Here’s your periodic reminder that Katie Ledecky is a freak of nature.
On Thursday night, the five-time Olympic gold medalist and freshman at Stanford lowered her U.S. record in the 500-yard freestyle in an unreal time of 4:25.15 at the Pac-12 Championships — more than 10 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
To put the time in perspective, NBC Sports noted that the 19-year-old Ledecky’s time is faster than when Ryan Lochte — one of the best male swimmers of all time — was at the same age.
That’s not entirely accurate, as Lochte swam slightly faster as a 19-year-old college sophomore at Florida, according to his college bio, but Ledecky’s time is faster than any time Lochte swam in the event until then. Lochte’s fastest 500-free time as a college freshman was 4:25.85 and he swam a 4:25.54 as a 17-year-old high school senior in 2001.
The 500 free, which is not held in Olympic competition, was not one of Lochte’s strongest events, but it has been a signature distance for Ledecky since she was in middle school.
“She swims like a guy,” Lochte told Sports Illustrated last March. “Her stroke, her mentality: She’s so strong in the water. I’ve never seen a female swimmer like that. She gets faster every time she gets in, and her times are becoming good for a guy. She’s beating me now, and I’m, like, ‘What is going on?’ ”
Ledecky, who took a gap year after graduating high school to focus on the Rio Olympics, now owns the top 10 times in the event. The next-fastest woman is fellow Olympian Leah Smith with 4:30.37.
“I felt good. I felt coming in that I could do something like that,” Ledecky told the Pac-12 Network. “I was just really excited with how [Stanford’s] been doing, and we had a lot of swimmers in that [race], so it kind of just felt like practice and we were just really relaxed and ready to go.”
Ledecky’s previous U.S. record of 4:26.46 came in October.
In the video of Ledecky’s race Thursday, she finishes before any of her competitors are even in view in the video captured by television cameras — an increasingly common sight when Ledecky is in the pool.
(H/T NBC Sports)