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 1500 Freestyle
- World Record: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 15:20.48 (2018)
- Olympic Record: N/A
- World Junior Record: Katie Ledecky (USA) – 15:28.36 (2014)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: N/A
American freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky is looking to make history yet again next week. Ledecky is the top seed in the first-ever Olympic women’s 1500 free, and as the World Record holder, and the fastest woman in history by a a longshot, she’s the favorite heading into Tokyo. The women’s 1500 free is one of three new events added to the Olympic swimming schedule this year, along with the men’s 800 free, and the mixed 4×100 medley relay.
Ledecky set the current World Record of 15:20.48 at a Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis spring of 2018. In addition to holding the World Record, Ledecky has also swum the 11 fastest women’s 1500s of all-time. She’s swum under 15:40 12 times in her career, while only one other swimmer, Denmark’s Lotte Friis, has ever broken 15:40 before, and Friis only did so one time.
While Ledecky is the clear favorite heading into this meet, it should be noted that the schedule is not in her favor for the 1500. On Day 5, Ledecky will have the final of the women’s 200 free at the beginning of the finals session, and the final of the 1500 scheduled to begin approximately 75 minutes later. Adding to the intensity of this double, Ledecky will have to be at the absolute top of her game in order to win Gold in the 200 free. Due to that, the one thing we know for certain is that Ledecky won’t be fresh for the 1500, while everyone else in the final will be.
Now, although that makes things more difficult for Ledecky in the 1500, it’s still not really a cause for major concern. Ledecky already maneuvered the double quite well at US Trials in June, clocking a 1:55.11 in the 200, then turning around and winning the 1500 in 15:40.50. At US Trials there was a 66-minute gap between when Ledecky climbed out of the pool after the 200 free final, and when she dove in for the 1500, and she still was able to post a faster 1500 time than anyone else in the Olympic field has in their respective careers.
That brings us to Simona Quadarella, the Italian distance star who has been competitive on the world stage since 2015, when she was 16 years old. Now 22, Quadarella is the reigning World Champion in the women’s 1500 free. At the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Katie Ledecky fell ill, and had to pull out of the 200 free and 1500 free. Quadarella took full advantage of the Ledecky-less 1500, swimming a huge lifetime best of 15:40.89, which currently is the 17th-fastest swim all-time in the event, and makes Quadarella the #4 performer all-time in the women’s 1500.
Here is the list of all-time top 21 performances in the women’s LCM 1500 freestyle:
|Women 1500 Freestyle|
|Rank||Time||Name||Team||Meet Name||Meet City||Meet Country||Date|
|1||15:20.48||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Indianapolis PSS 2018||Indianapolis||USA||16/05/2018|
|2||15:25.48||LEDECKY Katie||USA||16th FINA World Championships 2015||Kazan||RUS||04/08/2015|
|3||15:27.71||LEDECKY Katie||USA||16th FINA World Championships 2015||Kazan||RUS||03/08/2015|
|4||15:28.36||LEDECKY Katie||USA||12th Pan Pacific Championships 2014||Gold Coast||AUS||24/08/2014|
|5||15:29.51||LEDECKY Katie||USA||TYR Pro Swim Series Des Moines||Des Moines||USA||04/03/2020|
|6||15:31.82||LEDECKY Katie||USA||17th FINA World Championships 2017||Budapest||HUN||25/07/2017|
|7||15:34.23||LEDECKY Katie||USA||2014 GU TWST Senior Invitational||CISD Natatorium Shanandoah||USA||19/06/2014|
|7||15:34.23||LEDECKY Katie||USA||2014 Woodlands Senior Invite||Shenandoah||USA||19/06/2014|
|9||15:35.65||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Arena Pro Swim Series Santa Clara 2017||Santa Clara||USA||01/06/2017|
|10||15:35.98||LEDECKY Katie||USA||USA Winter National Championships (50m)||Atlanta||USA||07/12/2019|
