January Jaw-Dropper: Katie Ledecky Unloads 4:00.47 Showing in 400 Freestyle in Austin

Katie Ledecky [Photo: Peter Bick]

From an Olympic gold medal to world titles to world records, Katie Ledecky has achieved an immense amount in her short time in the sport. But her greatest accomplishment might be something that cannot be measured from a concrete perspective. What is it? How about what is actually believed to be attainable.

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From an Olympic gold medal to world titles to world records, Katie Ledecky has achieved an immense amount in her short time in the sport. But her greatest accomplishment might be something that cannot be measured from a concrete perspective. What is it? How about what is actually believed to be attainable.


So Cal Swimmer

I wonder if she had not swum the 100 earlier in the day, would she have gone under 4:00????

Jim C

Ledecky cut almost exactly 1s per 100m from her times at Austin a year ago. !.02s in the 100 and 3.99s in the 400.


I think she has the potential to hold the 200, 400 & 800 World record (plus 1500) as the same time. In a era of great women swimmers, she is way out in front.
I wonder if she can swim backstroke?

Craig Lord

swim it she definitely can, robbos 🙂 races medley from time to time


I agree John, we are watching something special here, Katies swims are incomparable to the great efforts of those before her.


Oh boy. The 200 free WR is now under threat for Ledecky.

So Cal Swimmer

To realistically have a shot at the 200 WR, how much speed would she need in the open 100???? Her 54.5 is great, but maybe 54.0 or sub54?????


As I said 2 years ago on this site, she will threaten 8:00 in the 800 before she is done. Maybe not break it, but she will threaten it.

She has not swum a peaked 800 since the Olympics, swimming it at the end of the World Champs in 2013 and less than 30 minutes after the 200 at Pan Pacs in 2014 on a super windy and cold day.


I would bet that Pellegrini probably could’ve gone a 53.5 at least in that suit in 09


I know that Ledecky is once in a lifetime swimmer, but I don’t think Ledecky will ever threaten 8:00
That would mean swimming 4:00 back to back


@aswimfan: do you still think she will never threaten 8:00 after tonight? That was a tired 8:11.21!


Didn’t she do 8:10.99 in the fastest 8 of her 15 100’s when she did the 1500 WR? I think 8:05/6 is definitely possible this year.


No I still don’t think she will threaten 8:00

8:05/6, though, is possible, but 8:05/6 is not “threaten 8:00” in my book.

Threatening 8:00 means 4:00 back to back, which, if she does it, will be the greatest swim ever, past and future.


And I really don’t know what a tired 8:11 means.


A tired 8:11 means she didn’t rest, not even her short 3-day rest, for this meet. She trained through it.

Admittedly I was thinking more 4:01/4:01. If she goes 8:05 in 2016 I think it totally reasonable (if anything she does is reasonable) to think 8:02 before she retires.

Jim C

aswimfan. Do you mean back to back 4:00.xx swims? That could be an 8:01.98, or call it a sub-8:02.

I don’t see her doing that at the end of a long World Championships or Olympics, or as part of a 200/800 double at Pan Pacs. With a favorable schedule at her major meet of the year “maybe”–but with the schedules the way they are “no”.

Craig Lord

Francene, there’s little evidence in the history of the sport to suggest an ‘8:02’ after an ‘8:05’ in Rio would be ‘totally reasonable’ or something we would expect. If anything, history and this swimmer’s progress tells us that we might expect that KL will get faster on the way to Rio and will win in Rio in a great time before a new chapter in the swimmer’s career and life begins. And where that new chapter will take her we can’t know. What we do know is that Janet Evans, among others, was able to stay in competitive and indeed winning form well beyond her fastest days even though she never got back to her 1988 and 1989 highs on the clock – and that history tells us something about where it might go. Th workload involved for 3:58, 8:11, sub-15:30 etc is immense … and there is a natural limit to how long that kind of fab progress is sustainable, both mentally and physically.
As for ‘rest’ and racing, hard to read too much into this behind “terrific swim” unless you happen to be KL or her coach … there are lots of examples of distance swimmers who are able to race within an impressive percentage range of their best unrested without it being the case that they will drop a significant % (of the kind being suggested in comments here) off their best when rested.


I so totally agree with every single word of Craig Lord. Those are the words I wanted to say but unable to eloquent.

If anything, we should savor all of Ledecky’s amazing swims now, because who knows, if she will keep getting faster in the distance events.

People always thought that these legends would keep getting faster:
Meagher after her 2:05, Wickham after her 4:06, Evans after her 4:03 and 8:16, Thorpe after his 3:40, Hackett after his 14:34 etc etc
but they did not.

The history of world’s 800 WR holders suggested they all stopped breaking 800 WR when they turned 18 or younger, with the oldest/outliers being Babashoff and Adlington at 19 yo.

