While America is still reveling in the victories of Michael Philibs and Missy Franklin, another young gold medalist has stolen the spotlight by rising to the occasion at the London Olympics’ 800m freestyle event. The defending champion and Britain’s sweetheart Rebecca Adlington was taken completely by surprise by Katie Ledecky’s quick start and strong finish that bought her close to breaking the world record established by the Brit at the Beijing Olympics.
The 15-year old Katie Ledecky from Bethesda, Md., had a quick start and finished with powerful stroke all the while maintaining the lead in the competition. Rebecca Adlington had other things on her mind such as her arch rival Lotte Friis, who has been in a toe to toe competition with the Brit for all the major title in the field since 2008.
Although Katie Ledecky is well-known around the American circle and has displayed an undying thirst and all the right tools to win gold at the Olympics, she was never taken as a serious contender since it is her first Olympics appearance. Moreover, Rebecca Adlington and Lotte Firis were too absorbed in their own competition to notice the American was dominating the game. And by the time they arrived at that conclusion, Katie Ledecky had blown away the competition with her 8:14.63 finish, a good four second lead on the runner-up to first position, and finish that broke the second-fastest lap record by Rebecca Adlington.
By 100m Rebecca Adlington thought like everyone else that she could catch-up with Katie Ledecky, by 200m it became increasingly difficult. Rebecca Adlington and Lotte Firis were seriously contemplating if Katie Ledecky will eventually tire and shrink back after the quick start. Katie Ledecky had taken a similar start at the preliminaries alarming every contender in the pool that day, but gave out as she went further.
Halfway through the competition and Rebecca Adlington, who was holding strong at second, could eye Katie Ledecky just ahead by a body length. Rebecca Adlington decided to muster some additional power and that was probably the start of things turning for the worse for the Brit. The 25-year-old Rebecca Adlington lost her spot to Spain's Mireia Belmonte García (finishing third), and Katie Ledecky was just waiting to hit the finish to claim the gold.
The homecrowd, which had been chanting for Katie Ledecky throughout the competition were certainly disappointed by the outcome. But Rebecca Adlington was unfazed and more accepting of the result.
"She swam absolutely incredible," Rebecca Adlington praised Katie Ledecky.
“The pressure and expectations has been a bit of a battle, continued Rebecca Adlington, “but I’m so pleased with [my performance].”
The teenager wasn’t so sure of her at the start, but she has grown in the competition.
"I've really learned how to train hard and train fast,” said Katie Ledecky. "This crowd was incredible here for Rebecca and I tried to calm myself. I was a lot less nervous swimming this race than I was swimming the prelims."
“At one point I thought I could be close to the world record,” stated Katie Ledecky. “(Then I thought,) ‘I don’t even care, just get to the wall first.’”