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US Olympic Swimming Trials 2021: Why does Katie Ledecky not get tired?

Katie Ledecky in action at 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials
Katie Ledecky in action at 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials
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Prakhar Sachdeo

Six-time Olympic medalist Katie Ledecky is warming up for her third Olympic appearance. With five golds and a silver at the Olympics, the 24-year-old is the most decorated woman in swimming history. Nine years ago, when as a 15-year-old she participated in the London Olympics 2012, she was the youngest member of the whole of the 2012 US Olympic contingent.

The following year, she set her first world record when she completed the 800m freestyle event in 8 minutes 13.86 seconds. Another world record was created when she clocked 15 minutes 36.53 seconds in the 1500m freestyle event.

By July 2014 those timings were bettered to 8 minutes 11 seconds and 15 minutes 34.23 seconds. Two months later she was the proud holder of the world record in 400m freestyle with a timing of 3 minutes 58.86 seconds.

With world records set in 800m, 1500m, and 400m to her name, Katie Ledecky became the first female swimmer since American Janet Evans to hold simultaneous world records in all three events. The world records in 400m and 800m were to fall at her own feet at the Rio Olympics.

Outside the Olympics, she has dominated the world championships with equal panache. At the swimming world championships, Katie Ledecky is the swimmer with the most individual-event titles among females. Across four world championships, she is yet to settle for a bronze. The ace swimmer has bagged a stunning 15 golds and 3 silvers in that time frame.

Freestyle is her forte. Make her swim a freestyle event of any length, alone or with her team, and she won't disappoint!

She is now creating ripples in the ongoing US Olympic Swimming Trials 2021.

Katie Ledecky won the 200m freestyle title, clocking 1:55:11. Shortly after her win, she made her first appearance at the 1,500m freestyle event. But the champion swimmer showed no signs of nerves as she dominated the race with a time of 15:40:50. She is yet to swim at the 800m freestyle event.

Every time she is in the water, she has to live up to the expectations of a splendid swimmer, Katie Ledecky herself.

β€œThe most important expectations are the ones that I have for myself,” she once said.

Her stature in swimming can be judged by the fact that the greatest swimmer of all time, Michael Phelps, recently heaped praise on Katie Ledecky.

"She is recreating what is possible. That is awesome to watch," is how Michael Phelps put in perspective Katie Ledecky's dominance in the pool.

After clinching gold in 200 m freestyle, 400 m freestyle, 800 m freestyle, and 4x200 freestyle at Rio Olympics 2016, Katie Ledecky is sure to dominate the pool at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

Read: Katie Ledecky trains for Tokyo Olympics in backyard pool

Secret to Katie Ledecky's stamina

What makes Katie Ledecky such a tireless performer in a swimming pool?

In Katie Ledecky's own words:

"All distances are a sprint, some sprints are longer than the other."

This could explain why Katie Ledecky is able to dominate a freestyle event of any length. In her mind, every event is a sprint with minor variations in length. She keeps things simple.

Read: Swimming sensation Katie Ledecky all set to conquer Tokyo Olympics

Physically, Katie Ledecky's technique allows her to conserve as much energy as possible. A closer look at her, while she is working hard in a pool, will tell that she minimizes the use of legs. There are times when she uses only one kick per cycle.

When it comes to the upper body, Katie Ledecky uses the horse freestyle technique. In this technique, either of the two arms glides while stroking the water and the other is still. With many years of training, she has tuned the muscles of trunk and arms to withstand this technique.

Experts say that Katie Ledecky's technique might not be the most esthetically pleasing to the eye, but it is certainly persistent.

This 'persistent' technique could very well explain why she was able to first win the 200m freestyle event at the US Olympic Swimming Trials 2021. Then, in the space of 60 minutes, recover, then jump into the pool once more for the 1500 m freestyle event and clock the fastest time of the year and crush the field by a whopping 11 seconds.

Katie Ledecky is already a swimming great. But her mastery in the pool suggests she is poised to join an elite club of swimmers who have five or more golds at individual events at the Tokyo Olympics. Michael Phelps and Krisztina Egerszegi will soon have the company of Katie Ledecky!

Also read: 5 swimmers to watch out for at Tokyo Olympics 2020


Edited by Prem Deshpande
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