|11||15:36.53||LEDECKY Katie||USA||15th FINA World Championships 2013||Barcelona||ESP||30/07/2013|
|12||15:38.88||FRIIS Lotte||DEN||15th FINA World Championships 2013||Barcelona||ESP||30/07/2013|
|13||15:38.97||LEDECKY Katie||USA||13th Pan Pacific Championships 2018||Tokyo||JPN||12/08/2018|
|14||15:40.14||BOYLE Lauren||NZL||16th FINA World Championships 2015||Kazan||RUS||04/08/2015|
|15||15:40.50||LEDECKY Katie||USA||US Olympic Team Trials – Wave II||Omaha||USA||16/06/2021|
|16||15:40.55||LEDECKY Katie||USA||TYR Pro Swim Mission Viejo 2021||Mission Viejo||USA||11/04/2021|
|17||15:40.89||QUADARELLA Simona||ITA||18th FINA World Championships 2019||Gwangju||KOR||23/07/2019|
|18||15:42.23||LEDECKY Katie||USA||Arena Pro Swim Series – Mesa 2015||Mesa||USA||15/04/2015|
|19||15:42.54||ZIEGLER Kate||USA||2007 CA SMC||Mission Viejo, CA||USA||17/06/2007|
|20||15:42.92||LEDECKY Katie||USA||TYR Pro Swim San Antonio 2021||San Antonio||USA||03/03/2021|
|21||15:43.10||LEDECKY Katie||USA||US Olympic Team Trials – Wave II||Omaha||USA||15/06/2021|
Notably, Quadarella is the only swimmer, other than Ledecky, to crack the top 20 swims all time in the event. Quadarella has been as fast as 15:48.81 in 2021, which makes her the 3rd-fastest swimmer in the event this year. Last week, Quadarella dealt with gastroenteritis, which delayed her flight to Tokyo by a few days. Upon her departure from Italy, she told reporters she was feeling “well”, so it appears the illness hasn’t had much of a long-term effect on her health.
If Quadarella can be at her lifetime best pace, she might be in position to push Ledecky through the end of the race, depending on the shape Ledecky is in following the 1500.
Behind Quadarella, the 3rd-fastest personal best in this Olympic field belongs to China’s Wang Jianjiahe, who swam a 15:45.59 in 2020. Wang, now 18, also swam a 15:46.69 back in 2019, at a Pro Swim Series in Des Moines, USA. This year, Wang was impressive again at Chinese Nationals, turning in times of 15:51.33 (prelims) and 15:49.07 (finals). Having been under 15:50 3 times in her career, including once already in 2021, Wang is someone we should expect to see racing in the final, and is certainly a medal threat.
Wang’s teammate Li Bingjie enters the meet with a 15:58.35, which she clocked at Chinese Olympic Trials in May. Li, just 19, was at her peak (to this point) in 2017 and 2018, having posted times of 15:52.87 and 15:53.80. Beyond 2018, Lididn’t break 16:00 in the 1500 again, until this May. Her 15:58 2 months ago may be an indication that she’s getting back to her top form from a few years ago. If that’s the case, she’s probably still not a medal contender, but definitely could earn a lane for the final.
Australia’s Maddy Gough put on an excellent performance at Australian Trials in June, clocking a personal best of 15:46.13. With that swim, only Ledecky has been faster than Gough in 2021. The swim was a real breakthrough for Gough, marking a 10-second improvement from her previous best. If Gough is able to repeat, or better, her Trials performance, she’ll very likely earn a medal.
The other Australian in the field is Kiah Melverton, who is also racing the women’s 800 free in Tokyo. Melverton swam a 15:57.14 at Australian Trials in June, which was just off her personal best of 15:56.46, which she swam at Australia’s 2019 World Championships Trials. As her times stand now, Melverton is well outside medal range, but she’s another swimmer who stands a very good chance of earning a spot in the final.
Germany’s Sarah Kohler is another swimmer in this field who has been under 15:50 in the 1500 before. At the 2019 World Championships, Kohler posted her best 1500 of her career to this day – 15:48.83. Kohler swam a 15:52.20 at the German Trials in April of this year, putting her 3.37 seconds off her personal best. One more thing Kohler has going for her is that she’s shown us she can show up to race at her absolute best in the highest level international competitions.
