Ledecky’s Dominance In The 800 Free: Incomparable

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.

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tea rex
1 year ago

This doesn’t include her 800 splits on 1500s, does it? I mean, her WR mile split was 8:11.70 to the feet, which seems like it ought to count for something.

Barry
Reply to  tea rex
1 year ago

Yeah, her 800m split from her 1500m world record is the #14 performance. More interestingly, her last 800m split from that race is 8:10.35. That one isn’t on the list (and would be #7).

For that matter, if we take all of her sliding 800m splits from that 1500m, you get: 8:11.70, 8:14.70, 8:14.58, 8:13.65, 8:13.06, 8:12.61, 8:12.42, 8:10.35. Even the slowest one of these would be #30.

It obviously makes sense to count the first 800m split, but it’s an interesting question of what to do about the rest of those.

Barry
Reply to  Barry
1 year ago

Also there’s her world record to consider. The 8:04.79 was split 4:01.98 / 4:02.81. The 4:01.98 shows up on the 400m free list (#60) but the 4:02.81 is not currently counted (would be #89). Those are non-overlapping 400s, so it makes sense to count both right?

old swimmer
1 year ago

Does anyone have any heart rate data for Katie for any of her races. I would love to see that compared to the competition.

Swim&Polo Dad
1 year ago

Blue dots for Ledecky?!? Never. Cardinal would have been much more apropos.

Whoa
1 year ago

Titmus is shivering reading this article…..

Robbos
Reply to  Whoa
1 year ago

Timus is under no disillusion, she knows she will need to beat the WR to Ledecky & hopefully also touch the wall first to beat Ledecky in the 400 free.
She knows that Ledecky is the greatest female swimmer of all time & to challenge her in the 400 takes what no other women can do.
As for 800, I think there is no competition for Ledecky.

Penguin
1 year ago

No disrespect to Katinka Hosszu, she’s actually a beast as far as how many times she swims races at a high level, but can we just acknowledge that 65 x 400 LCM free or 50 x 800 LCM free in a 9 year career is INSANE compared to 76 x 100 SCM IM?

Troll in the Dungeon
Reply to  Penguin
1 year ago

I mean it’s insane on its own – it doesn’t have to be compared to another performance. On that basis, why not just say both are insane swimmers. Comparing apples and oranges – the 400 and 800 may be longer than 100 SCM, but they are not as explosive or intense. Different athletes, different races. Good on both of them for being outstanding in their own particular areas.

Xman
1 year ago

It should be awesome to see on that YouTube show Chart Party.

Out of all her swims her 2019 800 free win will be my favorite. For referance to newer swim nerds, 2019 she was very sick the entire meet .

She lost the 400 free, had to scratch finals of the 1500, and couple other races.

But on the last day she showed her ability to race. She knew how to conserve enough energy and be able to close the race at the end.

I don’t know if we’ll see another world record of her, maybe we will and all of us will be standing in our living rooms cheering her on.

At the same time maybe… Read more »

Louiggi
1 year ago

Katie’s sub 8’/15′ change would force men to early retirement or push them into ows….plz, I do not disrespect anyone, maybe not funny joke, or just a loooong jaw dropping stare that would make cajones grow or shrink.

Last edited 1 year ago by Louiggi
Team Joe-Mentia
1 year ago

Impressive list. Nice research.

Too bad it doesn’t go back to the 1980s. IIRC, Matt Biondi would’ve had the top 5 or 6 times in the 100 free (lc) back then. Yes, he was impressive.