Katie Ledecky broke her second world record in four days, slashing 2.86 seconds off her 800m free mark from last year’s World Championships on Sunday.
Ledecky, 17 and the female World Swimmer of the Year, clocked 8 minutes, 11 seconds, at a meet in Texas. She took 2.3 seconds off her 1500m world record at the same pool Thursday.
“I knew I was swimming well, but I didn’t realize until I touched how much faster I was here than in Barcelona,” Ledecky told the Washington Post. “I’d still a bit stunned from this whole weekend. It’s a great feeling.”
The 800m world record is bigger because it’s an Olympic event (Ledecky won the 2012 Olympic 800m free title at age 15). The 1500m free is contested at the World Championships, but not the Olympics.
Ledecky is in spectacular form more than one month before the U.S. Championships, a selection meet for the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, later in August, and the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia. Swimmers usually set their training to peak for the major late summer meets.
That’s just what Ledecky did last year, winning gold medals in all four of her World Championships events in Barcelona, including world records in the 800m and 1500m frees.
Ledecky is clearly in a class of her own in those two distances. Nobody is within five seconds of her in the 800m free or 10 seconds in the 1500m free since the start of 2013.
Her next challenges would appear to include the 400m free world record of 3:59.15, set by Italian Federica Pellegrini at the 2009 World Championships (the peak of the high-tech suit era). Ledecky’s personal best is 3:59.82, her 2013 World Championship-winning time. She swam 4:03.09 in Texas on Friday, the fastest time in the world this year.
She also swims the 200m free and has been improving in that distance the last three years — 1:58.66 (2012), 1:56.32 (2013), 1:56.27 (2014). Ledecky was the second fastest U.S. woman in the 200m free last year, behind Missy Franklin, and is the fastest so far this year.
A few notes about Ledecky’s 800m world record Sunday:
She negative split the race, which means she was faster in the second 400m (4:05.3) than the first half (4:05.7).
Her time was 3.63 seconds faster than her Olympic gold swim, which was an American record at the time.
Her time would have been the men’s world record until 1975.
Her split at 400m, 4:05.70, would have won every Olympic 400m gold medal before 2004, except when Janet Evans won in then-world record time in 1988.