On another memorable night for the American swimming star, Katie Ledecky won the 200m freestyle and the historic 1500m free 70 minutes apart at the US Olympic trials Wednesday, locking up two more individual events for the Tokyo Games.
Her achievement was about as tough as it gets. First, a relative sprint over four laps, the shortest event on Ledecky’s program. Then, a grueling metric mile comprising 30 laps, the longest race in pool swimming and one that will be making its Olympic debut for women in Tokyo.
Her short time between races was chaotically choreographed to keep Ledecky as fresh as possible for the 1500.
“The goal was to get in the warm-down pool as quickly as I could,” she said. “I tried to keep moving, hydrated and swam for 15-20 minutes before they pulled me to go back to the awards [ceremony]. I ate a banana, drank chocolate milk and water, put a jacket on as I was walking.”
It worked out just fine. The 24-year-old touched the wall far ahead of everyone else with a winning time of 15 minutes, 40.50 seconds well off her 2018 world record (15:20.48) but fastest in the world this year
Ledecky has already pondered the significance of the inaugural women’s 1500 free at the Olympics.
“The men have had the mile in the Olympics since 1908,” Ledecky pointed out. “It’s 2021, and we finally got one.”
Erica Sullivan was nearly a half-lap behind, but she knocked more than four seconds off her personal best to take the expected second Olympic berth in 15:51.18.
The 200 free was one of four gold medals that Ledecky won at the Rio Games. She’ll get a chance to defend that title after winning in 1:55.11, a full body length ahead of the field.
Ledecky has already won the 400 free at the trials, though she wasn’t as fast as expected. She’s also heavily favored in the 800 free, another race she won at Rio, which means she could swim as many as four individual events and perhaps a couple of relays at the Tokyo Games. Ledecky did confirm that she’s scratched the 100 free.
Ledecky is one of at least two swimmers the Americans are counting on to be big stars at these Olympics, the first since 1996 that won’t include Phelps. He retired after Rio with a record 23 gold medals and 28 medals overall. The other is Caeleb Dressel, who was top qualifier in the semifinals of the 100 free with a time of 47.77.