Katie Ledecky Was (Much) Faster in 3 of 4 Events Versus 2021 Olympic Trials

The ultimate test of Katie Ledecky‘s decision to move from her collegiate training home at Stanford to the University of Florida will come in about a month’s time in Paris, but the early returns from the Olympic Trials were encouraging, to say the least.

Racing mostly unchallenged by her domestic counterparts, Ledecky won the 200 free, 400 free, 800 free, and 1500 free at last week’s Olympic Trials. While none were lifetime bests, and only two (the 400 and 1500) were even season bests, the results were still very encouraging for the 27-year-old.

At an age well-past where most elite female distance swimmers have historically seen improvements in their times, Ledecky is, at least quad-over-quad, ahead of schedule.

Time Change, Indy to Omaha

Indy 2024 Omaha 2021
Time Drop in Indy
200 free 1:55.22 1:55.11 +.11
400 free 3:58.35 4:01.27 -2.92
800 free 8:14.12 8:14.62 -.50
1500 free 15:37.35 15:40.50 -3.15

She had big drops in the 400, 800, and 1500 freestyles relative to the 2021 Trials, and was just-off her time in the 200 free.

After 2021, she went on to win the 800 free, 1500 free, and finish 2nd in the 800 free relay and 400 free.

Ledecky is at an interesting point in her career. There is fairly-universal agreement that she is the best distance swimmer in history. There is diminishing debate about her status as the best female swimmer in history. And there’s probably not enough runway for her to catch Michael Phelps as the best swimmer in history.

As Caeleb Dressel addressed in an interview over the weekend, it’s unlikely that Ledecky will ever go a best time ever again, at least in a primary event.

But there are still wins that she can take. There is history to be made: she can join Phelps as the second-ever swimmer to ever win the same event at four straight Olympic Games. She can also take the all-time medals lead away from Jenny Thompson (though Australian Emma McKeon is in that hunt as well with 11 so far and two relay medals likely in Paris).

But there are also personal victories to be won. Or even victories, period. She lost a distance race, while healthy, for the first time in a long time earlier this year. So now she has races, battles, and so far she’s rising to the occasion.

The energy around Ledecky in Indianapolis was palpable. Her name was repeated by almost every young swimmer in attendance (including other qualifiers) as their favorite swimmer. She was the biggest force of the biggest swim meet that we’ve ever seen. She is in her golden era, with nothing to prove, but still everything to offer when it comes to inspiration.

Ledecky says that she’s swimming on to the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics, so this is not necessarily her swan song. But it is a new chapter for her, and while it has not been as seamless as prior portions of the story, a month from the big show, she is sitting atop a wave,


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19 days ago

The way she finished her finals races and the expression on her face, I’m not convinced that she was fully rested or properly rested. She was usually out well, near the world record splits, but couldn’t bring it home. It doesn’t seem like it was a lack of training so it does seem she lacked a bit more rest to have her back halves improved.

Reply to  SwimCoachDad
19 days ago

Katie Ledecky has an obsession with historical times which has recently gone completely overboard in the W 1500 FR. No one is demanding that Katie Ledecky post a Top 25 All-Time Performance in the heats (15:39.73) of the W 1500 FR. The cumulative effect is felt later in the competition which was the case in the final of the W 800 FR.

Katie Ledecky is no longer the 18 year old at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships breaking the World Record in the heats and final of the W 1500 FR. At the age of 27, managing the energy expended in the heats of the W 1500 FR and the W 800 FR is at an all-time premium.

Last edited 19 days ago by Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  SwimCoachDad
19 days ago

If that’s the case why was she obviously p1ssed after the 800 free? It’s pretty clear she was expecting a much faster time.

20 days ago

Schedule – minimum work load
W 400 FR – heats, final
W 1500 FR – heats, final
W 4 x 200 FR-R – final
W 800 FR – heats, final
Total – 5600 meters

Major International Competitions
Katie Ledecky
W 800 FR
Year – Heats, Final
2013 – 8:20.65, 8:13.86
2015 – 8:19.42, 8:07.39
2017 – 8:20.24, 8:12.68
2019 – 8:17.42, 8:13.58
2021 – 8:15.67, 8:12.57
2022 – 8:17.51, 8:08.04
2023 – 8:15.60, 8:08.87

Olympic Team Trials
Katie Ledecky
W 800 FR
Year – Heats, Final
2021 – 8:16.61, 8:14.62
2024 – 8:17.70, 8:14.12

Faster times posted in the heats does not historically produce the fastest times in the final.

20 days ago

The not to exceed splits for the 27 year old Katie Ledecky in the women’s 800 meter freestyle.

