Ledecky’s String of Individual Victories Ends with 200 Free Silver

by Robert Gibbs 67

July 26th, 2017 International, News


All good things must come to an end.  Tonight, Katie Ledecky dove into the pool in the finals of the women’s 200 freestyle having won gold in every single individual event she had swum at the international level.  That’s 13-0 across two Olympic Games and three World Championships, 17-0 if you include Pan Pacs.

Given Ledecky’s endurance, it wasn’t too concerning that she started a little slow.  But, world record holder Federica Pellegrini outsplit Ledecky 28.82 to 29.75, to win by over four-tenths of a second, as Ledeck tied with Australia Emma McKeon for 2nd.

Thus ended Ledecky’s streak of utter dominance that began in 2012, when Ledecky, a relatively unknown 15 year-old at the time, stormed out to a massive lead in the 800 free at the Olympics and never looked back, shocking the world and earning a gold medal well before she’d gotten her driver’s license.

Barcelona 2013 World Championships, Gold Coast 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, Kazan 2015 World Championships, and Rio 2016 Olympics — Ledecky swept the 200, 400, 800, and 1500 freestyle each and every time, and it was getting hard not to wonder if she’d ever lose.

She’d already won the 400  and 1500 free this week, and she appeared to be the clear favorite for the 200 as well, especially after she swam a 1:54.69 last night less than an hour after winning the 1500 free.  Obviously, that time would have earned gold tonight if she’d repeated it.  But the signs where there that Ledecky wasn’t just quite as sharp as we’d seen in previous years.

Three individual finals into Worlds, and Ledecky has zero world records.  It’s hard to justify expecting world records, especially given Ledecky’s workload, but it’s hard not to be just a tad disappointed when Ledecky used to set world records at random in season meets.  This also effectively ends Ledecky’s quest to match Missy Franklin’s record of six gold medals at a single world championship.

In her post-race interview, Ledecky wasn’t sure herself what exactly had happened, saying “I just didn’t feel really like myself in the middle of the race.”

There are plenty of possible explanations.  Given her post-race comments, it’s quite possible that she’s feeling just a little ill, something that would definitely compound the effects of a stacked lineup like she has.

Her performances this week could have been affected by the major life change she’s had this year.  After years of training at home and swimming for NCAP, Ledecky made the move across the country to Stanford, and switched coaches and training environment.  She wouldn’t be the first swimmer who’s had a small hiccup after making such a move (although, again, if not setting world records is one’s idea of a hiccup, you’re still doing very very well).

Also, as tough as this may be to comprehend, all swimmers hit their peak at some point, where they stop dropping time like they did when they were younger, and Ledecky may simply have arrived at that point.  That’s not to say she’ll never break another world record, or that she’s destined to become an average swimmer in the near future.  It’s just tough to stay at the level where you’re the top swimmer in multiple events for year after year.

None of this is a knock against Ledecky.  For each of the past four seasons, she’s taken on one of the toughest schedules you’ll ever see, and performed flawlessly.  Especially if she sensed that her training was a bit off this year, she could have paired down her schedule, focused on a couple events and shot for world records.  To be disappointed about “settling” for silver for the first time in well over a dozen individual swims shows how high she has set the bar for herself, and there’s little doubt that that the greatest distance swimmer ever will continue her overall domination to Tokyo and perhaps beyond.

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3 years ago

This can only be good for Katie, who has changed coaches and started university, She will take a lot from this loss and bounce back!

3 years ago

This “article” reads like something I’d expect to see the comments section.

3 years ago

I think Ledecky misses the year-round coaching of Bruce Gemmell. It was a truly remarkable streak.

Reply to  Bill
3 years ago

Well.. also remember Ledecky is human, we might have just seen her limit.. and maybe her program is starting to become too big for her to dominate all events with ease.. Or the college swimming was a drawback for her. Maybe give up NCAA near Tokyo

Reply to  Rafael
3 years ago

Yes, you are right. All those factors may have taken their toll. It was also Ledecky’s weakest event, I just wish it took an epic fast swim to beat her, no offense to Pelligrini who deserves her victory.

Reply to  Bill
3 years ago

It was Pelligrini’s fastest textile time.

Reply to  Peter
3 years ago

No it wasn’t. She was 1:54.55 last year.

Reply to  Bill
3 years ago

I hear Gemmell is mentioned as a possible UVA hire – perhaps he will take that job and Katie transfers to UVA to train for him and with Leah Smith!

Reply to  OldWahooVA
3 years ago

Give up a Stanford education so she can train with a coach just as good as Greg Meehan.

Chia Pet
Reply to  Phil
3 years ago

The education point is valid. I would argue that Bruce has had far better results with distance swimmers, both nationally and internationally, than Greg.