The US also has Erica Sullivan representing them. Sullivan swam a lifetime best of 15:51.18 at the US Trials in June, making her the 5th-fastest performer of 2021. She’s also the 2021 US women’s 10k open water national champion, though she won’t be competing in the 10k in Tokyo. Sullivan likes to push the pace early in her races, even keeping close to Ledecky for a large portion of the 1500 at US Trials. The 1500 is Sullivan’s only race in Tokyo, which means she may be one of the freshest swimmers in the field by the time the 1500 rolls around.
Turkish 16-year-old Merve Tuncel clocked a huge personal best of 15:55.23 at the European Junior Championships on July 10th, just about two and a half weeks before she races the 1500 in Tokyo. The swim suddenly made Tuncel a strong contender to make the Olympic final, which would be an exceptional feat for such a young swimmer, especially given the speed of this year’s field.
Russia’s Anastasiia Kirpichnikova enters the meet with a personal best of 15:53.18, which she swam in December of 2020. Kirpichnikova has exploded in the 1500 over the last 2 years, taking her best time from 16:16 to 15:53 from 2019 to 2020. In 2021, Kirpichnikova has posted a 15:58. She’s another swimmer who is largely outside medal contention, but has an excellent shot at returning for the final.
Hungarian 19-year-old Ajna Kesely has a personal best of 15:54.48, which she swam at the 2019 World Championships, when she was just 17. Kesely hasn’t been nearly that fast since her swim at Worlds, although it seems like that may be at least partially be due to the training interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In December of 2020, Kesely swam a 16:34.43 1500, and by the time the European Championships came about in May of this year, she was down to 16:10.50. If it’s in fact the case that Kesely has still been getting back into her top swimming shape, it would stand to reason that we’ll see her swim faster than that 16:10 in Tokyo, but whether or not she gets back down to her 15:54 is another matter.
Italian 30-year-old Martina Caramignoli is also in the mix. Caramignoli swam her personal best in the 1500 last year, at 29 years old – 15:56.06. Having swum her lifetime best just last summer, it’s entirely plausible we see Caramignoli post a sub-16:00 swim in prelims, which may just be enough to get her back for finals.
TOP PERFORMANCES IN 2016-2021 OLYMPIC CYCLE (1 PER PERSON)
- Katie Ledecky, USA – 15:20.48 (2018)
- Simona Quadarella, ITA – 15:40.89 (2019)
- Jianjiahe Wang, CHN – 15:45.59 (2020)
- Maddy Gough, AUS – 15:46.13 (2021)
- Sarah Kohler, GER – 15:48.83 (2019)
- Mireia Belmonte, ESP – 15:50.89 (2017)
- Erica Sullivan, USA – 15:51.18 (2021)
- Delfina Pignatiello, ARG – 15:51.68 (2019)
- Katie Grimes, USA – 15:52.12 (2021)
- Bingjie Li, CHN– 15:52.31 (2017)
SWIMSWAM’S TOP 8 PICKS
|PLACE||SWIMMER||COUNTRY||BEST TIME SINCE 2016 OLYMPICS|
Dark Horse – Delfina Pignatiello (ARG) & Mireia Belmonte (ESP): Pignatiello is the 7th seed in this race with her personal best of 15:51.68, which she swam in June of 2019. However, Pignatiello has been quite inconsistent in this event over the last handful of years. In 2017, she topped out at 15:59.51, then in 2018, her fastest time was 16:25.39. She then posted her 15:51 in 2019, then followed that up with a 16:20.78 in late 2020. This year, she’s raced the 1500 once, posting a 16:25.68. If Pignatiello is at her best, she’ll make the final. If she’s not, she’ll probably fall well short of the top 8 in prelims.
Belmonte enters the meet with a 16:02.10, but has a personal best of 15:50.89, which she swam at the 2017 World Championships. She was 26 then, and has struggled to break 16:00 since. At 30, Belmonte has clocked a 16:09.70 in 2021. However, we’ve seen a top-8-worthy performance from Belmonte in this Olympic cycle, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that she has a great prelims swim, and gets herself a finals lane.