconds and establishing herself with the top time in the world this year by the same margin.

Ledecky won gold in the 1500 at the Olympics last summer, which was the first time the women’s 1500 was contested at the Olympics. In the final, she *only* swam 15:37.34 to win, though that swim came at the end of a brutal double. Roughly an hour before the final of the 1500 in Tokyo, Ledecky raced in the final of the 200 free. In prelims in Tokyo, Ledecky looked better, posting a 15:35.35.

She won’t be dealing with the same circumstances in Budapest, as the schedule is different, and Ledecky has opted not to swim the 200 free anyway. That means that for the first time ever, Ledecky will be swimming a slimmer schedule at a World Championships (save 2019 when she was sick), which could leave her much fresher for her distance races.

Between the difference in schedule and her having trained with her new coach Anthony Nesty for over six months now, Katie Ledecky will be one of the most interesting swimmers to watch at the meet.

A Thrilling Battle for Silver and Bronze

The women’s 1500 at these World Championships is a little thinner than it’s been in years past, partially due to many of the Tokyo Olympic finalists from last summer not competing in Budapest. That being said, there is a very interesting race developing behind Ledecky.

Let’s start with the defending world champion, Italian Simona Quadarella. At the 2019 World Championships, the then-21-year-old Quadarella had the meet of her life, taking gold in the 1500 and nearly taking Ledecky down in the 800 free as well. If you need a refresher, Katie Ledecky experienced an illness at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, which resulted in her pulling out of the several races, including the final of the 1500. That’s not to diminish Quadarella’s gold in the event, as she took full advantage of the opportunity, throwing down a 15:40.89 to become the fourth-fastest performer in history.

Quadarella would be a clear #2 behind Ledecky at these Championships, but she’s struggled to get back to the highs of her summer 2019 performances in the three years since. In 2020, albeit in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Quadarella’s fastest 1500 was 16:03.69. Last summer, she swam a 15:47.34 in Tokyo, her fastest time of the year, and this year, she’s been 15:59.32 so far.

Perhaps the most exciting swimmer in this race, American 16-year-old Katie Grimes enters as the #3 seed. Grimes swam her personal best of 15:51.36 at the U.S. International Team Trials in April, which makes her the #2 performer in the world this year, behind only Ledecky. Grimes is one of the rising stars in women’s swimming right now, having qualified for the Olympics in the 800 at 15 years old last summer, where she would ultimately finish fourth. An 8:17-flat 800 freestyler, there’s a great possibility Grimes has a much faster time in her in the mile, certainly something under 15:50.

Her speed has been progressing, hitting a best time of 4:05.7 in the 400 free at the Pro Swim in Mission Viejo earlier this month, and also has limitless endurance as evidenced by her recent exploits in open water. As a rapidly improving swimmer who now has Olympic final experience under her belt, Grimes is a very serious contender in Budapest.

Australian Lani Pallister is another swimmer vying for a medal. Like Grimes, she swam her personal best at the Australian Championships last month, clocking a 15:55.40. The 20-year-old Pallister had an incredible showing at the Australian Championships in May, swimming personal bests in the 200 free (1:56.28), 400 free (4:02.21), 800 free (8:17.77), and the 1500. Again, similar to Grimes, her 8:17 800 free is something of an indication that she could certainly be under 15:50 in the 1500. Grimes and Pallister represent two of the most exciting up-and-coming women’s distance swimmers currently on the scene.

Fellow Aussie, 24-year-old Moesha Johnson, has been 16:00.74 this year, a time which she swam at the Australian Championships in May. Johnson has a personal best of 15:59.96, done at last summer’s Olympic Trials. While she’ll need a personal best to earn a medal here in Budapest, her consistency in the event makes her a very likely candidate to make it into the final, at which point anything could happen.

China’s Li Bingjie has seen a resurgence in her distance racing, having gotten back down to 15:58.35 in this event last year. Li has yet to race the 1500 in 2022, making it a little more difficult to gauge where she’s at, however, China hasn’t had a major meet since the Chinese National Games in September, so their swimmers could potentially be very fresh for these World Champs. Li has been as fast as 15:53.80 in her career.

The Best of the Rest

Veteran Kristel Kobrich, now 36 years old, has been a force in the women’s 1500 for a very long time. Kobrich swam her personal best of 15:54.30 at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, and she was a reliable mid-to-high 15:50s swimmer for years to come after. In the last several years, she’s failed to get under 16:00 in the event, and she didn’t make it into the final in Tokyo last summer, swimming a 16:09.09. Kobrich has been 16:16.39 this year, a time which she swam in April.

Kobrich will make history in Budapest regardless of where she finishes in this race, as she’s set to become the first swimmer ever to make 10 appearances at the LC World Championships.

Hungarian Viktoria Mihalyvari-Farkas, just 18, is another swimmer to watch. She swam her personal best of 16:02.26 in prelims at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, finishing 12th. She’s only been 16:23.02 so far this year, but after her performance last year, we have to look at her as a finals contender, especially with the field at this meet.

Japan’s Miyu Namba is another name to keep an eye out for. She swam her personal best of 16:12.97 at the Japanese Trials in March.

SwimSwam’s Picks

Place Swimmer Country Season-Best Personal Best
1 Katie Ledecky USA 15:38.99 15:20.48
2 Katie Grimes USA 15:51.36 15:51.36
3 Lani Pallister AUS 15:55.40 15:55.40
4 Simona Quadarella ITA 15:59.32 15:40.89
5 Li Bingjie CHN 15:58.43 15:53.80
6 Moesha Johnson AUS 16:00.74 15:59.96
7 Viktoria Mihalyvari-Farkas HUN 16:23.02 16:02.26
8 Miyu Namba JPN 16:12.97 16:12.97

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Troyy
11 days ago

I like to hope Pallister can get the bronze but Quadarella seems like a safer pick.

AnEn
11 days ago

My prediction:
Ledecky
Grimes
Quadarella
Pallister
Li
Johnson
Mihalyvari-Farkas
Namba

Sherry Smit
11 days ago

1. Katie Ledecky 15:35.51
2. Katie Grimes 15:49.40
3. Simona Quadarella 15:49.96

Sherry Smit
11 days ago

Lani has had a super year! Going from 4:05/8:22/15:59 to 4:02/8:17/15:55 is a huge deal!

Sherry Smit
11 days ago

Regardless, I feel as if Quadarella is a huge candidate for bronze or silver in this race. Even if she isn’t in 2019 form, she still most likely will have a 15:49 or faster in her. In Tokyo, she went 15:47 in the evening (prelims at night), so she may have something fast in her at night finals, and may medal

Scotty
11 days ago

Dunford?

Swam7
Reply to  Scotty
11 days ago

Totally plausible that she will make top 8!