Katie Ledecky shattered her own world record in the 800 freestyle at Rio with a performance so dominant that competitors were swimming in the other direction at one point.
The stunning victory on Aug. 12 gave Ledecky, 19, of Maryland, her fourth gold in Rio and fifth medal. It also had viewers and social media commentators amazed by the length of distance between Ledecky and her nearest competitor.
Fox News came up with 11 “insane facts” to highlight how unusual Ledecky’s victory was; among them: “If you take the margin of victory in every single men’s race in Rio, the combined time is 6.66 seconds. Ledecky’s margin: 11.38 seconds.”
How dominant is Ledecky in the 800? What’s amazing is that she was already crushing the competition in the event, but she beat her own best time by so much.
“Ledecky already owned all of the top-10 times in the history of the 800 free, and this adds another layer to her dominance,” says Yahoo News. The Los Angeles Times says Ledecky “now holds the 13 fastest times ever in the event.”
Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte told Sports Illustrated after practicing with Ledecky in March. “Her stroke, her mentality: She’s so strong in the water. I’ve never seen a female swimmer like that. She gets faster every time she gets in, and her times are becoming good for a guy. She’s beating me now, and I’m, like, ‘What is going on?’”
What makes Ledecky so good? Sports Illustrated asked Dave Marsh, coach of the U.S. Olympic women’s team, for his theory, and he told the magazine: “I’ve experienced the passion and depth with which Katie trains and races. I’ve gone back and tried to figure out what causes it, because she doesn’t fit the model. She has a wonderful family, has everything, really, that she wants; she’s a beautiful person with seemingly no dark sides. But she has this energy stirring in her, not just at meets but at practice.” It’s that singular determination that stands out.
The New York Times said Ledecky became only the second woman in history (Debbie Meyer was the other in 1968) to win the 200, 400 and 800 at the same Olympics.
ESPN said Ledecky “beat her own world-record time by nearly two seconds to become the second woman in history to win the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle races at the same Olympics.”
Ledecky – the U.S. Olympic swimming team’s youngest member – completed the feat “with a flourish,” the Times said, “breaking her world record in the 800 with a clocking of 8 minutes 04.79 seconds.”
Showing Ledecky’s sheer dominance in the race: Her closest competitors’ times: Jazz Carlin was second at (8:16.17), and Boglárka Kapás was third at (8:16.37).
Ledecky is the defending Olympic champion in the event, according to NBC. At the 2012 Olympics, Ledecky only competed in the 800. She later won the event at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, said NBC. She won her first gold medal at age 15 with a time 10 seconds slower than Aug. 12.
Ledecky’s USA Swimming bio says she is the current World Record holder in the 400m, 800m and 1500m free and is committed to swimming at Stanford University. Her mother and brother are also swimmers, the bio says.
Ledecky started swimming on a Washington D.C. team at age 6, meaning she became a gold medal winner within nine years.
Watch Ledecky’s London performance in the 800:
On social media, people reacted to the jaw dropping lead, which at one point had Ledecky and competitors swimming in opposite directions: