Seventeen-year-old Katie Ledecky accomplished two amazing feats at the U.S. National Championships on Saturday by beating Missy Franklin in the 200-meter freestyle and breaking the world record in the 400-meter freestyle. Ledecky honored Janet Evans after winning the 200, 400, and 800-meter freestyle at the meet. Ledecky is the first woman since Evans to hold world records in the 400, 800, and 1500-meter freestyle simultaneously. Evans held all three women’s distance world records from 1988 to 2006.
“It is an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Janet. She is a great person and a really great role model for all U.S. distance swimmers,” Ledecky stated.
The Bethesda, Maryland native won the race in 3 minutes, 58.86 seconds. She bested the previous record of 3:59.15 set by Federica Pellegrini from Italy in the 2009 World Championships in Rome. The world champion had already dropped 1.71 seconds under the previous record at 250 meters. And with one lap to go, Ledecky was still 1.53 seconds faster than Pellegrini’s time. Ledecky mentioned that she was trying to make sure that she did not rush the first 100 and that her race was pretty close to perfect. After finishing the race, Ledecky pounded her fist gleefully on the water and smiled as the crowd cheered over her victory.
During the morning preliminaries, Ledecky swam the third-fastest time in the world, finishing at 3:59.82. She and Pellegrini were the only female swimmers to break under four minutes in the 400 freestyle.
Ledecky has earned an opportunity to swim all three events in Australia at the Pan Pacific Championships later this month. The soon-to-be-high-school-senior has so much to look forward to with her athletic as well as academic career. Ledecky plans to attend Stanford University after she graduates.
Katie Ledecky has broken the world record in the 400-meter freestyle, honoring Janet Evans after her win, and is looking forward to her next race. Ledecky can now become a role model to other young swimmers as she sets the bar even higher for a new generation of future world-record holders.
Ledecky’s coach, Bruce Gemmell, stated that he does not think Katie has reached her full potential yet. A few years ago, the swimmer was only swimming races at full speed from the start. Now, he continued, she is able to hold on to early leads or come on faster at the end. Gemmell calls Ledecky his “assassin” or “metronome” because of her tenacity.
Other swimmers that fared well at the National Championships were Missy Franklin, who won the 100 backstroke with a time of 59.38. Franklin was the only woman to break one minute in the race and now has the world’s third-fastest time in the event. Olympians Micah Lawrence and Jessica Hardy tied for first place in the 100 breaststroke at 1:06.51, which is the sixth-fastest time in the world this year. Michael Phelps finished second in the 100 butterfly on Friday, but unfortunately finished sixth in the 100 meter backstroke and seventh in the 100 freestyle on Saturday. In response to his sub-par performance in backstroke and freestyle, Phelps replied that he was not going to use the excuse of taking extended time off.
“When there are workouts, I need to be at every one of them,” said Phelps.
Katie Ledecky has given her teammates as well as young swimmers something to aspire to by breaking the world record in the 400-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s dedication to the sport helped her break three world records, and in return, she honored Janet Evans, who inspired her to strive to become the best.
Commentary by Amy Nelson