Granted, Ledecky’s situation is very different. She seems a very level-headed girl who can withstand emotional roller-coaster and weather any training changes (if she goes to Stanford), the opportunity for training and nutrition etc is much greater/better these days allowing swimmers especially female swimmers to keep on swimming at their peak, but you can only delay a female distance swimmer’s peak for so long before nature takes their course.

And as Craig said, it is very optimistic to predict Ledecky to keep on getting much faster after swimming 8:05 in Rio, where she will be 19 yo.
In 200 free maybe, but 800 free? Hard to tell.

As for tired 800, Ledecky always swam very fast in season. This has always been the case since she was 14.
Also, her 100 free PB in 54.5 suggested she’s not that tired, unless she will swim 53.5 this year.
In addition, her schedule was very light for her, there were no 800 prelims, and 100/200/400 free prelims were a joke for her, and no semis either.
The fact that she scratched 200 IM final meant she was really after the 800 WR.

Jim C

If not for Ledecky and the shiny suit time of Addlington, the WR for the 800 in LCM would have been set last year by Jazmin Carlin a month shy of her 24th birthday. And look what Lotte Friis did in the 1500 at age 25. So the new peak for female distance swimmers could be the mid-20s.

But unless someone can challenge Ledecky in the longer races, she id likely to shift her focus to shorter races. Going after a WR in the 200 seems like a more likely goal than bringing the 800 mark as low as possible.


JIm C,

Yes, Ledecky may be more like Friis or Carlin who didn’t hit their peak until well into their 20s. But those are only two among any distance legends who defied the age thing.
And history also showed us that many of those legends who had already gone on to dizzying heights and accomplished everything as younger swimmer tend to stop peaking earlier than other swimmers with less accomplishments at younger age.
Example: Phelps peaked at 2007/2008 while Lochet who is actually older peaked at 2011/2012. Manadou lost it in 2008 while Pellegrini kept charging along and peaked in 2011.
Maybe it’s the motivation thing?

And yes, I agree with you. In post 2016, I bet Ledecky will be more excited to go after the 200 free WR than lowering her won 800 free WR.

But Ledecky may prove me wrong and smash the 8:00 barrier, which I hope I will be able to see it live.


What I don’t think you guys realize is that KL does not fit into the mold of most others before her. First, she swims her times consistently, not a few miraculous times. Second, her goal is not winning; her goal is certain very fast times (that I am glad she keeps to herself and her coach) and she won’t be satisfied until she gets there.

Another thing to note is how she did this year at Austin compared to last year (regardless of whether she was ill in December of 2013… doubt it made much of a difference by the time Austin rolled around):
100 free: 1 second faster in 2015
200 free: 1-1/2 seconds in 2015
400 free: 4 seconds faster in 2015
800 free: 15-1/2 seconds faster in 2015

Let that last bit soak in for awhile.

Craig Lord

Francene, all realise that KL is an extraordinary athlete … as were many before her, Phelps included. At some point, there is a natural end to all things. That rate of progress will not be sustainable throughout her whole career, of course.


@Craig Lord:
Of course I realize that the rate of progress is not sustainable for 60 years or something. I’ve been involved in the sport for a very long time and have become cynical about a great many things, but in KL I do see something different, not just in the obviousness of her performances, but especially in terms of motivation.

Also, I don’t think we’ve seen a quality 800 from her in since the Olympics. She was 8:14 on her last 800 of her 1500 last summer, for Pete’s sake! Just reasonable extrapolation suggests that she was no worse than an 8:07 swimmer last summer had the conditions and event order been more favorable.

So, considering a massive slowdown in improvements, perhaps an 8:04 in 2016 and an 8:01 in 2020.

… but I would not bet against KL going 7:59 if she really wants it.

Craig Lord

Francene, I see the special, too… and take your points. I just don’t see the clock heading in quite the same steep direction as you. There are quite a few examples in history of swimmers who have done amazing sections of 1500 swims etc and not gone wildly better come a straight 800 on the big occasion. I think that talk of her breaking 8mins blinds us to just how good a sub 8:10 would be, how good an 8:11 is, in fact…

Jim C

I looked at the ratios for 400/800 times and also for 800/1500 times for Wickham in 78 and also 78/79, for Evans in 87 and 88 and also 88/89. Using these ratios and Ledecky’s 400 and 1500 times from last year we can make a variety of projections for what Ledecky should have swum the 800 in 2014. The slowest projection based on Wickham’s 400/800 ratio was an 8:08.41. The next slowest was an 8:07.95 based on Evans’ 400/800 ratio from 88

Throw in a less than ideal situation for her 400 record outdoors in winter with a taper spread out over two meets, and I would have to agree that she would have been no worse than 8:07 under conditions similar to those she will face this year and next.

I would agree that an 8:04 in Rio is quite possible. But I really would not expect continued improvement in her 800 times after Rio> I would expect her to ease up a bit after Rio, or at least shift her focus towards shorter races where she will face greater challenges.

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