2023 WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
- July 23 to 30, 2023
- Fukuoka, Japan
- Marine Messe Fukuoka
- LCM (50m)
- Meet Central
- SwimSwam Preview Index
- Entry Book
BY THE NUMBERS — WOMEN’S 1500 FREESTYLE
- World Record: Katie Ledecky, United States – 15:20.48 (2018)
- World Junior Record: Katie Ledecky, United States – 15:28.36 (2014)
- Championship Record: Katie Ledecky, United States – 15:25.48 (2015)
- 2022 World Champion: Katie Ledecky, United States – 15:30.15
Like the women’s 800 free, the women’s 1500 free is an event with Katie Ledecky‘s name written all over it. Really, the only difference between the 800 and the 1500 in terms of Ledecky’s dominance is that she’s raced the 800 free many more times than the 1500 in her career.
Outside of Ledecky, this field returns the other two medalists from last summer in fellow American Katie Grimes and Australian Lani Pallister. It’s also a very deep field, featuring a bunch of women who have been under 16:00 in the event, most of whom have done so in 2023 already as well.
We all know the drill by now. Katie Ledecky is incredible in the distance races, no one can touch her, etc. It’s all true in the 1500, of course. Strictly taking about the gap between her and the next-fastest swimmer, the 1500 is Ledecky’s most dominant event. She’s a little over 18 seconds faster than the next-fastest swimmer in history, Lotte Friis, and a little over 20 seconds faster than the next-fastest currently active swimmer in the world, Simona Quadarella.
Moreover, Ledecky holds the 15-fastest performances in history in the event. Ledecky has also been under 15:30 in the 1500 6 times in her career, the most recent of which came at the U.S. Trials about a month ago. At U.S. Trials, Ledecky sped to a 15:29.64, marking her 6th-fastest performance of her career, as well as the fastest time in the world this year by a massive margin.
Given how well Ledecky swam in the 1500 (and 800) at Trials a few weeks ago, I personally feel that the 1500 could be Ledecky’s best event at this World Championship. Part of the reason I feel so confident is that Ledecky made the decision to pull out of the 200 free, which means that when the 1500 rolls around, she’ll only have to focus on it, instead of having to worry about doubles and spending her energy efficiently. Additionally, while swimmers like Ariarne Titmus and Summer McIntosh could potentially go out fast and even rattle Ledecky a little bit in the shorter events, no one is going to be going out faster than her in the mile.
Ledecky is well on her way to gold in the 1500 this week. If she wins it, it would mark Ledecky’s 5th LC World Championships gold in the event of her career.
GRIMES AND PALLISTER
Behind Ledecky, the other two medalists from last year return as well. Fellow American Katie Grimes is once again the 2nd American in this event. Last summer, Grimes took silver in the event with a 15:44.89 at just 16 years old. Now 17, Grimes enters these World Championships with the experience of someone who earned two medals last year (she also earned silver in the women’s 400 IM).
Grimes comes in as the 2nd seed this year, entering with her 15:44.89 from last summer. That swim makes Grimes the 9th-fastest performer of all-time in the event. So far this year, Grimes has been as fast as 15:56.27. Unlike the majority of the other swimmers in this field, Grimes has the luxury of a lighter schedule on her side. She’s only entered in the 400 IM and 1500 free, which means she’ll be on the fresher side compared to many others in the event when it rolls around.
Additionally, Grimes is already swimming well in Fukuoka, though she hasn’t dove into the competition pool yet. As a member of USA Swimming’s open water team, Grimes earned a bronze medal about a week ago in the women’s 10k. We’ll see if she’s able to carry that momentum into the pool this week.
This field also features Lani Pallister of Australia. Pallister took home the bronze medal in the event last summer, clocking a 15:48.96. Like Grimes, Pallister’s swim from last summer still stands as her personal best in the event. Also like Grimes, she’s entered at these World Championships with her time from last summer. Pallister comes in as the 3rd seed.
With her 15:48, Pallister is in striking distance of the Australian Record in the event, which is held by Maddy Gough at 15:46.13. She’s a little further off the Oceanic Record in the event, which is held by Lauren Boyle at 15:40.14.
Pallister, the 14th-fastest performer in history in the event, has been 15:56.31 already this year, putting her right in line with the bulk of this field. She seems to be in good form heading into this meet, which means she stands a very good chance of earning another medal in the event.
