INDIANAPOLIS — For Katie Ledecky, the women’s 800-meter freestyle is almost a given. The 20-year-old swimmer has won every 800 free she has contested since she made her international debut five years ago.
At the 2017 Phillips 66 National Championships — part of the Team USA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast — she did not disappoint. The five-time Olympic gold medalist swam the 800 final in 8:11.50 to win her 11th national title, and fifth in this event. It was the fastest time in the world so far this year.
Everyone else was — as always — racing for second place. And the runner-up was 2016 Olympic gold and bronze medalist Leah Smith, who clocked 8:20.46. 2014 Youth Olympian Hannah Moore finished third in 8:27.58.
But at the Indiana University Natatorium, Ledecky made the 800 a little harder by doing a double, competing in the 100-meter freestyle tonight as well. She finished sixth in that race — behind winner Mallory Comerford, who tied Ledecky for the 200-yard NCAA title in March.
Between the 100 final and 800 final, Ledecky had 20 minutes to wind down from the sprint and gear up for the longer race.
Ledecky is entered in five races this week: 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500-meter freestyles. But this was the only day she has to swim a double at nationals. Like everyone at nationals, she is aiming to qualify for the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
If she qualifies in these five races, she will likely have the chance to compete for up to six medals in Budapest next month — and to rack up more world records (she has set 13 to date).
She has broken the 800 world record five times, lowering the record by almost 10 seconds in the past four years. Her current world record is 8:04.79. This is over 11 seconds faster than previous world record holder Janet Evans ever swam the 800.
Ledecky has competed in two world championships to date, never winning any medal other than gold. She has nine world titles, and at the 2015 world championships, she became the first swimmer ever — male or female — to win the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyles.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.