Personal goals fuel Ledecky before Titmus showdown
LOS ANGELES: Ledecky has powered her way to five Olympic gold medals with laser-like focus on her goals, and an intensifying rivalry with Ariarne Titmus is not about to change the US freestyle great’s approach.
Ledecky heads to the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games targeting an astonishing range of freestyle titles: 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m, the last an Olympic event for women for the first time.
It is not just the scope that will be a challenge Ledecky but also the rise of Australia’s Titmus, who has thrown down top times in the world this year in the 200m and 400m free to signal her readiness to take on the American.
As talk of Titmus’s times buzzed through the US Olympic trials, Ledecky insisted she remained focused only on her own performances.
It is the strategy she has used ever since she sprang an upset 800m freestyle victory as a 15-year-old at the 2012 London Olympics.
She added gold in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 4x200m free relay in Rio four years later along with a 4x100m free relay silver.
Owner of the 23 fastest 800m free times in history, Ledecky remains a heavy favorite in that event and in the 1500m -- in which she owns the 10 fastest times ever.
Ledecky is acutely conscious of the place in history a 1500m free victory would bring, noting that former distance greats including American Evans never had the chance for gold in the event which was previously only swum by men at the Games.
“Hopefully we can do her proud in Tokyo,” Ledecky said of Evans, who held the 1500m free record from March 1988 through June 2007.
But the addition of the 1500m free pushes Ledecky’s Olympic programme almost to breaking point, with the 200m and 1500m free finals coming in the same session. It’s the kind of challenge that has long fueled Ledecky, who recalls liking the punishing 1500m “right from the get-go” even though many young swimmers shy away from the demanding training it requires.
“I just like the work that you have to put in to be good at that race,” Ledecky said. “It requires really good pacing, probably more so than the 800, just being cautious up front and knowing how much you can push it.”
With so many plates in the air in Tokyo, Ledecky said she won’t be worrying about what her rivals might produce.
“I can’t control if someone has some really fast swims and beats me and things like that,” she said. “So I just tried to focus on my goal times and how I want to swim each of my races.”