Stone Ridge’s Katie Ledecky wins 800-meter freestyle at Grand Prix event


Katie Ledecky poses for a photo after being named the All-Met Swimmer of the Year for a second consecutive year this past winter. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
April 26

Two-time All-Met Swimmer of the Year Katie Ledecky captured victory in the women’s 800-meter freestyle Saturday night at USA Swimming’s Grand Prix event in Mesa, Ariz.

Ledecky won in a time of 8 minutes 20.10 seconds, which ranks third in the world this year.

The Stone Ridge junior attacked the race from the start, going out in 4:07.60, which would have placed second in the individual 400 free event on Thursday behind her own first-place time of 4:03.84.

Denmark’s Lotte Friis, the silver medalist at the 2013 World Championships, finished 12.95 seconds behind Ledecky for second place.

Ledecky also won the 200-meter freestyle Friday night with a personal-best time of 1:56.27, edging Olympic champion Allison Schmitt. The 17-year-old has continued to extend her range with podium finishes in sprint events, setting up a chance to go for a sweep of the 200 through 1,500 at next summer’s world championships.

As Ledecky’s career continues to bloom, four-time Olympian Michael Phelps spent the weekend making his comeback.

While swimming the 100-meter butterfly in his first competition in nearly two years, Michael Phelps tied the fourth-fastest time in the world in 2014.

His return to competition has gotten off to a strong start, albeit with a much different approach than he took in winning 22 medals over the past three Olympics.

Phelps resumed training last September with his longtime Coach Bob Bowman at the North Baltimore Aquatic Center in his hometown. But he didn’t pick up the grueling regimen that had ruled much of his life

Phelps has slowly started back and now trains just once a day in the afternoon. No double or triple sessions or thousands of meters a day.

While his workload will go up eventually, for now Phelps is doing half the amount of training he did during the height of career, when he won a record eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008.

“I’m very pleased with how he’s doing,” Bowman said.

This relaxed approach appears to suit both Phelps and Bowman just fine. Their decades-long partnership — rare in a sport where swimmers frequently change coaches — survived fiery clashes as Phelps grew up and rebelled against Bowman’s hard-nosed ways.

“Our last several years together, it really wasn’t much fun for everybody,” the coach said.

Without committing to specifics, Phelps seems intent on swimming fewer events and shorter races this time around. He turns 29 in June, and as the most decorated Olympian in history, his place in the record books is secure.

“I’m not putting any pressure on myself,” Phelps said. “I’m just enjoying myself right now.”

Bowman’s plan calls for Phelps to work his way up to recovering faster so he can handle multiple individual races a day and swim anywhere from one to three relays.

“He’s much happier doing the training,” Bowman said. “As long as he’s enjoying it like he is, it’s good for everybody. That’s what I am concerned about.”

Phelps is entered in the last two Grand Prix meets of the season, in North Carolina in May and California in June. Those are tuneups for the U.S. national championships in August.

“I know if I really want to compete at a high level, I have to be ready by this summer,” he said.

Whether all this leads to swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Phelps remains mum.

“I always have goals and things that I want to achieve,” he said. “This has been an amazing journey that I’ve gone on so far, and I just hope it continues.”

The Post’s Bryan Flaherty contributed to this report.

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