Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky and Short Course Yards

Katie Ledecky and Short Course Yards

Katie Ledecky is the best swimmer in the world. It is likely that, even if her progression continues to stall out and even head in the wrong direction, she will win the events she contests this summer at international championships easily.

But right now, Katie Ledecky is swimming in college, which means she's kind of doing another sport known as short course yards. That sport makes her look far more mortal.

Races That Would Actually Be Cool

For all the name recognition involved, I think we can all agree that Thorpe vs Usain Bolt or Phelps vs Conor McGregor would be terrible to watch. Have you seen the swimming scene from Rocky 3? That's what I picture guys like Usain Bolt or Conor McGregor swimming like:

Although, watching it again, Paulie does have a good point about the principle of specificity. These races also have zero chance of happening, which is good because, like Phelps versus the "shark", they would not be entertaining.

So here are a few suggestions for races that we're not likely to get for any number of reasons, but that I'd actually love to see:

Thorpe vs Sarah Sjöström in a 100 free

Think Billy Jean King versus Bobby Riggs except Thorpe is closer to his prime and without the rampant sexism. I think a short course race would be best, if only because it might be easier for Thorpe to get back in shape for it. You might say a 50 would be better but Thorpe was never good for a 50 and I think Sjöström at her current peak would demolish him in such a short race.

Tim Duncan vs Kris Humphries in a 50 free

If I had an unlimited money pit, I would be using it to sponsor Tim Duncan to compete in masters swimming now that he's retired from basketball. For those that don't know, early in Duncan's basketball career it was always mentioned how he was a "swimming champion" in the Virgin Islands before a hurricane destroyed his pool and forced him to play basketball.

Only the swim nerd himself has thrown a little bit of water on the theory that Tim Duncan was some kind of age group stud. 

Meanwhile, Kris Humphries is not half the NBA player Duncan was, but he was actually an age group stud, going 27.7 in the 50 free (LCM) as a TEN YEAR OLD.

Now tell me it wouldn't be fun to watch two guys north of 6'10 with some swimming in their background go head to head in a 50 free.

Caeleb Dressel vs Shark

I'm stealing this one from my friend Garrett McCaffrey, who aptly pointed out the biggest problem with Phelps vs Shark: we had the wrong guy in the race. Looking back at the race film, the shark did not win by much. What kind of shape was Phelps in?

Does it even matter? Dressel proved this summer that he can get it done in any kind of race. He's got the underwaters. He could easily make up the two second deficit that Phelps had to that great white.

Dara Torres vs Katie Ledecky in a 25 free

Katie Ledecky is making her case for greatest swimmer of all time. She is young. Although she is getting more raw speed, the foundation of her swimming is crazy speed endurance.

Dara Torres is still only 50 years old and only five years off from a credible Olympic bid in the 50 free.

Although you might think that the short distance would give Torres some advantage, neither swimmer is or was particularly strong off the blocks. So this would be a knock down, drag out fight for 25 yards.

Now I just have to figure out how to make that unlimited money pit so we can get this show on the road. 



Lia Neal Instead of Katie Ledecky on the 4x100 Relay

The World Championships in Budapest are underway, and despite some pessimistic predictions things are mostly going great for team USA. But a curious reader reached out to me to point out something strange that happened on Day 1. Why was Katie Ledecky on the 4x100 freestyle relay instead of Lia Neal?

Because, Superwoman

The obvious argument is that Katie Ledecky is just such a great once in a generation phenomenon for women's swimming that she deserves the benefit of any doubt. She's the best swimmer in the world, although Sarah Sjostrom is making that closer than it's ever been for the past few years.

When Michael Phelps was the world's best, he swam on 4x100 free relays. For the brief period of time that is quite hard to remember when Ryan Lochte was the world's best, he swam on 4x100 relays. So Ledecky should swim on 4x100 relays? Right?

Well, there's a compelling argument that she shouldn't.

Lia Neal Earned It

Hindsight is 20/20 blah blah, but very objectively we can say that Lia Neal was faster than Ledecky yesterday, but that Ledecky swam on the relay. The decision didn't have any objective cost for the American team, as they still won gold semi-comfortably. 

But Lia Neal was 53.9 in the morning from a flat start, and Ledecky produced 53.8 from a flying start at night. Swimming common sense dictates that Neal would have gain far more than .1 of a second from a flying start. 

Mitigating circumstances

On top of the strong performance of Neal, there were other reasons to use her on the 4x100 relay that night. Ledecky had the 400 free final, while Neal otherwise had the night off. Again, I know Ledecky is superwoman, but swimming a 400 free final at the World Championships will greatly decrease the chance of an outstanding relay split.

And it did just so, where Ledecky swam a pedestrian (for her) 53.8 versus the 52.7 she scorched in Rio. 

None of this is a knock on Ledecky, or on Neal for that matter. Both did their jobs yesterdays and the results were as good as they can be for the team. I can imagine that behind the scenes there was definitely some conflict over how to arrange that relay, especially with Greg Meehan having coached both swimmers.