The Americans may have a rough start at next year’s Olympic Game in Rio de Janeiro. Known as the dominant force in the world of swimming, USA Swimming got off to a slow start at both the Pan American Games two weeks ago and again this week at the World Championships. Both of these events give world a chance to see where they stack up before next year’s Olympic campaign.
With 18 medals in their stash, the Americans lead the way at the end of the eight day of the competition. Their biggest medal haul came in on the fifth day of competition when veteran Ryan Lochte led the way with a dominating performance in the men’s 200-meter individual medley. This win made Lochte a four time world champion in the event, a feat reached by only one other, Australia’s Grant Hackett.
The MVP of this year’s Championship, however comes in the form of 18-year-old Katie Ledecky. She is one of the most versatile swimmers in the world and the only swimmer to sweep all but two of the freestyle events. The Stanford commit, who plans to take a gap year to train for Rio, took home victories in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1500-meters. That’s like running a 100 meter dash one day then a marathon the next. She also broke her own records in the 800- and 1500-meter freestyle.
She also helped cement Team USA’s victory in the women’s 4x200-meter freestyle relay by stretching the foursome’s lead by 3.04 seconds.
Five-time Olympic gold medalist, Missy Franklin led off the relay and touched the wall with a 1:55.95 before exchanging with Leah Smith, who finished her leg in 1:56.86. Katie McLaughlin, who clocked in at 1:56.92, helped to close the gap between the U.S. and the Swedes, who led the race after the first leg. Ledecky dove into the water and within seconds made up the deficit the U.S. and stopped the clock at 7:45.37.
The U.S.’s slow start at this year’s world worried many fans. Many speculated that Team USA’s dominance in swimming was beginning to wane and that next year’s Olympics would not be a success. With Ledecky’s strength in the mid-distance and distance events, as well as the resurgence of Michael Phelps, the U.S.’s prospects look bright. Plus, there is still a little less than a year of prime training time, giving many of the country’s elite time to adjust their programs accordingly.