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16-year-old Ledecky unfazed after breaking 4 minute mark in 400m freestyle

The US swimmer won gold in 3:59.82 to become only the second female ever to finish the distance in under four minutes.

KATIE LEDECKY MAY have produced one of the performances of last year’s Olympic Games as she destroyed the field in the 800m freestyle, but she proved that was merely a sign of things to come as she sealed a first world championship gold in the 400m freestyle on Sunday.

The 16-year-old recorded the second fastest time ever for a woman over 400m and cruised to victory with almost a three second margin over second placed Spaniard Melanie Costa with New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle taking third.

“I really wasn’t expecting to go that fast,” Ledecky admitted afterwards.

“That wasn’t my focus, I just wanted to compete with these girls and get the gold medal.”

A gold medal that keeps her on track for a hat-trick of freestyle golds as she attempts to add the 800m and 1500m titles to her name later in the week.

Ledecky prepared for her assault on the Catalan capital with wins over all three distances at the American trials last month, but she also revealed on Sunday that she hadn’t just cleaned up at the national and international stage in 2013.

Having just finished her junior year at high school in the States, it wasn’t beneath the Olympic champion to return to swimming for her school team over the past year.

“We did pretty good,” she says with almost an embarrassed smile. “We won our independent school league for like the first time in 10 years, so it was good.”

Her life is not one of the ordinary 16-year-old schoolgirl though as her level of recognition since London has shot up.

However, in her typically laid back fashion, Ledecky takes the frills of being a swimming starlet in her stride.

“Things have changed just a little bit, I’ve just had more appearances and recognition but once I got back into school it was really normal and all my classmates and teammates all treated me normally so I really had a fun year.”

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“I just try to treat it the same and go out and have fun in every race. I don’t really think about what other people are thinking, I just try to do my best.”

Despite having come into the world championships with such hype and expectation, the Washington born swimmer’s calmness verifies her claims that she is not feeling added pressure having become a household name in London.


“I find it a lot easier after having the Olympics as my first international meet. It’s just great to get back to international competition and do well.”

More than merely doing well, Ledecky is part of a young female group of swimmers that threaten to take the sport by storm in the post Michael Phelps era.

America’s men missed Phelps and missed out on gold in the 4x100m relay event to Olympic champions France. Meanwhile,  the US women squad snatched gold away from Australia in dramatic fashion to give 18-year-old Missy Franklin the first in her attempt to equal Phelps’ seven gold medal haul from the Beijing Olympics five years ago.

- © AFP, 2013

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