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

by Robert Gibbs 67

July 26th, 2017 International, News

2017 FINA WORLD SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS

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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gregor
4 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!

scissorkick
4 years ago

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

Bill
4 years ago

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

Rafael
Reply to  Bill
4 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

Bill
Reply to  Rafael
4 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.

Peter
Reply to  Bill
4 years ago

It was Pelligrini’s fastest textile time.

Prickle
Reply to  Peter
4 years ago

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

OldWahooVA
Reply to  Bill
4 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!

Phil
Reply to  OldWahooVA
4 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
4 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.

Sab
4 years ago

Good that she only lost against Pellegrini. Best 200 free.
She medaled in 7 straight WC in this event

2005 Montreal – Silver
2007 Melbourne – Bronze
2009 Rome – Gold
2011 Shanghai – Gold
2013 – Barcelona – Silver
2015 – Kazan – Silver
2017 – Budapest – Gold

Billabong
Reply to  Sab
4 years ago

And the WR holder. She is the greatest. Babylonian passport holder. The world has ever seen

sven
4 years ago

Eh. She’s been “on” at every big meet for the past 5 years. She’s allowed to have an off-meet once in a while without us claiming she’s plateaued. These things happen.

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  sven
4 years ago

Katie Ledecky
2017 Budapest
Women’s 400 m freestyle – 2nd fastest all time
Women’s 1500 m freestyle – 4th fastest all time

Ledecky is allowed to have an off-race once in a while without claiming she’s plateaued.

Prickle
4 years ago

It’s happening second time this season. It’s like tapering process adds nothing to her speed endurance. Her last fifty together with two sprinters was the worst in this final. Her times in other races are no better than at trials. It’s happened first time in March at NCAA. Then I blamed it on incorrect tapering management that forced her to be fast at Pac-12 for the sake of team interests. Now we see similar situation, but I don’t know what to blame it on. It all is happening to the swimmer who was for five years the model of huge time drop after tapering. Something is definitely going wrong.

Shibly
Reply to  Prickle
4 years ago

She will come back….

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  Shibly
4 years ago

Silver medal.

Must a sign of the coming apocalypse.

Steff
Reply to  Prickle
4 years ago

She doesn’t need to win every race, getting a silver in no way indicates that she isn’t still the best swimmer competing right now.

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  Steff
4 years ago

Amen.

Even if Ledecky missed her taper, it’s not the end of the world.

Since the women’s 1500 m freestyle will be contested in Toyko, Ledecky needs to seriously drop the focus on the 100 m freestyle.

Kirk Nelson
Reply to  Prickle
4 years ago

I’m not sure “incorrect taper management” is appropriate considering Stanford won NCAAs and Ledecky won all her events.

Prickle
Reply to  Kirk Nelson
4 years ago

It is true. She is a great swimmer. And is #1 in 200 this season. But I’m talking about completely different thing. Because of her superiority she may not need tapering at all to win her races. But if she wants to be at her best results or near to them the tapering process becomes important. How 1:53.7 swimmer who was already in 1:54 zone twice this season can swim 1:55.18. The only thing I can think about that that is the consequence of hard yesterday’s races and she hasn’t recovered to the required form. But that is exactly what tapering process is good for : speed endurance and recovery. Your body accumulates resources during tapering period to support such… Read more »

ckh550
4 years ago

Guys, she got second place ONCE for the first time in 5 years. I think she’s going to be fine.

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  ckh550
4 years ago

Yet Katinka Hosszú finished 7th behind Leah Smith and had not swum a race greater than 200 m.

Congratulations to Leah Smith for a personal best in the women’s 200 m freestyle.

lilaswimmer
Reply to  Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
4 years ago

and she’s the “Iron Lady”…imagine if she wasn’t…

Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
Reply to  lilaswimmer
4 years ago

Katinka Hosszú looked more like the wilted lily in the women’s 200 m freestyle.

durchschnitt
Reply to  Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
4 years ago

To be fair she’s not a freestyle swimmer and just entered for the hell of it.

Michael
Reply to  Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
4 years ago

Katinka Hosszu gets 7th in the 200 free, and nobody bats an eye…Katie ledecky gets 2nd in the 200 free and everybody looses their minds!

Michael
Reply to  ckh550
4 years ago

WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!

Swimmer?
4 years ago

Michael Phelps declined in 2005 only to get 7 gold medals in 2007 and 8 in 2008

DMacNCheez
Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

He didn’t really decline, he just tried different events that year, like the backstrokes and 400m free.