How can you compare
a Katie Ledecky swim
to anyone else?
Closing out the San Antonio PSS, Katie Ledecky won the 800m free in a time of 8:13.64. That is the 22nd fastest time of her career, which also happens to be the 22nd fastest time of all time. With that swim, Ledecky now holds the 23 fastest performances of all time. Rebecca Adlington‘s former World Record of 8:14.10 comes in at #24, followed by four more Ledecky swims, then Wang Jianjiahe‘s Asian Record of 8:14.64 is #29, followed by yet another Ledecky swim at #30.
Put differently, Ledecky has 24 of the top 25 swims of all time, 28 of the top 30, and ultimately 50 of the top 200. That is a rarefied air of dominance. For some context, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte combined have only 47 of the top 200 performances in the 200m LCM IM (Phelps has 22, Lochte has 25. Surprisingly to us, neither of them actually has the most performances of those top 200).
Put differently still, here’s a visual representation of the 200 fastest performances of all time. The blue dots are Katie Ledecky, and the red dots here are anyone else:
I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at other events that we think of as being dominated by a single person. Both how many of the top performances in an event and how many of the top 25 performances they own. Nobody has all 25 of the top 25 performances quite yet, although some are close.
In terms of the next most top consecutive times? Adam Peaty has the top 18 performances in the 100 Breast LCM, followed by Sarah Sjostrom with the top 16 performances in the 50 Fly LCM, and then we return to Katie Ledecky with the top 15 swims in the 500 Free SCY.
In terms of the next most of the top 25? Sjostrom and Peaty flip here, with Sjostrom having 23/25 in the 50 Fly LCM and Peaty having 21/25 in the 100 Breast LCM. Katinka Hosszu also has 21 of the top 25 swims all time in the 100 IM SCM. Though Ledecky is not behind, having 20 each in the 500 Free SCY and 400 Free LCM.
And if we go one level deeper, and look in terms of the most appearances in the top 200 performances list? There, Ledecky’s 50 of the top 200 is actually not the most represented event. That honor goes to the Iron Lady, who owns a whopping 76 of the top 200 performances in the 100 IM SCM. Close on her heels is Alia Atkinson, with 74/200 in the 50 Breast SCM, and then a tie at 68 between Hosszu again in the 200 IM SCM and Sjostrom in the 100 Fly LCM. Ledecky is a mere fifth in this category, but actually in the 400 Free LCM (where she holds 65 of the top 200 swims).
Here’s a full table of all the events in which a swimmer has at least the top two times.
|Event||Swimmer||Top N||Of Top 25||Of Top 200|
|W 800 Free LCM||Katie Ledecky||23||24||50|
|M 100 Breast LCM||Adam Peaty||18||21||50|
|W 50 Fly LCM||Sarah Sjostrom||16||23||71|
|W 500 Free SCY||Katie Ledecky||15||20|
|W 100 IM SCM||Katinka Hosszu||13||21||76|
|M 50 Free SCY||Caeleb Dressel||12||13|
|W 1500 Free LCM||Katie Ledecky||11||14||19|
|W 200 IM SCM||Katinka Hosszu||11||17||68|
|M 50 Breast LCM||Adam Peaty||8||18||59|
|W 400 Free LCM||Katie Ledecky||7||20||65|
|W 1650 Free SCY||Katie Ledecky||6||7|
|W 100 Breast SCY||Lilly King||6||15|
|M 100 Free SCY||Caeleb Dressel||5||10|
|M 100 Back SCM||Kliment Kolesnikov||4||9||24|
|W 50 Back SCM||Kira Toussaint||4||9||19|
|W 1000 Free SCY||Katie Ledecky||4||16|
|M 50 Fly SCM||Nicholas Santos||3||6||29|
|W 200 Breast SCY||Lilly King||3||7|
|M 200 Free LCM||Paul Biedermann||2||4||16|
|M 100 Fly LCM||Caeleb Dressel||2||8||12|
|M 200 IM LCM||Ryan Lochte||2||9||25|
|M 50 Free SCM||Caeleb Dressel||2||7||13|
|M 800 Free SCM||Grant Hackett||2||2||4|
|M 100 IM SCM||Caeleb Dressel||2||3||6|
|M 200 IM SCM||Ryan Lochte||2||4||9|
|W 50 Free LCM||Sarah Sjostrom||2||14||50|
|W 200 Back LCM||Regan Smith||2||4||13|
|W 100 Fly LCM||Sarah Sjostrom||2||17||68|
|W 200 Free SCM||Sarah Sjostrom||2||7||19|
|W 50 Breast SCM||Alia Atkinson||2||11||74|
|W 100 Breast SCM||Alia Atkinson||2||14||52|
|W 50 Fly SCM||Therese Alshammar||2||2||15|
|W 50 Free SCY||Abbey Weitzeil||2||9|
|W 100 Free SCY||Simone Manuel||2||8|
|M 500 Free SCY||Kieran Smith||2||2|
|M 1650 Free SCY||Bobby Finke||2||3|
|M 100 Back SCY||Ryan Murphy||2||6|
|M 100 Breast SCY||Ian Finnerty||2||7|
|M 200 Breast SCY||Will Licon||2||7|
|M 100 Fly SCY||Caeleb Dressel||2||7|
|M 400 IM SCY||Chase Kalisz||2||6|
*Note that the SCY performances don’t have a count for the top 200 times due to lack of available data.
One of the interesting rows that stuck out for me was Grant Hackett in the 800 Free SCM. He has the top two times, but only two of the top 25, and only four of the top 200. Another is Caeleb Dressel in the 100 IM SCM. His 6 ISL swims last season in this event are probably his only swims in that event, and they make up the top 2, and 3 of the top 25. Meanwhile, Vladimir Morozov has 36 of the top 200, including the other 14 of the top 25, and the other 7 of the top 10 that aren’t Dressel. We’ll just have to wait and see what another ISL season will do to some of the SCM distributions.