2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
- Full aquatics schedule
- SwimSwam Event Previews
- Start Lists & Results
WOMEN’S 800 FREESTYLE
- World Record: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 8:04.79 (2016)
- Olympic Record: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 8:04.79 (2016)
- World Junior Record: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 8:11.00 (2014)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 8:04.79
Katie Ledecky has imposed her will on the rest of the world in the women’s 800 free over the last 9 years in a manner we have rarely, if ever, seen in the sport. The 800 is Ledecky’s bread and butter, and it’s the event where Ledecky made her debut on the world stage back at the 2012 Olympics in London. Ledecky is the 2x defending Olympic champion and 4x defending World champion in the event, having won the 800 at every major international competition since the 2012 Olympics.
In addition to her win streak in the event, Ledecky holds the World Record and Olympic Record in the event, both of which sit at 8:04.79. Her record swim came in the final of the 800 at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Most impressively, Katie Ledecky holds the 24 fastest performances of all-time in the women’s 800 free, and 30 of the top 31 swims of all-time.
|Women’s 800 Freestyle – All-Time Top Performances|
|Rank||Time||Name||Team||Meet Name||Meet City||Meet Country||Date|
|1||8:04.79||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Olympic Games Rio 2016||Rio de Janeiro||BRA||12/08/2016|
|2||8:06.68||LEDECKY Katie||USA||ST Arena Pro Swim at Austin 2016||Austin||USA||17/01/2016|
|3||8:07.27||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Indianapolis PSS 2018||Indianapolis||USA||19/05/2018|
|4||8:07.39||LEDECKY Katie||USA||16th FINA World Championships 2015||Kazan||RUS||08/08/2015|
|5||8:09.13||LEDECKY Katie||USA||13th Pan Pacific Championships 2018||Tokyo||JPN||09/08/2018|
|6||8:10.32||LEDECKY Katie||USA||U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming||Omaha, NE||USA||02/07/2016|
|7||8:10.70||LEDECKY Katie||USA||TYR Pro Swim Series Bloomington||Bloomington||USA||19/05/2019|
|8||8:10.91||LEDECKY Katie||USA||U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming||Omaha, NE||USA||01/07/2016|
|9||8:11.00||LEDECKY Katie||USA||2014 Woodlands Senior Invite||Shenandoah||USA||19/06/2014|
|10||8:11.08||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Santa Clara PSS 2018||Santa Clara||USA||09/06/2018|
|11||8:11.21||LEDECKY Katie||USA||ST TXLA Arena Pro Swim Series 2015||Austin||USA||17/01/2015|
|12||8:11.35||LEDECKY Katie||USA||12th Pan Pacific Championships 2014||Gold Coast||AUS||21/08/2014|
|13||8:11.50||LEDECKY Katie||USA||2017 Summer National Champs||Indianapolis||USA||27/06/2017|
|14||8:11.70||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Indianapolis PSS 2018||Indianapolis||USA||16/05/2018|
|14||8:11.70||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Indianapolis PSS 2018||Indianapolis||USA||16/05/2018|
|16||8:11.98||LEDECKY Katie||USA||USA National Championships (50m)||Irvine||USA||25/07/2018|
|17||8:12.68||LEDECKY Katie||USA||17th FINA World Championships 2017||Budapest||HUN||29/07/2017|
|18||8:12.86||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Olympic Games Rio 2016||Rio de Janeiro||BRA||11/08/2016|
|19||8:13.02||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Arena Pro Swim Series – Mesa 2015||Mesa||USA||18/04/2015|
|20||8:13.20||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Mesa PSS 2016||Mesa||USA||16/04/2016|
|21||8:13.25||LEDECKY Katie||USA||16th FINA World Championships 2015||Kazan||RUS||04/08/2015|
|22||8:13.58||LEDECKY Katie||USA||18th FINA World Championships 2019||Gwangju||KOR||27/07/2019|
|23||8:13.64||LEDECKY Katie||USA||TYR Pro Swim San Antonio 2021||San Antonio||USA||06/03/2021|
