Swimmer Katie Ledecky Breaks Her Own Record, Again
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
She's broken nine world records in two years - swimmer Katie Ledecky, just 18 years old and blazing through the world championships in Kazan, Russia, this week. Get ready to hear a lot more about Ledecky in next summer's Olympics. Karen Crouse is in Kazan covering the worlds for The New York Times. And Karen, let's talk about this. Katie Ledecky smashed her own world record. It was a record she had set just one day earlier in the 1,500-meter freestyle. That's almost a mile of swimming. How did she do it?
KAREN CROUSE: Melissa, it was incredible. If you can imagine this, her final 50 was her second-fastest lap, exceeded only by her first lap in which she had the benefit of the dive - just incredible. So her time was just two seconds faster than what she recorded yesterday - 15, 25, 48. And just to put that time in perspective for your listeners who aren't swimming nerds...
CROUSE: That time would place her or rank her 81st in the world in the men's 1,500 this year.
BLOCK: Then Katie Ledecky did another amazing thing, which is in very short order after that 1,500-meter race. She had to turn around and race in the 200-meter freestyle, a very different, I would think, kind of swimming. And yet, she's really good in both.
CROUSE: Very few people would even try this double, even if they were seven days apart. You need to have a sprinter's speed to compete with the best in the world in the 200. And of course, the 1,500 is the longest event in the pool. So when she was finished with the 1,500, she hopped out of the pool, warmed down and 29 minutes later, was back on the blocks for the semifinal swim of the 200 freestyle. And somehow, she found enough energy to pass four swimmers on that final lap and record a time that was good enough to be among the top eight. So she will be swimming the 200 free final tomorrow.
BLOCK: What was Katie's reaction today when she looked up, realized she had broken her own record and broke it pretty handily by more than two seconds?
CROUSE: It was rather muted. She splashed the water, but I think she was actually conserving her energy. And so she didn't want to make more of a fuss than that because she had another 200 to swim. A lot of us in this press room have been racking our brains trying to think if there's anything that really compares to this. It's right up there with Michael's eight gold medals in Beijing because that was...
BLOCK: You're talking about Michael Phelps.
CROUSE: Michael Phelps - that was strung out over eight days - just incredible.
BLOCK: Karen, you swam competitively when you were growing up and all through college. When you watch Katie Ledecky in the pool - watch her stroke and watch her kick - what is she doing that's so great?
CROUSE: That's the $64,000 question because if you talk to her coach, he will tell you she's not the best kicker. She's far from the fastest puller. But when you put two together, there's something that's just magic. But for all of her natural gifts, she is a dogged competitor. I call her the smiling assassin because she's so nice. Everyone talks about how she may be the nicest person you'll ever meet. And so she kind of reels you in with her pleasantness. And then right when you think, wow, she looks harmless enough, boom - she dives into the water and, you know, leaves you in her wake.
BLOCK: Karen Crouse, thanks so much for talking with us. Enjoy the rest.
CROUSE: Thank you. My pleasure.
BLOCK: That's reporter Karen Crouse with The New York Times. She's trying to keep up with Katie Ledecky, covering the world championships of swimming in Kazan, Russia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.