In Crushing The 400 Freestyle Field, Katie Ledecky Also Beat A Tougher Opponent: Her Own Goals

RIO DE JANEIRO - It’s a good thing Katie Ledecky thinks competing against herself is fun.

Otherwise, there would be little about racing to keep her entertained.

After only 100 meters of Sunday’s Olympic final in the 400-meter freestyle, Ledecky was a body length ahead. Just that quickly, she had reduced the race to Katie against Katie, a chase of her own world record, in which she also became triumphant.

The numbers on her winning time would be so stunning they made bronze medalist teammate Leah Smith gasp. “3:56?” Smith could be seen saying as she congratulated Ledecky in the water after the race.

Ledecky had bypassed the 3:57s entirely.

The exact time was 3 minutes, 56.46 seconds, nearly two seconds faster than the mark (3:58.37) Ledecky had set at the Pan Pacific Championships two years ago. It was the largest drop in the 400-meter world record since 1976.

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"Not Superwoman But Pretty Super:" Ledecky Gets Silver Surprise In 400 Free Relay


RIO DE JANEIRO - Four years ago this week, Great Britain’s Rebecca Adlington had a first-hand view of the moment that surprisingly was the start of the Katie Ledecky era in women’s swimming.
 
Saturday afternoon, on the opening day of swimming at the 2016 Olympics, Adlington had a different vantage point on another Ledecky swim that seemed equally surprising.
 
A near-repeat performance Saturday night brought Ledecky a silver medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle, an event in which there had been no guarantee she would compete.
 
“She’s just amazing,” Adlington said as she stood on a bus for the brief ride between the pool and the Main Press Center.

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Repetitive brilliance defines Katie Ledecky

 

BY PHILIP HERSH

It is repetition that defines Katie Ledecky. You see it when she stands on the starting block, waiting for the signals that begin a race, pushing and pulling on her swim cap several times, using her hands and elbows and the crook of her arm to fiddle with her goggles. It is why, for reasons she cannot remember, she claps her hands three times just before the beep to dive into the pool, a ritual that has always worked and therefore stands as its own reason.

There is comfort in doing things the same way. At critical moments, it removes the confusion of change. And yet, at the moment the world first saw the record-breaking swimming that would become the emblematic definition of Ledecky, it also saw a 15-year-old with the presence of mind to realize there was a time to let the ritual go.

It was just before the 800-meter freestyle final at the 2012 London Olympics. Ledecky could barely hear the starter given the noise from a crowd determined to will the Brit, Rebecca Adlington, to a second straight Olympic gold medal in the race. Ledecky worried about being late to take her mark if she clapped, worried that everyone else would leave her behind at the start. She was the youngest of 532 athletes on the U.S. team, in many eyes a very unexpected qualifier, so why wouldn't she feel a little uncertain?

She thought about the karmic consequences of breaking the routine and the value of playing it safe. Then she gave in to a bit of teenage angst.

"I was like, 'I don't want to embarrass myself and not go when everyone else does,'" she said.

A little more than eight minutes later, the crowd would do the clapping. Beating the field (including the favored Adlington, who finished third) by more than four seconds, Ledecky was Olympic champion. She also broke the U.S. record set 23 years earlier by Janet Evans, the four-time Olympic champion and multiple world-record setter who remains a standard against whom all women's distance swimmers are judged.

It was the beginning of the pattern with which Katie Ledecky has defined herself in a sport where doing something over and over again is necessary to succeed, where she has had one stunning swim after another. World record after world record, world title after world title.

For my whole long form profile of Katie on ESPN.COM, click here

For Olympic Swimmer Anthony Ervin Voyage Of Self Discovery Is A Long Strange Trip


The words from the Grateful Dead song, “Truckin,” are quoted so frequently they almost have become a cliché.

Yet they still are perfect for certain situations.

And one such use is to sum up the picaresque journey of Anthony Ervin, whose first 35 years on earth have indeed been, as the song goes, “a long, strange, trip.”

That’s in all senses of the word “trip,” as Ervin makes abundantly clear in his compelling, sometimes stream-of-conscious new memoir, “Chasing Water.”

The book’s subtitle is “Elegy of an Olympian.”

An elegy is a lament.

But the place in which Ervin finds himself now – and in the final pages of the book, which takes him through 2012 – is something to celebrate.

And so what if Ervin has no idea what the next step will be after he swims in the 2016 Olympics. After all, this is a guy who says, “I have no home other than where I rest my head.”

The future will likely be another episode on his personal discovery channel.

“Self-acceptance and self-knowledge is continually what living is for me,” he said.

Forget trying to figure out his identity from the labels that have been pinned on him for his heritage, age, years of rebellious and often self-destructive behavior, shoulder-to-wrist tattoos on both arms and ability to cut through the water like a knife. To all that, Ervin responds with the title of an Arctic Monkeys album: “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.”

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For Phelps & Lochte, another matchless episode of long-running hit

    Gonna take a sentimental journey
 
    Gonna set my heart at ease
 
    Gonna make a sentimental journey
 
    To renew old memories

 
           -- From the classic 1945 No. 1 hit song, “Sentimental Journey”

OMAHA, Neb. – They should have cleared everyone else out of the pool, leaving Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in a match race, because that is what Friday night’s final of the 200-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming turned out to be.

Again.

No one expected anything else from the two men who have battled each other for global supremacy in the event over 13 years, creating the greatest rivalry in the history of their sport.

And the two 31-year-olds now have a chance to do it one more time at the 2016 Olympics next month in Rio.

“It isn’t over,” Lochte said. “We’ve still got another month to put everything together and really give the world a show.”

There never has been a longer-running hit in the sport.

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