OTHER EUROPEAN STARS
Europe has no shortage of talented women’s distance swimmers. Leading the way is Italian distance star Simona Quadarella. The 24-year-old comes into this World Championship as the #5 seed in the event with her season best of 15:53.29. That puts Quadarella in a favorable position heading into the meet, as she has the 3rd-fastest season best in the field.
Quadarella wears the badge of being the only swimmer in this field other than Katie Ledecky to have won gold in the 1500 at an LC World Championships. She, of course, won gold at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju after Ledecky pulled out of the event due to illness. While facing a Ledecky-less field is obviously a different challenge than a race with Ledecky, Quadarella took full advantage of the opportunity in Gwangju. She sped to a huge new personal best and Italian Record of 15:40.89. That time made Quadarella the #4 performer all-time in the event, a position which she still holds today.
Last summer, Quadarella was on form in prelims at Worlds, swimming a 15:56.19 to earn the 2nd seed for the final. Unfortunately, in the final, Quadrella was off the mark, taking 5th in 16:03.84. While that was a disappointing result for her, she’s absolutely not to be overlooked. Quadarella is still the 2nd-fastest swimmer in this field based off career bests, and she’s only 24 years old.
Germany’s Isabel Gose is swimming extremely well this year as well. Gose, 21, has already clocked personal bests in a number of her top events already this year. Most notably, those PBs include an 8:19.65 in the 800 free and a 15:56.80 in the 1500 free. Her 15:56 1500 came just a few weeks ago at the German National Championships, which took place at the beginning of this month. Gose clearly has the talent to be in this final in Fukuoka. Really, the only question surrounding her is whether she’ll be able to replicate the PB performance just 3 weeks later.
Another European distance star, and perhaps the most interesting, though not for purely swimming reasons, is Anastasiia Kirpichnikova. An accomplished European distance swimmer, the 23-year-old Kirpichnikova is from Russia. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, since which World Aquatics has barred Russia from sanctioned World Aquatics events, a number of Russian swimmers have gone through the process of changing their nationality for competition. Kirpichnikova is one such swimmer. She now competes for France, and this week will mark her first World Championships as a member of the French team.
She’s a very talented distance swimmer. Perhaps her greatest accomplishment of her career to this point is when she swept the women’s distance events (400, 800, 1500 free) at the 2021 SC European Championships. She’s also earned silver medals in the 800 free and 1500 free at LC European Champs.
Kirpichnikova holds a personal best of 15:50.22 in the 1500 free, a time which she swam at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago. So far in 2023, Kirpichnikova has been as fast as 16:04.89 in the 1500.
BEST OF THE REST
China’s Li Bingjie, though she’s historically been a bit inconsistent, has been having a terrific year. She clocked a number of career bests at the Chinese National Championships in May, including a very speedy 15:51.21 in the 1500 free.
With that performance, the 21-year-old is seeded 4th coming into the meet, entering behind only Ledecky, Grimes, and Pallister. She competed in the event at last summer’s World Championships in Budapest, however, she had a bit of an off prelims performance and finished 9th in 16:13.92.
Bingjie has the speed to medal in this event, but this field looks like it will be a little faster than last year’s, so she has to avoid the prelims woes this year. Judging by the personal bests, as well as season best, in this field, it very well could take something close to 16:00 to advance to the final. If that’s the case, Bingjie, along with everyone else in the field (other than Ledecky), doesn’t have that much room for error.
Australia’s Moesha Johnson is another swimmer who has been under 16:00 already this season. The 25-year-old was a finalist last summer in Budapest, finishing 4th in 15:55.75, which still stands as her personal best.
Johnson has been great this year already as well. She holds a season best of 15:58.82 currently. It’s also worth noting that Australia has some history of swimming well at the World Championships in a pre-Olympic year. Of course, that’s not necessarily true on an individual basis, however, it is another reason to potentially be high on both Pallister and Johnson’s prospects this week.
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DARK HORSE: Gao Weizhong, China – Just 15 years old, China’s Gao Weizhong is the youngest swimmer in this field. Nonetheless, she’s seeded 8th heading into the meet, having clocked a huge new personal best of 16:01.13 at the Chinese National Championship in May. She’s facing an uphill battle, as there is a big group of experienced swimmers ahead of her who have been under 16:00 before, but sometimes youth can be a huge advantage. All it would take is a fast enough prelims swim to make it through to the final. If she were to make it in to the final, we’d be talking about a 15-year-old going out to race with absolutely nothing to lose, which has proven to be a recipe for great things in this sport many times before.