Katie Ledecky’s latest American record faster than Ryan Lochte at same age

Katie Ledecky
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Katie Ledecky not only lowered another one of her American records on Thursday, but the 19-year-old also went faster in the 500-yard freestyle than Ryan Lochte ever did before the age of 22.

Ledecky, a Stanford freshman, clocked 4:25.15 at the Pac-12 Championships in Federal Way, Wash., cutting a chunk off her previous mark of 4:26.46 from October. She won by 14.54 seconds. Full results are here.

“I felt coming in that I could do something like that,” Ledecky, who owns the 10 fastest times in history in the event, according to Swimswam.com, said on the Pac-12 Network. “It felt like practice. Really relaxed.”

The 500-yard free is not an Olympic event, so it is not swum on the major international level. Lochte’s best time in the event in his teens was 4:25.54 from the 2001 Florida State Championships, when he was a 17-year-old senior at Port Orange Spruce Creek High. Lochte easily won that race and reportedly slowed in his final strokes.

Lochte didn’t swim the event in 2003 or 2004, when he made his first Olympic team at age 19, but came back in 2005 to clock 4:21.07, according to USA Swimming.

The 500-yard free was not one of Lochte’s best events, either.

When Ledecky broke the women’s 1500m freestyle world record for the third time at the August 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, her 15:28.36 was .01 faster than Lochte’s 1500m free time at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials (one of the rare instances Lochte swam a 1500m free).

Ledecky has since re-broken the women’s 1500m free world record twice more, bringing it down to 15:25.48.

“She swims like a guy,” Lochte said after training with Ledecky in Colorado Springs last March, according to Sports Illustrated. “I’ve never seen a female swimmer like that. … Her times are becoming good for a guy. She’s beating me now, and I’m like, What’s going on?

Ledecky’s 500-yard free time of 4:25.15 is still nowhere near Michael Phelps, who registered a 4:12.33 at age 18 in March 2004. Phelps was perhaps motivated at that meet by the U.S. Olympic Committee earlier that week awarding its Sportsman of the Year honor to Lance Armstrong in a close vote.

Ledecky’s time on Thursday would have won the men’s 500-yard free at the NCAA Championships as recently as 1974 (when John Naber clocked 4:26.855). Mark Spitz won in 1969 in 4:33.88.

The Pac-12 Championships continue Friday, with Ledecky expected to swim the 400-yard individual medley and the 200-yard freestyle, two events where she does not own NCAA or American records.

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