Golden Ledecky set to go distance at worlds

Katie Ledecky (Getty Images)
Katie Ledecky (Getty Images)

Budapest - Without Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin or Ryan Lochte on the United States swimming team at the world aquatics championships, Katie Ledecky, 20, is ready to shoulder American medal hopes.

Phelps, the most successful Olympian of all-time with 23 gold medals, has again retired, Franklin sits out Budapest after shoulder surgery and Lochte has just served a suspension.

Ledecky though is a sure-fire contender for multiple golds when the swimming gets underway on Sunday in a punishing schedule of six events - the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles, plus the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays.

It means, including heats and finals, she will potentially swim a total of 6,300 metres in Budapest.

That's 100m more than she swam at the Kazan world champs two years ago when she won an eye-popping five golds in the 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, plus the 4x200m relay freestyle events.

To put those distances into perspective, Michael Phelps swam 3 300m when he won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics.

Ledecky could match Franklin's record of six gold medals at the 2013 worlds, the most titles won by a female swimmer at a single championships.

"I can't wait to race," said Ledecky ahead of Sunday's 400m freestyle heats and final - the event in which she set the world record of 3:56.46 minutes at the Rio Olympics last year.

"Over the last two summers, I have had a very similar schedule, so I feel really prepared.

"I have the confidence from two years ago knowing how to handle that and manage it to have good energy throughout the whole week."

Ledecky only turned 20 in March, yet is already a senior figure on the USA team at her third world championships.

She is an idol for teenagers Regan Smith, 15, and Dakota Luther, 17, who are making their world-championship debuts in Budapest - the first step on the road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

"It's different to my first world championships in 2013 in Barcelona, there are a new faces, but everyone seems to be going faster and faster," said Ledecky.

"I'm honoured to have people look up to me.

"Even though we are missing those people mentioned (Phelps, Franklin and Lochte), we have a great team which will step up to the plate this week.

"This is the first step towards Tokyo.

"It's about laying the groundwork so that the rookies get the experience and the veterans will start thinking about goals.

"I still feel pretty young on this team, I'm still learning a lot, but I feel like I can have a little more of a leadership role."


Ledecky set the 1500m freestyle record two years ago in Kazan - finishing 15 seconds ahead of her nearest rival in the final.

The Stanford University student is driven by the desire to go even faster.

"I'm always looking to find new ways to be efficient and improve, whether that is a longer stroke or get stronger to use those little pieces to have an impact," she said.

"It's about putting in the training - swimming nine times a week for up to two hours.

"Then there is dryland training on top of that, then with races and getting experience to find new ways to improve.

"It gets harder and harder each year, but that's what I find exciting.

"Swimming is something I love, I have been doing it since I was six years old.

"It's been an honour to represent the USA, I started for fun and that's what it's all about - it's a lot of fun to laugh with my team-mates and cheer them on.

"I don't really focus on gold medals and breaking world records, I just enjoy staying focused on the process and having fun."

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