|24||8:13.86||LEDECKY Katie||USA||15th FINA World Championships 2013||Barcelona||ESP||03/08/2013|
|25||8:14.10||ADLINGTON Rebecca||GBR||Olympic Games Beijing 2008||Beijing||CHN||16/08/2008|
|26||8:14.24||LEDECKY Katie||USA||TYR Pro Swim Series||Richmond||USA||10/04/2019|
|27||8:14.40||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Winter National Championships 2018||Greensboro||USA||28/11/2018|
|28||8:14.48||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Longhorn Aquatics Elite Invite & Time Trials||Austin||USA||21/05/2021|
|29||8:14.59||LEDECKY Katie||USA||USA Winter National Championships (50m)||Atlanta||USA||04/12/2019|
|30||8:14.62||LEDECKY Katie||USA||US Olympic Team Trials – Wave II||Omaha||USA||19/06/2021|
|31||8:14.63||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Olympic Games London 2012||London||GBR||03/08/2012|
Ledecky will be chasing her 3rd consecutive Olympic Gold in the 800 free, which would mark another historic accomplishment for the 24-year-old. Winning Gold in Tokyo would make Ledecky just the 4th swimmer in history to win 3 Olympic Gold medals in the same individual event. The other swimmers on the list include Michael Phelps, who won the men’s 200 IM at 4 Olympics, Dawn Fraser (3x women’s 100 free champion), and Krisztina Egerszegi (3x women’s 200 back champion).
For Ledecky, the challenge of this race will be based around her time. She hasn’t been under 8:10 in the 800 since August of 2018, almost 3 years ago. Since setting the World Record at 8:04.79 at the 2016 Olympics, the closest she’s been to that time is 8:07.27.
Outside of Katie Ledecky, we have an incredible field of 800 freestylers. In fact, if we shifted to an alternate universe where Ledecky never existed, there would be 4 swimmers in this field within 2.33 seconds of the World Record. Prior to Ledecky bringing the record down to 8:04, the WR was held by Great Britain’s Rebecca Adlington at 8:14.10. Jianjiahe Wang (8:14.64), Simona Quadarella (8:14.99), Ariarne Titmus (8:15.57), and Sarah Kohler (8:16.43) are all near that mark. However, we do live in a world where Katie Ledecky exists, and because of that, we have to discuss who could be vying for Silver and Bronze, and people who may be able push Ledecky if she’s well off her record time.
First on that list is a swimmer who we actually saw push Ledecky to the end of an 800 free at the 2019 World Championships. Ledecky fell ill in Gwangju at those World Championships, ultimately withdrawing from the 200 free and 1500 free due to that illness. In her absence, Quadarella won Gold in the 1500 handily. Ledecky returned to competition for the 4×200 free relay, and the 800 free. In finals of the 800, Quadarella stayed with Ledecky throughout the race, and even took the lead in the back half of the race. Ledecky managed to turn on the jets for the final 50, and pulled away from Quadarella, but nonetheless, Quadarella swam her personal best and an Italian Record of 8:14.99. That time stands as Quadarella’s best to this day.
Next up is Australia’s Ariarne Titmus, who most recently shocked the world with her 1:53.09 200 free and 3:56.90 400 free at the Australian Olympic Trials in June. Titmus is certainly at her most threatening to Ledecky in the 200 free and 400 free, but with her personal best 8:15.57 800 free from Aussie Trials, she poses some threat to Ledecky here as well. Titmus now holds the 2nd-fastest 400 free in history with her 3:56.90, and on top of that, we saw Titmus beat Ledecky in the 400 at 2019 Worlds.
At 2019 Worlds, Quadarella and Titmus took Silver and Bronze respectively, with times of 8:14.99 and 8:15.70. For that reason, Quadarella is our #2 pick, and Titmus our #3. Both swimmers have demonstrated an ability to swim at their best on a big, international stage.
Jianjiahe Wang, a Chinese 19-year-old, enters the meet as the #2 seed, and has the 2nd-fastest lifetime best in the field, behind only Ledecky. Wang clocked her personal best of 8:14.64 at the 2019 Chinese National Championships. Those Championships were held in March. In July of 2019, Wang swam an 8:18.57 at the 2019 World Championships, finishing 6th. Since 2019 Worlds, Wang’s fastest time has been 8:20.38, which she swam in May of this year, at China’s Olympic Trials. The best we’ve seen from Wang would probably be enough for a Silver medal in Tokyo, so if she can get back to her top form, Wang will be a medal contender without a doubt.
Germany’s Sarah Kohler, 27, is another medal contender who has been well under 8:20 in the event before. Kohler was a German Olympian in the 800 free back in 2016, where she made the final, and ultimately finished 8th. At the 2019 World Championships, Kohler had a major breakthrough in the 800. Although she finished 4th in Gwangju, her time of 8:16.43 was a personal best by 4.10 seconds, taking her under 8:20 for the first time in her career.
Kohler’s 8:16 from 2019 Worlds is currently her only performance under 8:20. Since 2019 Worlds, Kohler’s fastest time came from this year, at the German Olympic Trials, where she swam an 8:23.82. Although, she hasn’t been near her 8:16 since she swam it, Kohler did display an ability to swim at her very best on the world stage against the best competition from around the globe. Kohler is among the swimmers we expect to make the final in Tokyo, and if she can go sub-8:20 again, she may just make her way onto the medal stand.
Ledecky, Quadarella, Titmus, Wang, and Kohler make up the most likely medal contenders, but there are several other swimmers who could pull an upset, if they swim lifetime bests. Australia’s Kiah Melverton had an excellent showing at Australian Trials, swimming an 8:19.05. This, of course, means she has also been under 8:20, and has done so this year. Melverton is a top contender to make the final, although it will likely take a faster time than her 8:19 to earn a medal.
Next up is American 15-year-old Katie Grimes, who enters the meet with her lifetime best of 8:20.36, which she swam at U.S. Trials. Grimes, the 2nd-youngest competitor in the field, finds herself in a very similar position to what Katie Ledecky found herself in back at the 2012 Olympics. Then 15 years old, Ledecky made the Olympic final, but wasn’t expected to win Gold, given she was going up against the World Record holder at the time, Rebecca Adlington. As a 15-year-old who is still at a point in her career where she may post multiple significant time drops in a short period of time, Grimes may just explode at these Olympics, and surprise us all.
Russia’s Anastasiia Kirpichnikova won Silver at the European Championships this May, swimming her personal best of 8:21.86. While she would have to drop quite a bit of time to earn a medal, Kirpichnikova could very well make it into the final, and at that point, anything can happen.
TOP PERFORMANCES IN 2016-2021 OLYMPIC CYCLE (1 PER PERSON)
- Katie Ledecky, USA – 8:07.27 (2018)
- Jianjiahe Wang, CHN – 8:14.64 (2019)
- Simona Quadarella, ITA – 8:14.99 (2019)
- Li Bingjie, CHN – 8:15.46 (2017)
- Ariarne Titmus, AUS – 8:15.57 (2021)
- Leah Smith, USA – 8:16.33 (2019)
- Sarah Kohler, GER – 8:16.43 (2019)
- Kiah Melverton, AUS – 8:19.05 (2021)
- Katie Grimes, USA – 8:20.36 (2021)
- Haley Anderson, USA – 8:20.51 (2021)
SWIMSWAM’S TOP 8 PICKS
|PLACE||SWIMMER||COUNTRY||BEST TIME SINCE 2016 OLYMPICS|
Dark Horse – Merve Tuncel (TUR): Turkish 16-year-old Merve Tuncel is fresh off outstanding performances at European Junior Championships. In her first race of the meet, Tuncel clocked a massive lifetime best of 8:21.91 to break the Turkish Record and the European Junior Record. Since the swim was just 2 weeks before the start of the Olympics, Tuncel will still be entered with her previous best – 8:26.06. If Tuncel comes to Tokyo in the same form she was in at Euro Jr’s, she has a chance to make the Olympic final in the 800, without a doubt.