Swimming's Next Prodigy: 18-Year-Old Katie Ledecky
She broke a world record with ease — and then shattered it again within 24 hours.
There's nothing the sports world loves more than a good prodigy — and 18-year-old swimmer Katie Ledecky had already earned that title back in the 2012 London Olympics, after she took home the gold in the 800-meter freestyle at just 15 years old.
Since 2012, Ledecky has gone on to set more world records; but it was her 1500m event on Monday, when she set a new world record during a "relaxed" swim, that blew up the sports world. And as if casually making history wasn't enough, Ledecky went ahead and beat that world record again earlier today, less than 24 hours after her last record-breaking lap.
In Monday's appearance at the FINA World Swimming Champion in Russia, Ledecky was competing in a preliminary round in the 1500m freestyle — a race she already holds the world record in.
Given that it was a prelim race, her coach advised her to take it easy, which she did. But her "warm-up" ended up being something far more unexpected: Ledecky's 15:27:71 win beat the world-record she had previously set for the 1500 free at the 2014 Pan Pacific Games of 15:28:36 by just under a second. No one even came close to catching up to her on Monday — the second place winner was almost the length of a full Olympic pool, behind her.
And as if that wasn't enough, Ledecky went on today to break the 1500 free record yet again, this time in the finals of the FINA championships. Her 15:25:48 time beat yesterday's record by almost two seconds, and her closest competitor, Netherland's Lauren Boyle, trailed almost a full 15 seconds behind her.
While Ledecky was definitely competing for the gold in Tuesday's meet (as opposed to Monday's "accidental" victory), feats like breaking two world records in under 24 hours stand as proof as to why she’s being called one of the most dominant athletes of all time. (She's also advancing to tomorrow's 200m final.)
And one of the best parts of Ledecky's victory was the fact that she didn’t modestly shrug off her win. Nope, Ledecky owned every minute of it, just as she should.
"To be honest, it felt pretty easy. I wasn’t kicking much and I think breaking the world record is testament to the hard work I have put in and the shape I am in right now. I am pretty shocked that I was able to do that,” said Ledecky, about her Monday preliminary victory. "I was barely even focusing [during Monday's] swim. I was just so relaxed."
Learn more about what it's like to compete in the Olympics by watching jockey and MAKER Kathy Kusner in the video above discuss her experience in 1964's Summer Games in Tokyo.
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