INDIANAPOLIS — Katie Ledecky looked as dominant as ever in her pro debut.
She set another world record in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle, shattering her previous mark by exactly five seconds and pulling away from everyone else in the IUPUI Natatorium pool.
The six-time Olympic gold medalist finished in 15 minutes, 20.48 seconds, breaking her previous mark from August 2015 at the TYR Pro Series stop in Indianapolis. After winning the heat by more than 49 seconds, Ledecky had to wait another two hours to officially be crowned event champion as the remaining timed heats continued.
As usual, though, Ledecky left no doubt about where she stood and she’s only getting started.
“My goal for the end of the summer was to break 15:30. I know that’s not even my best, but I was 15:31 at last year’s worlds,” Ledecky said. “We kind of laid out a roadmap, knowing if it went one way or the other we could adjust, and I’m really going to have adjust that one (in the 1,500).”
For the Maryland native, it’s another chapter in a storied career that includes six world records and the eight fastest times ever recorded in the 1,500.
Overall, she has had 14 world-record swims and this one just happened to come in the first heat of the first event on the first night of her first pro event.
The meet runs through Saturday and Ledecky could compete in six more events this week, though she hasn’t decided whether she will actually attempt it.
But the record-breaking swim certainly has inspired her.
“It sure feels good to get one of those under my belt, and it’s a feeling that never gets old,” Ledecky said. “Each one is unique and special. This is the first one since I’ve been at Stanford and it’s my first pro swim, so I’ll never forget it.”
What is clear to everyone else: Ledecky remains on top of her game more than two years away from another Olympics and with almost three months to prepare for the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo.
Heck, the 21-year-old didn’t even taper for this meet and still nobody could get close.
Erica Sullivan finished second in the heat, more than 49 seconds behind Ledecky in a finish reminiscent of Secretariat’s runaway victory in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. So when Ledecky turned and saw the numbers on the board, she was surprised.
“I guess I don’t need to taper, ever,” Ledecky joked. “I’ve just started to realize that I need my confidence to be skyrocketing to swim fast. It’s not really about rest, it’s about how confident I am.”
This win should help.
She spent the last six weeks focused on training, working on going faster on the harder things before diving into one of the world’s fastest pools.
At some point, she figured those workouts would pay dividends. So she threw in a meet to break up the monotony of training and delivered a result that looked awfully familiar to her amateur days.
Ledecky led from start to finish, was under world-record pace on most of the 50-meter splits, extended the margin to more than half the length of the pool at the 700 turn, and then poured it on as she continued pulling away over the final 400.
Even she’s not sure what to do for an encore.
“I might have to recalibrate some of the goals now,” Ledecky said.
Now, she can start cashing in on all those impressive performances, too.
But money has never been the motivating factor for Ledecky.
“Any day, anywhere, anytime. It’s doesn’t matter how you feel, you just have to give your best effort,” she said. “It’s not about the money. It’s about being the best I can be.”