Ledecky arrives at worlds with big, scary goals

Katie Ledecky, seen here after winning the 200m freestyle at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (AFP pic)

GWANGJU: With five Olympic gold and a record 14 world titles to her name, Katie Ledecky is well on her way to becoming the greatest female swimmer of all time so when the American says she has set “big, scary goals” for 2020 it spells bad news for her rivals.

Ledecky is the world record holder in the 400, 800 and 1,500 metres freestyle and will swim all three events, plus the 200, at the world swimming championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

It seems a case of “when” not “if” she eclipses compatriot Jenny Thompson’s record of eight Olympic golds and it would be no surprise if the 22-year-old does so next year in Tokyo, where she is down to compete in all four events.

After a stunning Olympic debut in London where she won the 800 as a 15-year-old, Ledecky dominated in Rio by winning the 200, 400 and 800 but she has no intention of dwelling on the past.

“I’m not really focused on comparing myself to 2016 or 2012, it’s all just about my own goals,” she said.

“Certainly I have goals that are big and scary and exciting and are going to push me to try and be better over the next year and a half.”

Since turning pro last year and leaving Stanford two years early, Ledecky has divided her time between working out at the Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs and competing.

She enters the world championships in great form, having swam well at the Tyr Pro Series in Bloomington, Indiana in May before competing in a small meet in California in June.

“I’ve been really happy to get a lot of long course racing in,” Ledecky said. “I haven’t really rested at all this year, which is a little different but I’m excited to see the payoff,” she added

The only vulnerable spot in Ledecky’s arsenal would appear to be the 200 where she took silver two years ago at the world championships.

It is the only event where Ledecky does not have the fastest time of the year and Australian teen Ariarne Titmus leads a group of challengers ready to push her all the way.

However, if winning the 200 is one of Ledecky’s goals then it would be a brave bet to go against her.

“I set big goals for myself right after Rio. I kind of set my new goals for this four-year chunk and I’m getting closer to making those goals happen in 2020,” Ledecky said recently during an interview promoting next year’s US Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

“I’ve set those goals out there for 2020. As we’re getting closer, I want to get closer to those goals.”