For more than 15 years, Janet Evans simultaneously held the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle world records.
Now, those records have belonged to Katie Ledecky for nearly two years. She has a long way to go to match Evans’ longevity, but Ledecky’s talent is simply overwhelming in Evans’ opinion.
“She swims an 800 freestyle like it’s a 200 freestyle,” Evans told Michele Tafoya on NBC Sports’ coverage of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials. “What I appreciate the most is that she literally takes a race out like it’s a 100-meter freestyle or a 200-meter freestyle, and then she keeps that pace going for 800 meters or, even though it’s not in the Olympics, the 1500 meters.”
Ledecky, 19, swept the 200m, 400m and 800m frees in Omaha this week. The 1500m free is not on the Olympic program for women (it is for the men, but the men don’t have the 800m free).
Ledecky has entered 15 finals at major international meets and won all of them. She will likely be in at least four more in Rio, including the 4x200m free relay.
Evans, 44, has joked that she’s old enough to be Ledecky’s mother. But they actually swam in the same meet in 2012, when Evans entered the U.S. Olympic Trials for the first time since 1996.
Evans saw the competitive drive in Ledecky’s eyes four years ago, when Ledecky made the team in the 800m free but missed in the 400m free, finishing third.
“I remember seeing how disappointed she was when she didn’t make the team [in the 400],” Evans said in 2014. “I remember thinking, oh, yeah, she wants this. She’s pretty hungry. Then I remember watching her 800, where she just took it out and took no prisoners.”Follow @nzaccardi