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Womens 200 metre freestyle – Butterfly queen Sarah Sjostrom and the distance megastar Katie Ledecky face off

918   //    09 Aug 2016, 21:53 IST
Sarah Sjostrom and Katie Ledecky

Just sample this piece of news:’ Katie Ledecky comes in second in the 200 metre freestyle semis at Rio Olympics.’

Not used to such a headline? Well the person responsible for this shocker in the sizzling Swede Sarah Sjostrom. Let us take a look at what she has achieved in her swimming career.

Some career highlights

An expert in both the freestyle and butterfly strokes, the 6 feet 1 inch, 22 year old Swede, is the world record holder in the 50 and 100 metre butterfly. She is also the world record holder in the 200 metre butterfly over the short course. An European Champion at the tender age of 14 in the 100 fly, setting world records is a seven year itch for this strapping Swede.

2009 World Aquatics Championships

Even before she could vote or drive, Sjostrom set a world record of 56.44 seconds surpassing Inge De Brujn’s nine-year-old record. She bettered her own record in the finals the next day, clocking 56.06 seconds.

2012 Summer Olympic Games

These games were a blip in the Swede’s career, as she could only manage semi-final finishes in the 50/100/200 freestyle events.She finished fourth in the 100 fly, in a race where the American Dana Vollmer broke, Sjostrom’s world record.

A world record in set in July, 2014, in the 50 fly, needs special mention. The margin of 0.64 seconds by which she broke the earlier record has been compared with Bob Beamon’s long jump world record.

2015 World Aquatics Championships

5 more medals were added to her drawing room collection, including Golds in the 50 and 100 fly. Off course, two more world records were broken.

Onward to the Rio Olympics

With Dana Vollmer fading off after the London Olympics, there have been no serious challengers to Sjostrom who has been unbeaten in a butterfly race since 2013. Sjostrom holds the five fastest 100 butterfly performances ever and has been swimming seriously fast in the months leading up to Rio. 

And fast it was as, Sjostrom duly won the 100 fly at Rio demolishing her own world record.

Some of the best ever await her at Rio in the 200 freestyle

Katie Ledecky

Arguably the greatest freestyle distance swimmer ever, the 19 year old, now veteran American has already tasted Gold at RIO, with her World record breaking performance in her pet event the 400 free.

More renowned for her mind-boggling feats in the 400, 800 and 1500 metre feats, she has been in a regular in the 200 this year.

She swam big in the Austin Swim Pro Series meet with her 1:54:43 time which was faster than what she swam at the Olympic trials. Off course she had a very heavy program in the trials.

Not to be outdone, Sjostrom swam 1:54:34 in the Swedish nationals last month, nearly eclipsing her personal best.

Federica Pellegrini and Katie Ledecky

Pellegrini not far behind

Lest we forget, the gorgeous Italian is right up there to challenge the Swede-American combo. Pellegrini surpassed her own national record in the 100 free at the 2016 Sette Colli Trophy in Rome with an impressive 53.18. She also swam a 1:54.55, in the 200 free at the same meet, erasing Sjostrom’s Sette Colli record, in turn beating her own 200 free times from the previous three World Championships as well as the London Olympics.

These are alarmingly fast swims, which is even more impressive considering her two performances from the Sette Colli Trophy are textile bests for her. 

Another point to ponder..the Italian has more international racing experience in the 200 free than the big two.

Some more competition in the wings..

Australia’s Emma Mckeon, fast improving in the 100 and 200 free, is another sub 1:55 swimmer and was pretty impressive in her national trials. Sjostrom’s countrywoman, Michelle Coleman, Shen Duo and Femke Heemskerk lurk in the background but will have to swim out of their skins to be in the medal bracket.

So will it be the greater front half speed of the sprinting Swede triumphing or the greater endurance of the American that would hold out?

Lest we forget, the 200 free is not the numero uno event for either Sjostrom nor Ledecky. The Swede has backed off the 200 free before, dropping it from her schedule at last summer’s World Championships, only to swim faster than Ledecky’s world title-winning 200 free time while leading off Sweden’s 800 free relay.

But the schedules at Rio, may have encouraged the butterfly queen and the distance star to participate.

Whatever the reason, the seemingly effortless takeover of the top two slots speaks volumes of their talent and will to succeed.

A final not be missed!!

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