Katie Ledecky can already stake a claim as one of the most dominant athletes alive, even as she heads into her second Olympics appearance at just 19 years old.
During the 2016 Olympics trials, Ledecky has qualified for the 200 meter freestyle, 400 meter freestyle, and is likely to qualify for the 800 meter freestyle, an event she practically owns as she holds the eight fastest times in the history of the event.
Even while swimming the 400 meter at the trials, Ledecky came up one second short of the world record (which she owns) — and it was still the fastest time of the year.
Suffice to say, expectations are high for Ledecky in 2016. However, according to Chuck Wielgus, the director for USA Swimming, Ledecky’s impact on swimming may go well beyond what she does in Rio. Wielgus told The Washington Post’s Dave Sheinin:
“We’re fortunate to be living in this age in our sport, the Ledecky era. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anybody like Katie before. And I think in the future we’re going to look back, and the sport’s history will be divided into pre-Katie and post-Katie. She’ll be this iconic figure by which all future distance and middle-distance swimmers will be measured.”
Sheinin also spoke to Michael J. Joyner, a researcher for the Mayo Clinic, who fueled the notion that we haven’t seen an athlete like Ledecky before. Joyner illustrated what Ledecky’s dominance would look like for athletes in other sports.
“She’s dominating by the widest margin in international sport, winning by 1 or 2 percent,” Joyner said. “If [a runner] won the 10,000 meters by that wide a margin, they’d win by 100 meters. One or 2 percent in the Tour de France, over about 80 hours of racing, would be 30 or 40 minutes. It’s just absolutely remarkable.”
Ledecky has already become so good that dominance is expected. If things go as anticipated for her in Rio, we may indeed one day talk about swimming in “BL” and “AL” terms, as Wielgus suggests — Before Ledecky and After Ledecky.
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