It was a comparison of old versus young at this past week’s 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships of Swimming as Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, shared the pool with 17-year-old swimming phenom Katie Ledecky, the winner of the 800m freestyle event at the 2012 Olympics at only age 15. While one can argue the advantages and disadvantages of either being old or young, one thing is for certain – Katie Ledecky is fast.
After she stretched out to punch the wall in her final lap of the 400 meter freestyle swim at the William Woollett, Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine, California, Ledecky had to know she swam well. After all, she had posted the third fastest time ever in a 400m qualifying heat earlier in the day. However, Ledecky put her past performances to the side as she geared up for the 400m finals.
“(The record) was on my mind but I didn’t let it overtake me today. I was very relaxed and whatever happened, happened… I just tried to make sure I didn’t rush the first 100. Right after that, I could just race the final 300. I think it was probably pretty close to a perfect race,” stated Ledecky afterwards.
Katie Ledecky stopped the clock at 3 minutes, 58.86 seconds on Saturday, setting a new World Record. The previous record was held by Federica Pellegrini of Italy, whose time of 3:59.15 was posted while wearing a polyurethane swimsuit, suits which have since been banned.
NEW WORLD RECORD KATIE LEDECKY 3:58.86. FIRST UNDER 3:59 THE BEST EVER #Phillips66Nats
— SwimSwam (@swimswamnews) August 10, 2014
With her performance at the US Nationals, Ledecky has now become only the second woman ever to hold three freestyle world records concurrently – the 400 meter, 800 meter, and 1,500 meter races. The last woman to do so was Janet Evans in 1988.
— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) August 11, 2014
“It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Janet. There’s a great history of U.S. distance swimmers, and we’re just trying to follow in their footsteps,” Ledecky humbly stated.
Michael Phelps, who finished second in the 100m butterfly, sixth in the 100m backstroke, and seventh in the 100m freestyle, was in awe of Ledecky’s performance:
It’s amazing. I thought it was going to be really tough to get under four minutes twice (in one day). She puts it out there. It’s good seeing somebody who is hungry and wants it like her.
Ledecky’s coach, Bruce Gemmell, echoed Phelps’s sentiments, stating that Ledecky has an edge on her competition because “She’s not afraid to go for it. I think that’s important.”
Ledecky’s performance at the US Nationals qualified the 17-year-old high school senior for the Pan Pacific Championships later this month in Australia. Ledecky has already thought about the upcoming meet, choosing to opt out of her last 1,500m race to begin training.
“I just like to train hard and swim fast. I’m glad it’s paying off,” surmised Ledecky.
Image via YouTube