WASHINGTON — Michael Phelps has earned his spot as the king of swimming, but his consistency doesn’t compare to the sheer dominance of fellow countryman Katie Ledecky.
The 19-year-old Washington, D.C. native capped off her 2016 Olympic experience with the best performance of her career: another gold medal (giving her four total, three individual), another world record, and one of the largest margins of victory in Olympics history.
Here are a series of pictures taken to illustrate her unheard of 11.38-second margin of victory:
With the win, Ledecky:
- Beat the 800 meter freestyle record for the fifth time in 29 months, lowering it by a whopping nine seconds
- Became just the third Olympic swimmer to repeat victory in the grueling 800-meter event
- Pushes her record in major international finals to 15-0. She remains unbeaten in international competition.
- Became the first swimmer to sweep the 200-meter, 400-meter and 800-meter freestyle at the Olympics in 48 years.
But her dominance is much bigger than one race. In fact, this Rio Olympiad has just been a continuation of the historic domination that Ledecky has imposed on the swimming world since before the 2012 Olympics.
“She’s the greatest athlete in the world today by far,” Michael J. Joyner, an anesthesiologist and researcher for the Mayo Clinic, told the Washington Post in June. “She’s dominating by the widest margin in international sport, winning by 1 or 2 percent.”
And that’s just an average. Her percentage victory in the 800-meter freestyle was actually 2.4 percent.
“If [a runner] won the 10,000 meters by that wide a margin, they’d win by 100 meters,” Joyner continued. “One or 2 percent in the Tour de France, over about 80 hours of racing, would be 30 or 40 minutes. It’s just absolutely remarkable.”
Long-time family friend and owner of multiple D.C. sports franchises, Ted Leonsis, put it another way.
“This is a one-in-a-billion human being,” Leonsis told the Post. “She has a very special family, and she’s an incredibly gifted person — with a high, high self-actualization and self-awareness, otherworldly good instincts and intelligence, a gifted physiognomy, plus an incredible drive to be the best. And it’s all natural.
“And it’s all natural.”
The must gushing–and therefore fitting–praise may come from the people who understand Ledecky and the sport of swimming the most.
“We’re fortunate to be living in this age in our sport, the Ledecky era,” Executive Director of USA Swimming Chuck Wielgus told the Post. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen anybody like Katie before. And I think in the future we’re going to look back, and the sport’s history will be divided into pre-Katie and post-Katie.
“She’ll be this iconic figure by which all future distance and middle-distance swimmers will be measured.”
Bonus Fun Fact: According to FOX Sports’ Chris Chase, Ledecky nearly doubled the margin of victory of all men’s races in Rio with just her 800-meter swim: