Eighteen-year-old American swimmer Katie Ledecky was just doing what she always does when she takes to the pool, she gave it her all; but giving her all lead to some extraordinary results at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia this weekend. Ledecky walked away from the competition with five gold medals, a world record, and created a new thing, the “Ledecky Slam.”
“It’s really neat to say that you’ve done something nobody has done before,” said Ledecky in an interview with the Associated Press. “I’ll enjoy this for a few days and then I’ll get back to work and hopefully there’s more to come.”
The Bethesda, Maryland teen achieved something that no female swimmer has ever accomplished. Ledecky won the 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1,500- meter freestyle individual events, and anchored on the 4 by 200 free relay, earning her five gold medals at the meet.
Her biggest accomplishment came in the 800-meter freestyle event, where she beat her personal best and world-record time of eight minutes, 11 seconds, by more than three seconds, coming in with a time of eight minutes, 7.39 seconds, garnering her another world-record in the event.
While Ledecky is setting limitations on her time to celebrate her victories, others are not holding back in acknowledging what she has achieved.
“I’ve seen Michael [Phelps] win eight medals in Beijing; that was hard fought,” said Frank Busch, national team coach, in an interview with the New York Times. “I’m sure he’d be the first one to say Katie’s a freak. She’s a freak of nature in what she’s done.”
And though Ledecky clearly worked for her wins, but all accounts, her stiffest competition was herself. Ledecky dominated the 800-meter event throughout, with the nearest competition lagging several lengths behind.
Ledecky is no stranger to major international wins in the 800-meter freestyle. She first gained international notoriety when she shocked the world and won gold in the event during the 2012 Summer Olympics at the age of 15.
With the completion of the FINA World Championships, Ledecky will have a bit of a break where she plans to take care of some personal business like finishing driver’s education, obtaining her driver’s license, and having her wisdom teeth removed.
And as much fun as that sounds, her coach Bruce Gemmell indicates that as good as Ledecky’s showing was at the world championships, she is not perfect, and there is still work that needs to be done.
“I don’t know if it was close to a perfect race,” said Gemmell in an interview with The Washington Post. “Given the circumstances, especially at the end of a long week, I think you have to give it a little special boost on the how-good-it-was meter. [But] we have ways we can get better. Her turns are still not particularly good, and we’ve already set up some time [back home] to work on those. But tonight her last turn was particularly good.”
Ledecky is ultimately training for the 2016 Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro, but she is also preparing to be a teammate on the Stanford Cardinals women’s swim team, where she has accepted an athletic scholarship and will be attending in the Fall.
[Image courtesy of Streeter Lecka / Getty Images Sport]