NEW YORK — Katie Ledecky‘s coach recently tried, and failed, to discuss a dilemma with her about next summer.
Here’s the situation:
Ledecky can enter as many as four individual events at August’s World Championships in Kazan, Russia — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles.
She swept the four at the biggest meet this year, the Pan Pacific Championships in August. She won a fifth gold anchoring the 4x200m free relay, after which a medal presenter proposed to her.
But the Worlds schedule is different and more grueling in some respects. Generally, the women’s 1500m free final — a 16-minute crucible (well, 15 1/2 for Ledecky) — and the 200m free semis are in the same night session at Worlds.
Ledecky broke her 1500m free world record at Pan Pacs, but she had the luxury of not worrying about any other events that night.
In 2013, Ledecky dropped the 200m free from her Worlds program because of the crowded schedule.
Will she drop the 200m free again next year, or will she shed the 1500m free, as it is an event not swum at the Olympics?
“I’ve tried to have the conversation with her about next summer and dropping something,” Coach Bruce Gemmell said before Ledecky won three Golden Goggles awards Monday night. “Right now, she doesn’t want to hear it.”
Ledecky felt the same when asked about dropping an event Monday night. Normally reserved, she began answering before a reporter could finish the questions.
Have we seen you swim a 1500m free for the last time …
“You’ll see me swim it again,” she said. “I don’t know when, but I’ll swim it again. I’m not done with that race. I love that race. It did hurt [at Pan Pacs], but I love that feeling.”
But you’ll have to drop that or the 200m free for Worlds …
“I’m two years older now [than going into 2013 Worlds],” the 17-year-old said, smiling. “I have more experience.”
But Ledecky also cautioned.
“I’m not saying I’m swimming them all,” she said.
Ledecky kept a busy schedule since Pan Pacs. She took about a week and a half off from swimming after returning from Australia.
The Bethesda, Md., high school senior used the extra hours out of the pool to help decorate the hallways with classmates at the all-girls Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, study in the library and just hang out.
Once back in the pool, she was beaten in one fall meet (by men) and wore the cap of a swimmer injured in a car accident at another.
Gemmell discussed Ledecky swimming in mixed-gender races with fellow coach David Marsh on Monday morning. Losing was good, he said.
“She talked about how she swam the races were a little different than she might if she was out there swimming all by herself, which is a good thing because next time she finds herself in a tight race with somebody, it’s another experience she’s had,” he said.
“It was a fun little challenge,” she said. “Bruce told me before I think it was the 500 [free], first race. He said boys like to go out really fast, so don’t go out really fast. The first 75, I conserved my energy. Sure enough, they all went out fast. I sort of was able to catch up. It was a lot of fun. Hopefully, I’ll, once or twice, get the opportunity to do that again.”
Ledecky will swim the 100-, 200-, 500- and 1,500-yard freestyles and the 200-yard individual medley at Winter Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., next week. The meet is held in a 25-yard pool, rather than an Olympic-size 50-meter pool.
Before that, Ledecky got some training in before an appearance on TODAY on Monday morning. She swam in a New York pool at 5 a.m.
Missy Franklin learned of it and joined Ledecky. Franklin is based in California, so for her it was like swimming at 2 a.m.
“We split the lane and didn’t hit each other’s hands once the entire time,” Franklin said with her constant smile. “I think that was very impressive.”
Ledecky’s goals for the Rio OlymPics, mostly about hitting specific times in events, were laid out before Pan Pacs. They were revisited after the meet and left unchanged.
Perhaps the 100m free is on that list. Ledecky is already the top U.S. swimmer in the 200m free. She would have a shot to at least finish in the top six at the 2016 Olympic trials and get on the 4x100m free relay.
“You know she’s going to get faster to swim a world-class 200, and with that comes a pretty good 100,” Gemmell acknowledged. “If she snuck on the team in a fifth or sixth spot, I don’t know if we’d be given the opportunity to swim it [in the relay] at the Olympics. The coaching staff would have to get together and say, hey, what’s the benefit here of doing this thing. Risk, reward.”
Ledecky said she would consider it.
“We’ll see how that progresses,” she said. “You never really know. It’s not something I’ll focus heavily on. I’m not going to jeopardize my other events for the 100.”