U.S. Olympic Trials: Chasing WR, Katie Ledecky Pops 3:58.98 For 400 Freestyle

Katie Ledecky shows her feelings after her world-record form [Photo: Peter Bick]

Katie Ledecky was under world-record pace for seven of the eight laps, and finished with the No. 3 time in history in 3:58.98.

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Katie Ledecky was under world-record pace for seven of the eight laps, and finished with the No. 3 time in history in 3:58.98.



Leah Smith is the sensation of this meet by far. I don’t know to what extent both these swimmers (Ledecky and Smith) were tapered/rested but if this time is repeatable by Leah, then we have a race and Ledecky got finally a company. Any lost of concentration or deviation from race plan can happen to be costly.


At the touch, Ledecky was 3:58.98, Smith was a 4:00.65. In major meets, Ledecky has never won by a shorter margin in the 400m freestyle.
Smith actually split a faster second 200 than Ledecky, putting up splits of 1:58.16 and 2:02.49 compared to Ledecky’s 1:56.28 and 2:02.70.


I don’t have any inside knowledge, so this is just a guess. But I assume KL was not fully tapered and LS was. I doubt it will be that close in Rio. Great swim by Smith though.

Ledecky swims kinda crazy sometimes pacing wise. Did she really need to go out that fast? Anyway, I’m sure she will get it right when it really counts.

Just want Katie to lock up that 200 free spot at trials and then we will see what she can do at 100% at the games.


1:56 split is super flabbergasting. This is the kind of crazy experiment that Camille Muffat did in the lead up to 2012 London, and amp it up by several degrees.

Leah Smith is very fearless swimmer. I have been overly impressed every times I saw her swim in all this year. She has been taking lessons from Ledecky’s swims apparently.


Today’s performance of Franklin and Schmitt are killing my hope for super-duper American W4x200. I vote for Leah Smith at 200FR. She deserved it. Such huge drop in personal best at 400 may suggest that she is ready for sub 1:56 at 200. Right now her personal best is 1:56.64 shown three weeks ago when she also swam 4:03 at 400m.


Yozhik, don’t you worry, there will be a super duper American w4x200:

Ledecky-Smith-Franklin-Schmitt can go:
1:53.50 – 1:55.00 – 1:55.50 – 1:55.00 for 7:39… destroying WR by more than 3 seconds!!!


Yozhik, could well be but it may also be the case that we may see her improvement more heavily weighted towards the other end of her range (ie 800) where she has previously shown greater aptitude than at 200. I’d be watching BOTH of these events with that in mind.

As for the W4X200; yes, perhaps the proclamations of a certain WR may need to be reconsidered but lets just hold off until this time tomorrow when we actually have some real data rather than conjecture.

In any case, does USA NEED a WR in order to win this relay in Rio ? Categorically NO ! CHN is the most even team but everyone else beyond them may have 1-2 “guns” or at least very good but fall away to 1.58 or worse.


USA doesn’t need WR to win w4x200, but many of us have been hoping and expecting for a while that USA will break the WR, and so to break the WR at the Olympics would be really nice as there is no other stage is more grandeur.

Eugene Chc

aswimfan, even without Franklin can go for WR, she need scratch 100 back and focus on 200 free. I think crazy Schmitz traning not so bad for 200, as on 100m .


When looking at Ledecky’s splits after the excitement of the race has calmed down, I can say that it wasn’t that crazy at all.
27.44 – 28.87 – 28.8 – 31.17 – 30.75 – 30.75 – 30.90 – 30.30. I like this fast start strategy more than crazy finish she had at the world record race in Golden Coast. With full taper all these cruising speeds will be at 30.5 or slightly below.
To have three under 29 sec at the start gives me a hope that she is capable to have four of them at 200 race. That will take her under Schmitt’s record.

Personal Best

I didn’t think anyone else would get close to 4:00 at the Olympics and now Leah Smith does it at US trials. That is a little crazy, but welcome, as so many of the top 400 swimmers from past years are not in the race anymore.

All those swimmers who were thought to be chasing silver may only be chasing bronze, although this surely must spur them on.


Yozhik, 1:55.41 if you take the first 3 and last splits. That’s impressive. I do think however that by going out that fast, that she introduces an element of risk, and it’s the only possible way she could lose a race realistically. The commentator for the heats earlier mentioned that Bruce Gemmill said we might see something special if she didn’t go too fast at the beginning. I wonder what we might have missed.
Gemmill after the race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG1R2n7ApZU


Ger, I do believe that 200FR is of the sprinting category race. That means in my definition that the last lap should be the slowest one. That is how Schmitt swam it in London and that is how Ledecky tends to do recently. The Sjostrom’s swim in Kazan wasn’t like that and therefore I think she can improve and show faster time.
400 was never considered a sprinting race and many do it with negative splits (including Ledecky’s WR). On the other hand she mentioned several times that she looks at it (400) as long sprint. Was it an innocent mistake of young aggressive talant who wins her gold medal with 4:04-4:10 splits. Has she got mature now under wise guidance of her experienced coach. Or she still stays with this sprint philosophy that makes her special.
I personally prefer the later one working. By using Mr. Lord’s descriptions, I want to see her pioneering with the approach to this distance. Is it realistic or against any laws of sport science we will see.



How a swimmer swims 400 depends whether they are more distance oriented or sprint oriented.
As Ledecky can both do sprint and distance, she can swim 400 in various strategies, including sprinting all the way.
Was Janet Evans wrong in negative splitting her 400 that resulted in WR that lasted for almost 20 years?
She could not sprint, so that was the best way for her.

And if you think Ledecky is pioneering this strategy, then you are more than 40 years too late.
Shane Gould already did it in 1972.
Don’t trust me? Here’s the proof:


It’s the first night of swimming in 1972 Munich, the women 400 free is the first race. Shane Gould was on the second Lane from the top. She split 100 free in 1:01.50 on the feet.
The 100 free WR was hers in 58.50.

This would be like if Ledecky swim the first 100 of 400 in 55.00.

Also, the moniker of swimming 400 free like long sprinting is not new. Like Ledecky, and like Gould, Thorpe excelled in astounding freestyle range. And in early 2000s there were many references of Thorpe swimming 400 like a long sprint.
Don’t trust me? Google it.

Sorry, Ledecky is great and a legend already, but in this case of swimming 400 like a long sprint, she is not a pioneer.



Doesn’t the way Gould swam 400 so fearlessly and attacking and aggressively from the start to open up a huge gap between herself and the best of the world (this is Olympics final) already at 100 reminds you of a particular swimmer of today?

Oh yeah. Katie Ledecky.
No wonder Bruce Gemmell said that the standard is Shane Gould.


Leah Smith finished prelim at 200 with personal best.


Leah Smith seems to take the second 200 free ticket.
I hope Missy will make it in 200 back.

Barnabas Mandi

At the moment I don’t think Missy even will be in the 800 relay. In 200 back, Missy and Dirado?


Barnabas, with regards to the 4×200 much will depend on the times of those finishing behind the top 2. Remember, numbers ARE capped at 26 per gender and selectors WILL be looking to minimise “relay only” selections as they are then locked in to using them in at least heats of that relay in Rio.

If Franklin misses the final at Trials then most certainly she’s unlikely to be part of this relay in Rio, even if she makes the team in the 200back. However, should she make the final (and make the team in the 200back); then its likely that she will be co-opted unless there is a really wide split in times between her and 5th-6th.


“Just pretty sluggish last night, yup, but no excuses. Just going to come out tonight and give it my all.” That is what Missy Franklin said about yesterday races and upcoming double this night. So finally we will know in a few hours what her “all” is.

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