The adage claims that patience is a virtue. That rings true in the long distance freestyle swimming events in which Bethesda teenager Katie Ledecky has established herself this year as the world’s best.
The Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart rising junior said in a press conference recording Saturday that she has been more patient at this week’s 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain than any past competition. And it’s paid dividends.
Ledecky closed out an historical week of racing by winning Saturday’s 800-meter freestyle final in world-record fashion for her fourth gold medal in as many events.
Ledecky’s time of 8 minutes, 13.86 seconds Saturday bested the previous world mark set by England’s Rebecca Adlington at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Denmark’s Lotte Friis finished in second place, 2.46 seconds behind Ledecky.
“I knew it was going to be a tough race and I knew Lotte would be right in it. I just had to be patient up front, which I’m not always very good at. I tried to push the last 200 as hard as I could and break away. That’s something I did a lot better this week than I’ve done in the past, staying patient. Usually I get excited and spin my wheels up front and am never able to close hard. But I put in the training to finish hard and swim well at the end, it was a matter of staying patient and knowing what I could do,” Ledecky said.
Earlier in the week Ledecky set an American record in her 400-meter freestyle win and crushed a six-year world record in her 1,500-meter freestyle gold-medal performance. On Thursday the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 800-meter freestyle swam the leadoff leg of Team USA’s winning 800-meter freestyle relay that was anchored by Missy Franklin.
Franklin had high praise for Ledecky following the win. The week’s results exceeded Ledecky’s own expectations, she said.
“I’m thrilled. My goal that my coach and I set at the beginning of the year was [to win] three medals and [set] one world record. I got four [gold] medals and two world records. I can’t be upset, I’m extremely happy,” Ledecky said.
Ledecky’s world championship win streak looked to be in jeopardy Saturday when she trailed by as much as one second — an eternity in swimming — for the majority of the first 600 meters. But Ledecky has also proven to be an excellent 200-meter freestyle athlete — she qualified for the World Championships in the event after finishing second to Franklin at the U.S. Swimming National Championships last month but scratched it from her already hectic schedule to conserve her energy, she said — and pulled away down the stretch Saturday.
Ledecky was out in front by the 650-meter mark, according to the USA Swimming website, and was twelve-hundredths ahead of the world-record pace with 100 meters to go.
“It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the middle of the race, it’s all about getting your hand on the wall [first]. My coach wanted me to really push the last 200. I just stayed patient throughout the race and made my move where I knew I had to,” Ledecky said. “It’s a pretty amazing feeling right now. It was good to finish off on a good note. I exceeded all expectations I had going into [worlds]. I’m just really happy right now.”