Katie Ledecky
Women’s 800 meter freestyle
100 FR – 0:59.0
200 FR – 2:00.5
300 FR – 3:02.0
400 FR – 4:03.5

20 days ago

As Caeleb Dressel addressed in an interview over the weekend, it’s unlikely that Ledecky will ever go a best time ever again

This makes it sound like Dressel said Ledecky is unlikely to go a best time ever again. Not so. He didn’t even say he was “unlikely” to do so. He said he doesn’t know.

Reply to  M L
20 days ago

Lol yea I thought that wording was misleading

Reply to  M L
20 days ago

Katie Ledecky doesn’t need to post a personal best time to win the gold medal in the women’s 800 meter freestyle or women’s 1500 meter freestyle.

Nick B
20 days ago

Ledecky set incredibly high standards from 2016-2018 in the 400,800, & 1500, and has not improved since. That said, it really doesn’t matter that much. She is the greatest female distance swimmer of all time, and even though she hasn’t improved at all in 6-8 years, the standard she set was so high, that the rest of the world hasn’t come remotely close to her best times in the 800 & 1500, and only finally caught up to her 3 years ago in the 400.

She makes a lot of money in swimming, and moving from California to Florida certainly helped in that regard because Florida is a no income tax state. As she continues to win golds in the… Read more »

Reply to  Nick B
20 days ago

The gold standard was Katie Ledecky’s performance at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships:

W 400 FR heats/final – 800 meters
W 1500 FR heats/final – 3000.meters
W 200 FR heats/semis/final – 600 meters
W 4 x 200 FR-R final – 200 meters
W 800 FR heats/final – 1600 meters
Total – 6200 meters

W 1500 FR – 15:25.48
W 800 FR – 8:07.39

20 days ago

Katie Ledecky
W 1500 FR
2021 Olympic Team Trials – 15:43.10
2021 Summer Olympics – 15:35.35
2023 World Championships – 15:41.22
2024 Olympic Team Trials – 15:39.73

It’s as if the critics got under the skin of Katie Ledecky about her 1500 meter freestyle performances and now she has to prove it in the heats of the 1500 meter freestyle.

Katie Ledecky
W 1500 FR
2022 World Championships – 15:47.02

What happened to common sense?

Tea rex
21 days ago

Just some thoughts that percolated watching her destroy yet another 1500:

It’s amazing to me that she’s still motivated. She must really enjoy the process to be so sure she’ll keep going another 4 years.

So many (male?) swimmers, after they get the results they dreamed of, find out that “staying on top” isn’t as much fun as climbing the mountain. Thinking Phelps, Dressel, Milak, Peaty… I admire KL, and a bit Sjostrom, for seeming willing to ride the peaks and valleys of a career, accepting the highest peak is probably behind them.

Reply to  Tea rex
20 days ago

Same thiing with Chase Kalisz I think after 2017 worlds he got to the top of the heap and sorta lost interest. It would be interesting to hear from her why she keeps at it with such intensity for this long

Last edited 20 days ago by Taa
Reply to  Taa
20 days ago

Kalisz also got injured after that. He was nursing a shoulder problem in Tokyo.

IM fan
Reply to  Taa
20 days ago

Oh. Is that how you win a 400 IM Gold in 2021. You get to the top of the heap and sorta lose interest.

Is that how it worked, Chase?


Reply to  IM fan
19 days ago

He was lucky to medal with that time he was sub 4:06 in 2017. 2021 Chase was not close to his peak

Reply to  Tea rex
20 days ago

I’m just playing armchair psychologist but it seems to me that Katie is more laid back/less stressed about racing which would make competing more mentally sustainable for herself. Phelps and Peaty had some lofty publicly known goals that I’m sure put a lot of mental pressure on them (8x gold, defend Olympic gold in 100 breast) and Caeleb had a long 8 year journey from his first international team (2013 jr worlds) to his first individual Olympic gold.

By comparison, Katie seems pretty content to just race. I’m sure she wants to 4peat and even 5peat in the 800 but I haven’t seen anything about it being a goal that she’s super set on. She’s been consistently winning golds… Read more »

21 days ago

Her times in the 2022 and 2023 trials are being compared and no one considers that in both meets the 800 was her first event without heats. In 2022 she swam the 1500 in 15:38.99 and went 15:30 at worlds. Last year she was so fast, but the world champs started only 2 weeks later. Even though Titmus can drop big times, I don’t doubt it, needs a PB in the last event at olympics and her schedule will be way tougher than trials. Katie is the GOAT and deserves credit that she will be fine at Olympics.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. 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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