Day 1 United States Report: Ledecky Breaks American Record; Takes Another Step in Development

Every time we see Katie Ledecky in the pool, she does something new that astounds us. Every time we see her in the water, she has a new gear, a new event, or a new kick that we haven’t seen before. En route to this World Championship meet, she showed all three.

This race might have been all three. Ledecky didn’t swim the 400 free last year at the Olympics, but she did show her potential with a split in the 800 free that was the American National Age Group Record.

This year, with an eye on stopping at the 400 in this, her first race, the expectations were high, and Ledecky flew to meet them.

She swam a 3:59.82, which is the second-fastest swim in the history of this event, the fastest not done in a polyurethane suit, the second woman under four minutes, a new United States 15-16 National Age Group Record, and a new American Record.

Let’s start with some comparative splits:

100m 200m 300m 400m Total
Ledecky New AR 58.12 1:00.62 1:00.55 1:00.53 3:59.82
Schmitt Old AR 58.11 1:01.77 1:01.23 1:00.66 4:01.77
Ledecky Old NAG (800 front-half) 58.81 1:01.14 1:02.15 1:02.24 4:04.34
Pellegrini Current WR 58.66 1:00.76 1:00.51 59.22 3:59.15

So what are we looking at here? Katie Ledecky went out in the 4th-fastest 200 free (1:58.74) we’ve seen among the fifty fastest 400 frees in history, and she was still able to negative-split the last three hundreds.

Now, she’s not quite to the level of control that Federica Pellegrini had in 2008 and 2009 in polyurethane (Pellegrini could go out in 1:58, or she could come home in 1:59), but short of that, Ledecky has found her wheel-house. She knows she has a history of starting too fast, but she’s now been able to combine that with an ability to finish very fast as well. That’s dangerous.

The American women’s 400 free relay was incredible. The American men’s 400 free relay was disappointing. But Ledecky, under four minutes, was the story of the day for the Americans at the 2013 World Championships.

Other Thoughts on the USA

  • Missy Franklin was the only carryover from last year’s finals, where the Americans took bronze. None of the other three finalists swam even in prelims this year.
  • Megan Romano is a monster.
  • Dana Vollmer said she was sick for the last two days, and is feeling better each day.
  • Eugene Godsoe stepped up for his big-boy meet.
  • Nic Fink wasn’t done after Trials, he dropped time again here to go 59.8 and final in the 100 breaststroke.
  • Connor Jaeger’s speed, like Ledecky’s, is coming around this year.
  • Claire Donahue is taking her 100 butterflies out really fast.
  • Did Jimmy Feigen get put through to finals on 400 free relay because he was 2nd at Trials? Or because the coaches thought he was the best option? Would be an interesting answer to hear.
  • Missy Franklin looks good. She just missed her best time in the 100 free (from Trials) with a 53.51 relay leadoff.
  • Megan Romano’s swim was the second-fastest 100 freestyle split in American history, behind only the 52.44 that Dara Torres did at the Beijing Olympics.
  • Adrian’s 47.95 isn’t what anybody wanted, but it is his fastest time of the year. Reports are that he was vomiting behind the medal podium after the race, so we know he went all-out.
  • Putting Coughlin on the finals relay paid off in a big way. What would have been had she been on the finals relay in London?

Katie Ledecky, NAG Record, 15-16 girls’ 400 free
New Record: 3:59.82. Old Record: Katie Ledecky 4:04.34, 2012 (was a 4:04.05 in prelims as well, technically the old record).

Katie Ledecky, NAG Record, American Record, women’s 400 free
New Record: 3:59.82. Old Record: Allison Schmitt 4:01.77, 2012

Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin, Shannon Vreeland, Megan Romano, American Record, women’s 400 free
New Record: 3:32.31. Old Record: Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal
(Read more here on that record).

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Ledecky’s performance was well beyond my expectations, and by margin, and I didn’t believe she is capable of breaking the 4 minutes barrier. She gave me a big slap in my face. Ouch!

I’m pleased that Spanish swimmer managed to medal.

Muffat! What’s wrong with you! There are clearly some psychological issues which relates somehow to the Agnel-Pellerin drama. She didn’t even try over the last 200 metres and even I could see it. You must concentrate on and get your mind back in order. I hope it so much!

I do believe that I don’t have to say my picks went horribly wrong… again. 🙁

Lane Four

If everyone thinks Ledecky’s 400 freestyle was monstrous, just wait for the 800 and the 1500. She will be HUGE on the 800 relay!

C Martin

I agree. Can’t wait for her other distance events. If only she had kept the 200! It might’ve meant five golds for her (I’m getting ahead of myself, but still)!


Ledecky will smash both those world records.


“Did Jimmy Feigen get put through to finals on 400 free relay because he was 2nd at Trials? Or because the coaches thought he was the best option? Would be an interesting answer to hear.” Interesting that your hindsight question for the men’s sprint relay was with regards to Feigen and not you know who. But Feigen earned his spot in the prelims with a solid lead off split (as did Berens in my opinion). He didn’t swim as well in the evening but you can’t put that on the coaches. They could have done what the women’s coaches did with Vreeland and just promote the 2nd place trials finisher direct to the finals without a morning swim. The only… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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