Chasing Down The Shiny: Cate Campbell Crunch & The Arrival Of Ledecky & Sjostrom

Cate Campbell, courtesy of Swimming Australia

This month, SwimVortex is posting a series of short articles and tables that take stock of how swimmers, coaches and swimming speed have coped with the onslaught of shiny suits in 2008-09. Today: Women’s Sprint Freestyle, the realm and dominance of Cate Campbell and the arrival of Katie Ledecky and Sarah Sjostrom in the club of four-lap fireworks

All SwimVortex articles are placed in our archive after five days, the library of content available to subscribers.
Log In Register



While I was happy that Sjostrom -finally- won 100 fly, I was devastated for Cate.

That 100 free final was the worst I’ve seen Cate swim while being healthy since I followed her career in 2007, when she scorched 24.9 as 14 yo in january or february 2007 and later in that year destroyed the newly-minted 50 free world champion Trickett in Japan Open, swimming 24.5

It was truly inexplicable the way Cate swam in that final. She was clearly spooked at the start, causing her to swim blisteringly fast first 50 (the fastest ever first 50, I believe), and then throughout the second 50 she swam circle/diagonally from Manuel lane line towards Oleksiak lane line, and then completely not moving the last 5 meters, her lower body was completely submerged.

Truly horrendous swim (for her standard).

I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it in all Olympics I’ve watched.


Cate swam more than 2.2% slower than her PB just a few weeks prior.

Equivalent comparisons would be if:
Sjostrom swam 56.9 in 100 fly final
Ledecky swam 8:18 in 800 free final
Ledecky swam 4:04 in 400 free final

Unthinkable, and yet it happened to Cate.

mcEvoy had similar meltdown compared to his PB prior Olympics, but Cam was nowhere near as dominant in 100 free in the last 4 years as Cate has been.


If Cate continues to Tokyo, I feel that she can still win gold in 50 free if she focuses her training on the event.

Her 50 free swims in Rio can be explained that she was horribly mentally affected by the outcome of 100 free.

Cate’s talent/achievements in 50 free are quite similar to Dara Torres, who already broke 50 free WR at the age of 16, and Cate already won 50 free Olympics bronze just a few weeks after turning 16. And Torres was within 0.01 second of 50 gold at the age of 41.

No other female swimmer can match Cate’s easy raw speed between 30-50 meters. Just like Earvin in Rio, if Cate gets her start good, she’d win 50 free in Tokyo. That is, if she doesn’t crumble.

Craig Lord

Yes, aswimfan, after the events of 2016, only possible to say what we know Cate capable of on paper and in many other races… just why what happened when it did is something Australia has yet to come to terms with, which would have to precede the finding of solutions. Dara Torres: technically, her three leading times over 50m free in 1983 and 84 were world best times, ‘world records’ kicking in in 1986, Tamara Coustache (ROM) becoming the last to hold the world best and the first to hold a ‘world record’.


It’s true about Torres’ 50 free worlds best, but as I said, both Torres and Cate were already in the world’s top 3 50 free sprinters by the time they were 15 yo.

ANd we all know 50 free is the most forgiving event for older swimmer, especially if you have sprint talent from young age like Torres, Earvin and Cate.

Craig Lord

Absolutely, aswimfan. We are looking at a truly outstanding athlete in CC. All the more reason why those in charge of the show must be as honest and thorough as they can be in an inquiry that has gone quiet if not cold, notwithstanding the need for a deal of that process to be conducted in private, particularly where it concerns the individuals affected. Preparation is not just the athlete, not just the coach (both are also responsible, of course) – it is not just about training, not just making sure the plane and train and bus and food drive on time. The question is: how was it possible to have this spectacular and outstanding athlete arrive at her blocks for the 100m final in Rio in what appeared to be a state of panic/meltdown; a place where she appeared to be thinking anything other than ‘I’m here to do the best I can and have done that time and time and time again and I know I can do this and I know how’. If Australia cannot answer such things, then such things will happen again – all the more so because a similar baffling result was to be found in eight out nine swims by swimmers who had the speed and proven race ability to, at the very least, make the podium, but did not.

Leave a comment

Post a comment with your SwimVortex Account. Don't have a SwimVortex Account, Sign Up?

(*) Fields are required!