TritonWear and SwimSwam are bringing you the best in swimming race analysis. With the power of TritonWear, you can have an in-depth analysis of your practice every day with zero effort. Today we are having a closer look at one of the fiercest duels in swimming: Katie Ledecky vs. Rebecca Adlington.
In anticipation for the women’s 800 freestyle at the 2012 Olympics in London, commentators described the race as the “biggest moment in British swimming for who knows how long.” While the results may not have met Great Britain’s expectations, this race was certainly an epic showdown featuring some of the greatest distance swimmers in recent history, and it marks the international debut of American superstar Katie Ledecky.
Rebecca Adlington, the defending Olympic Champion and world record holder in the event, was seeking victory again in front of a home crowd. She was in the center of the pool next to Ledecky in lane 3, who was already making a name for herself at only 15 years of age. On Adlington’s other side was Lotte Friis of Denmark who qualified second after prelims, and Mireia Belmonte García of Spain who had her sights set on the podium.
Expectations for each of these competitors were high as they hit the water. The swimmers in the middle of the pool fought for the lead over the first 150 meters of the race. But as they approached the 200 meter turn, Ledecky broke away from the rest of the field and flipped under the two-minute mark, faster than world record pace.
By the halfway point at 400 meters, Ledecky had a sizeable lead on Adlington, who was fighting hard to fend off Lotte Friis of Denmark in third spot. But they weren’t free of other competitors; the 400-meter mark is where Belmonte García made her move to challenge for the medals. She picked up her pace considerably – while she’d averaged slower splits than Adlington on the first half of the race, she turned the tables on her British competitor for the rest of the swim. Check out their “Split Time” lines cross over after 400 meters on the analysis graph.
The roar of the crowd swelled as the swimmers hit the 600-meter wall. Belmonte García blasted off the turn and threw down a split of 31 seconds flat on the next length, her fastest since the first hundred of the race. It was enough to surpass Friis, who was fading quickly, and nearly equal Adlington, who had also fallen off pace. But nobody stood a chance of catching Ledecky – astonishingly, she began to increase her speed on the final 200 meters, from 1.59 meters per second to 1.6 to 1.64 on the final length.
As Adlington’s splits dropped into the 32-second range and Belmonte García moved up into second place, Ledecky extended her lead. She surged down the final length and became the youngest female to ever win the 800 freestyle, missing the world record by just half a second with an impressive 8:14.63. Belmonte García touched over 4 seconds later to claim the silver medal, followed by Adlington, who settled for bronze.
This was only the beginning of Ledecky’s freestyle dominance. Four years later in Rio, she would hold 40 strokes per length with phenomenal efficiency to smash the world record in 8:04.79.
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Swimming news release is courtesy of Tritonwear, a SwimSwam partner.