Katie Ledecky won the gold at the women’s 800-metre freestyle clocking in the second fastest time in history.
The 15-year-old U.S. swimmer finished off in 8:14:63 while Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain touched the wall in 8:18.76 to win the silver medal. The defending Olympic champion, Britain’s Rebecca Adlington came in third, clocking in 8:20.32. This was her second bronze after the 400-metre. Incidentally, Adlington is the world record holder at 8:14.10 which she set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Ledecky actually surprised herself by beating the defending champion. She was the youngest member in the swimming team but the win has clearly made her the youngest to get the gold. Ledecky also mentioned receiving a good luck wish from the swimming’s greatest, Michael Phelps.
The great quality she showed, if taken on the lines of Phelps, she has a lot of time ahead to achieve a lot more. There’s promise in the 15-year-old.
Nobody expected her to win the gold, but she had already bettered the timings of world’s best long-distance swimmers in her first international meet. The list also includes Adlington.
Last summer, at the junior nationals in Palo Alto, Calif, Ledecky won titles in the 400, 800 and 1,500 metres. Ledecky and her coach at CUBU Swim Club, Yuri Suguiyama, decided that she would go for the Olympic trials to get onboard the U.S. Olympic team.
The US Olympic trials saw Ledecky shave off more than 5 seconds from her personal best, and this Friday she chucked off another 5 seconds to get to the gold.
Half way through the race, Ledecky was at world record speed but missed breaking Adlington’s record by just half a second.
There was a surprise for Ledecky, other than the gold. Post the gold haul, there were rumours of doping, to which she hit back straight and attributed her performance to her training and hard work.
Earlier this week, Ye Shiwen of China was attacked with similar allegations as a result of dramatic performance improvements. The anti-doping agencies backed her, citing the drug tests she had passed flawlessly.
The allegations on Ledecky were also based on the exponential performance improvements months prior to the London Olympics. Ledecky said she had been training very hard from the last four or five weeks. She also said that she watched all the prelims and finals and knew what to expect.
The next Olympics in 2016, Ledecky will have the chance to get even better to defend her title. She would still be under 20 years of age and by that time, there will be an increase in strength and stamina as well.
As a 15-year-old, her strokes are incredible for her age and adding a few months or years, if she keeps her style intact, her physicality will provide her the edge. She could as well compete in multiple events, including shorter distances – which will give her the opportunity to fill in the void left by Michael Phelps.
The determination and sustained speed she displayed at the 800-metre have the potential to push her to higher limits.