Disclaimer: BlueSeventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The BlueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
While Katie Ledecky has been a downright terror for opponents since her big breakthrough in 2012, the one saving grace has been that her dominance was always confined to the freestyles, specifically the distance races.
But now, nowhere is safe.
Ledecky’s Olympic gold medal in the 200 free was one major step in that direction, and her starring role on the American 4×100 free relay in Rio proved she could contend down into the longer sprint races. But this week, Ledecky took another gargantuan leap in extending her shadow further across the sport. Katie Ledecky broke an American record – in the 400 IM.
It was a favorite topic of speculation for years. Who wouldn’t want to see the greatest distance swimmer of all-time pick off poor, dying saps at the end of a 400 IM? It’s like getting to watch a first-round NFL draft prospect at defensive tackle steamroll helpless middle-tier college linemen. But it always seemed a bit of a longshot. There’s a pretty significant difference between swimming fast freestyle for a long time and alternating between four different strokes against high-level swimmers who don’t have a weak stroke.
Until last weekend, when Ledecky went 3:57.68 to become the fastest American 400 yard IMer in history. The swim constituted a three-second drop for Ledecky, and she’s now cut a full 10 seconds off her best time since late 2015. If that progression curve continues, Ledecky could challenge the U.S. Open record of 3:56.54 set by Katinka Hosszu. That stands as the fastest 400 IM in women’s swimming history.
When she swam that race back in 2012, Hosszu closed in a stunning 53.58 for her freestyle leg. In 2017, Ledecky closed her 400 IM in 52.67.
Talk about scary. 400 IMers, you now have something in common with distance freestylers. None of you are safe from the wrath of Ledecky.
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