U.S. Olympic Trials: Katie Ledecky Dominates 800 Freestyle; Chase of Debbie Meyer Is Set

EPIC: Katie Ledecky of the United States of America - by Patrick B. Kraemer - [This image was the SwimVortex choice of Photo of the Year 2015, Patrick having captured a bulls-eye snapshot that summed up Ledecky, attitude, achievement and a target reached]

Notching the third-fastest time in history in the 800 freestyle (8:10.32), Katie Ledecky set herself up to win three freestyle titles at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

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Notching the third-fastest time in history in the 800 freestyle (8:10.32), Katie Ledecky set herself up to win three freestyle titles at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.



a 8:10 and many are not too impressed and slightly disappointed it’s not a WR, In some swimming websites many people have even claimed Ledecky’s 800 WR is a certainty after her 8:10 prelims.
Maybe Ledecky should have broken WRs in smaller installments?, like 8:14 and then 8:13.50 etc. so in half a second each time. But if she had done that, maybe she wouldn’t have broken it. You take WR when it happens.

Kieren Perkins was told by his coach to take it easy in 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, because 1994 Worlds was just 3 weeks later in Rome. But he felt strong during the 1,500 race so he kept going, and he broke 800 WR on the way to 1,500 WR. In Rome, he won gold of course, but not in WR. Had he not broken the WRs in Victoria, maybe he wouldn’t have broken them that year at all. And that Victoria swim was the last time Perkins broke 800 and 1,500 WRs.

Cate Campbell also gave us a reminder yesterday that when a WR happens, it happens, you take it.

Back to Ledecky, it is obvious that if there is only one swimmer who didn’t have to fully taper in Omaha, it’s her. I think she can break the 800 WR in Rio, but unlike many people, I don’t think think it will be anywhere close to 8:00 because for that to happen, she needs her 400 to come down to 3:55, and as great as Ledecky, I don’t think it will happen.

Many Ledecky fans seem to expect Ledecky to keep breaking WRs forever, but they forget that age is just not an abstract idea. Ledecky has done the most tremendous thing by breaking distance records at the age of 18, because historically women swimmers had done breaking d records at that age. I hope she does it again in Rio, if only the place and occasion is more grand than Austin.

Craig Lord

🙂 asf: “What dya go and do that for mate?” – John Carew (Mr. John Carew, as KP always said) post world-record.

kevin roose

While Ledecky should romp home in the 400/800 at Rio ……
i am really looking forward to the 200 such a class field in prospect Pellegrini , Mckeon and Sjostrom ( if she swims it) Possibly Franklin ???


It looks like 8:11 is the time that Ledecky is comfortable with. She got stocked around this time last year making many close but unsuccessful attempts to break it. She showed slightly better times at this meet doing it in different combinations. That’s why 8:07 in Kazan is still shocking to me and 8:06 in Austin is indeed a rock hard World record achieved with great pain. Looking back I am almost certain now that she was tapered for this meet. What was the reaon? Maybe the presence of Sjostrom. Anyway, whatever it was we have to look at those times as what most likely can be expected from tapered Ledecky. There was slight improvement during the season that we had a pleasure to observe at trials. So I think that 53.6; 1:54 flat, 3:57 mid; 8:06 flat is what realistically can be expected from her in Rio. But again, she has a record of being unpredictable. She made 8:07 when nobody, I repeat, nobody expected that.
More of interest to me in this race was not Ledecky, but Leah Smith. She bettered her personal best again, but I expected much more. Splitting 4:08.78 – 4:11.40 Is kind of slow for the long distance swimmer who can make 4:00.6 at 400 race. Maybe she tried after very intensive meet, maybe she had no intention to impressed anybody, but this result didn’t answer the question what her chances are to be at podium in Rio at 800m . No doubts that she was tapered for this meet. I wish her not to loose this form during next month.


I agree with you re:Ledecky’s times range in Rio.

As for Smith, I think she’s very optimum a 400 m swimmer. Looking at her yards results, her 500yd PB is better in quality than her 1650yd. Also, her international results in 400 free is much better than in 800 free (she won 400 free gold in universiade).
I think she’s leaning towards a 200-400 swimmer than a long distance swimmer (800-1500) swimmer.
You are disappointed that she is not faster in 800, but she set PB. BUt maybe her improvement in 800 is not as significant as her 400.
Again, this underlines the reality that going for excellence in multiple freestyle distances is extremely difficult.



KL was not tapered… at all. She had done some fast swimming in workouts leading up to the meet, but not tapered, and was also training a bit during the meet.

She was testing what she had to do in Rio in the first 200 of both the 400 & 800. That was why she split as she did.

I find it quite humorous the people who keep saying KL can’t go that fast again, will plateau now, or my favorite on another site: that she is becoming more of a woman so cannot swim as fast.

If you knew what she was doing in workouts you would have a different tune.

Craig Lord

Thanks Francene. I would imagine that plan has long been to leave the best for the big moment…


Francene, how come you by this information that no one in the media seems to have access to? Can you speak with certainty with what you say?


Francene, I didn’t say that Ledecky was tapered for trials. Or if to be more careful with terminology she hasn’t conditioned herself with something that has significant but short lasting effect. We can say that the meet in January was approached quite differently. 53.75-1:54.43-8:06.68 they are all her bests shown in one meet. She hasn’t swum close to these times during following six months. It lets me think first of all that results in Austin are the starting point to speculate about possible times of “tapered” Ledecky. Secondly it suggests that either trials wasn’t stressful to her and there was no need to push herself hard or she wasn’t conditioned for doing personal bests or next to them times at this meet. Since her trials times showed some progress compare to in-season results of last year I conclude that times shown in Austin in January can be bettered approximately to the same extent as her in-training times were improved at trials. That is how I came up with my estimates.
As much as Ger I am also interested where your information came from and actually what it is in numbers.
There is something that I noticed unusual. After improving suddenly her personal best at 100 by 0.8sec(!!) She stated that she is needed to go much further and let’s see where it will take her. Later in season was specifically mentioned that she DOESN’T focusing on sprint mostly and that improving her sprinting abilities is just the part of general preparation program. Now the only reason for her to be tapered for trials was 100m race where she was reasonable but far from certain contender. She didn’t do it. All these “signs” let me to suggest that there wasn’t expected improvement at sprinting in practice and she kind of gave up on this race at least for this season, focusing mainly on 200m challenge.
It would be very nice to know, Francene that you are informed with something quite opposite. And that my hypothesis are fruitless as usually stated by Mr. Lord.

Craig Lord

Yozhik, I interpret that sequence differently – dating back, in terms of my coverage, to an interview with Bruce Gemmell last September (I’m sure it dates back much further in the planning of coach Gemmell). The 100 was never going to be an event in which KL was going to be chasing down Cate Campbell, for eg. It was not part of the main plan beyond precisely what you cite – the speed she needs to achieve what she wants from 200 to 800m free… and that is the range she will excel in come Rio, in times faster than she managed in Omaha… any 4x100m aspirations were to be left to the wash of possibilities.


I wish it is so as you said, Craig. After Austin I was excited to see same type of progress shown by Pellegrini. Not exactly that miraculous 53.18 but something under 53.5. It would make me comfortable with her 200 race in Rio. Such speed wasn’t shown in Omaha. She didn’t make relay directly, but many times stated that she wants to and that is one of her target. We saw that she was seriously trying. That drove me to the assumption that the progress wasn’t obvious or significant during 2016 training season and that it didn’t worth to risk tapering and 200 race in Rio for the not guaranteed relay. That makes me worrying that 1:54.43 is indeed her tough personal best and that she may not go far beyond this mark without improving her 100. That all make her gold at 200 the hard task to prove.
Therefore I was excited to hear some info about her practice results. Since Francene is quiet I assume that either s/he knows nothing or is bound to say more than was said.

Craig Lord

🙂 I can’t vouch for Francine, obviously. What I think Yozhik, for what it is worth: 400, 800, gold, 4×200, too, all very solid and dominant… 200 will be tougher, tighter but KL presents a very tricky second-half challenge and race-balance dilemma for the rest, La Fede and her new-found 100 speed included.


I think the 200m is a possibility whereas the 400 and 800 are probable. I share Yozhik’s uncertainty re. the 200. Since Austin, which was the benchmark, and followed by the best training she’s ever had, I am disappointed that she didn’t at least match that time here. No, she is not fully tapered but she will have had some rest leading up. How much rest, we don’t know; she sidestepped the question in the news conference re. same.
Bruce Gemmell during trials: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG1R2n7ApZU

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