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:
|Ledecky||Old NAG (800 front-half)||58.81||1:01.14||1:02.15||1:02.24||4:04.34|
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).