Ledecky holds world records in the 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyles. She’s shortening her distances, too, taking aim at the 200; she owns the world’s fastest time in that event this year as well. Katie Ledecky will swim the 200, 400 and 800 at the Rio Olympics, and she’ll participate in the 4×200 free relay. She’s been the world’s most dominant swimmer since 2012 — and she’s ready to show that off on the world’s biggest stage.
Katie Ledecky is ready for prime time
“I don’t think she’s really touched her potential in the water yet,” 11-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte says. “I think she’s just going to get faster. I guarantee in Rio everyone’s mouths are going to drop during one of her races. She’s going to do a time where everyone’s going to be like, ‘What the heck just happened?’”
For a swimmer such as Katie Ledecky, someone who’s been so dominant in meets over the last four years, the challenge comes in training. Gemmell, her coach since London, has worked to find different ways to push her. Working on shorter distance events, for example. The 400 individual medley, which is something that fascinates her coach despite it not being world-class just yet. And having her swim in a few mixed-gender events.
She also trained with premier male swimmers, such as Ryan Lochte, during altitude training sessions in Colorado Springs. The idea to have Ledecky swim with and against the guys stemmed from a conversation Gemmell had with David Marsh, who will be the U.S. Olympic women’s team head coach, on the way back from Pan Pacs in 2014.
Watch Katie Ledecky wins 400 meter freestyle in US Swimming Olympic trials :-
Finally at peace with swimming, himself: Michael Phelps
The greatest swimmer in the world had remade himself, and the Olympics ahead would be a chance to celebrate both the path he’d travelled and the one in front of him.
If Michael phelps, 31, seizes four or five more medals in Rio de Janeiro, he’d put his career count so far out of reach it would become one of those sports records we just laugh at, the Olympic equivalent of Cy Young’s 511 wins or Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game.
But if he’s even thought of that, he never mentions it. Instead, he is adamant that what he’s after is simple — a happy ending.
“I don’t know how he’s going to do this summer,” said Bob Bowman, his coach of 20 years. “But I do know that when he leaves swimming, this time, he will leave loving it. And that’s all he or I wanted.”
London in 2012 was supposed to be his perfect finale. It was the story everyone, including Michael phelps, peddled at the time. He set the career mark for total medals, thanked a teary-eyed Bowman for helping him achieve his wildest ambitions and won his last race.
He had endured hundreds of these post-race talks over a 16-year career as an Olympic swimmer, usually sticking to dissections of sluggish turns or overextended finishes.
But moments earlier, Michael phelps had held up five fingers in the pool, recognising that he’d officially qualified for a fifth straight Olympics. In a few minutes, he would kiss his fiancee and their 8-week-old son, who’d slept happily through Daddy’s latest triumph.
U.S. Swim Team should dominate
The good news is Team USA has Katie Ledecky, the most dominant swimmer in the world and greatest female freestyler of all time. You may remember her from London in 2012 when the precocious 15-year-old surprised everybody with a win in the 800-meter freestyle. She now holds the 11 fastest races of all time in that event. In the Team USA trials this July, she finished in 8:10.32 to beat Leah Smith — a likely medalist — by almost 10 seconds, an absurd amount.
Michael phelps will get one final showdown with his longtime nemesis/teammate Ryan Lochte. Also 31, Lochte is only racing in the 200-meter individual medley, but both he and Michael phelps have a chance to win. Lochte won it in a Michael phelps-less field last year in Russia, making him the only American besides Ledecky to medal in an individual event. Michael phelps, however, posted an even better time than Lochte’s winning result at Nationals in San Antonio last August. America’s relay teams should also do quite well. Nathan Adrian is one of the best sprinters in the world, and should have a chance at winning the 50-meter freestyle and be a steady anchor for a 4×100-meter freestyle team that won gold in Russia last year. Ledecky will be on the 4×200-meter freestyle relay team that also won gold in Russia last year. Team USA may no longer have the fastest swimmers in many events, but they’ll have enough fast swimmers that a combination of four of them might outpace four from another country.