SwimSwam Pulse: 51% Say Ledecky Should Skip Taper For U.S. Trials

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers to weigh in on whether world record-holder Katie Ledecky should


Should Katie Ledecky do a full taper for U.S. Olympic Trials?

  • Yes, she can taper twice in one summer – 5.5%
  • A short rest should be enough to qualify for the Olympics – 43.0%
  • No, she should save a full taper for Rio – 51.5%

SwimSwam readers overwhelmingly expressed their support for no taper or a limited taper for Ledecky in Omaha. 94.5% in all voted for one of those two options.

Ledecky is currently the world record-holder in the 400, 800 and 1500 frees, and won last year’s World Championships gold medals in all three races plus the 200.

She leads the world rankings this season in the three Olympic distances (200, 400 and 800) by wide margins: 0.4 seconds in the 200, nearly 4 in the 400 and a whopping 12 in the 800.

Those margins are likely a big reason why so many voters (51.5%) said Ledecky should save a full taper for the Rio Olympics, having no need to swim best times just to make the U.S. Olympic team. Meanwhile 43% of voters favored only a short rest for Omaha, rather than a full-length taper.

For a distance swimmer like Ledecky, it’s hard to say exactly how long a “full” taper is – many distance swimmers only need to rest a few days to hit their peak performance, so there might not be much difference between a short rest and a full taper in Ledecky’s case.

The focus, say that 94.5% of the voting population, should be on Rio. Fast times and world records at U.S. Trials aren’t nearly as important as gold medals, records and exceptional times in swimming’s greatest spotlight: the Olympic Games.

Though only 5.5% of voters supported a full taper for Ledecky at U.S. Trials, there are some arguments to be made for that case. The U.S. Olympic Trials are unpredictable, and are the deepest Olympic qualifying meet worldwide. Even with comfortable cushions in all her primary events heading into Omaha, Ledecky has to be aware of the fact that no spot on the Olympic team is guaranteed. In 2012, Kate Ziegler and Chloe Sutton looked like the favorites in the 800 until Ledecky exploded and left the two of them suddenly fighting over the same final qualifying spot.

In addition, Ledecky might need a full taper in Omaha if she wants to expand her event lineup for an Olympic spectacle. Ledecky is currently ranked #3 among Americans in the 100 free this season, and could potentially chase an individual or relay berth in that race. She’s also a sneaky-good 400 IMer who could contend there with a big drop – or at least be the field’s most terrifying closer in Omaha.

But without a taper, qualifying in those events seems a longer shot. It’s also not completely out of the question that an untapered Ledecky could face a struggle to earn an individual 200 free slot if Olympic champ Allison Schmitt or 2013 World Champ Missy Franklin are in top form.

The other argument, of course, is that tapering twice in one summer might not hurt Ledecky as much as some fans project. Especially if her taper period is on the shorter end of things, it wouldn’t be difficult at all for Ledecky to crush swims in Omaha, spend several weeks getting back into training and then cut back down shortly before Rio.

Swimmers in the NCAA do it routinely, tapering for their conference meets and finding ways to go even faster at NCAAs. U.S. National Teamers did it in 2013, where World Champs Trials were held in June and the World Championships in August. Last summer, a number of swimmers split time between multiple meets, with some swimming individually at Pan Ams or World University Games, then filling relay roles well at Worlds. Plenty of international swimmers have combined World Champs with Junior Worlds, often with no major dropoff between the meets.

There’s no doubt Ledecky and her coach, Bruce Gemmell, have thought about all of this over the past months. The good news for all American swimming fans is this: the decision is in the hands of Ledecky and Gemmell. And based on their track record since 2012, trusting that duo to make the right decision seems like the safest bet of all.


Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks whether fans think Ryan Lochte will enter the 400 IM at Olympic Trials:

Will Ryan Lochte swim 400 IM at U.S. Olympic Trials?

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A3 Performance, Legend


A3 Performance was founded in 2004 and is based in Wisconsin. A3 Performance was founded on the ideals that great products could be made and offered at great prices. Innovation and purpose is the focus of all product development. The swimmer is the focus of everything we do.

The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner

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6 years ago

If she wants to win or qualify individually for the 200 free I think she has to taper at least a little bit

Coach B
6 years ago

The interesting thing about Ledecky is that I think she needs both free relays to increase her star power. Sure we know who she is . . . but I still feel like Missy has more star power amongst the casual/Olympic fans. Katie swims events that don’t get the casual Olympic fan excited. A short rest (whatever that means for Ledecky) will secure her spot on those relays. I get the feeling the Ledecky camp doesn’t care about star power (where the Missy camp does) but she would be wise to increase her profile for when she turns pro.

6 years ago

I think ledecky should taper fully and then swim against the men for an Olympic spot!!!

6 years ago

Taper is an interesting notion & specific to swimming it seems. Track stars run fast all season , bballers go for every game or they won’t get to finals, boxers tune up increasingly with the best sparring partners they can find , ice skaters are doing their full routines dec -march with incremental improvements via feedback from audience & judges.

Why are swimmers in some sort of cave then they Tralaah ! -out they come to swim fast? I heard from good authority that thorpe did WRs in training the week prior to a big meet. So for him he just had to maintain that focus for the comp. I think KL is somewhere in this zone. If she… Read more »

Reply to  G.I.N.A.
6 years ago

Great way to put it. Taper is so overrated and overused snd it head jobs many people. You just ease up some and then get to it. The part of the track people is right on. Years back the Aussie runner in 40 days broke many world records in long events running every few days. The best reply I have seen in a long time.

Reply to  G.I.N.A.
6 years ago

Interesting input. I was a college swimmer, college swim coach, and since, I did some marathons and Ironman races. I swam through college in the early-mid 90’s, and as a distance swimmer, I was still trained a bit in the old “animal lane” style. Taper was a chance to recover some. I generally did pretty well. As a coach, I’d use the time to “sharpen” everyone’s critical skills: speed, starts, breakouts, turns, finishes, racing starts, plus get a little rest in there. It seemed to work pretty well, also. I had one swimmer who missed 5 full days of practice because of a snow storm, and he didn’t swim a stroke before we got on the bus for conference, and… Read more »

6 years ago

yeah I agree with a minimal taper because she needs to make the 4×200 and 4×100 relays she’d be perfectly fine making the team with the 400 and 800 untapered but I wouldn’t risk it with those relays

6 years ago

Just ask a previous world record holder, Andy Coan, if skipping a taper and aiming for the Olympics is a good idea.

Reply to  BlueSky75
6 years ago

Are you saying Andy Coan who broke Jim Montgomery’s 100 free WR didn’t get to swim in Montreal Olympics, not even in relays, because he was actually aiming, tapering and peaking for Montreal?!

That’s tragic.

6 years ago

Can we please have a poll……should Cate & Bronte Campbell swim with kicking???

Reply to  Stephen
6 years ago

I’d certainly like to know their 100 pull times with a band & no buoy .

6 years ago

She would struggle to make the top 2 in the 200m Free. If she could, without taper, it shows the US women’s 200m team is average at best

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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