TOKYO — Katie Ledecky anticipated the unusualness of this response. As she phrased it, “silly.” After her first Olympic loss, she was facing the microphone. Many people had witnessed her lose an Olympic title to an Australian named Ariarne Titmus, and she knew they were expecting her to feel a wide range of emotions after the event.
Except Katie Ledecky.
She Swam the Time and Commented on How Rewarding it was.
She anticipated your perplexity and prepared accordingly. But if you could have been in her head these past few months as the Olympics drew near and uncertainties arose, you would know that she would be just fine. Many of them came from elsewhere. Did Ledecky lose speed? What were the odds of her matching her Rio performance? Several were successful in entering. Fear of failure, as Ledecky himself admitted. She has been through it. In order to succeed, “I had to overcome that a little bit.”
As a result, after the Olympic trials in June, when Ledecky was dissatisfied with a handful of her swims, she did everything she could “to delete all that from my thoughts.” Motivated by the desire to build confidence and test its strength in the water. And this month, when she flew from Hawaii to Tokyo, she experienced it. Confidence. Faith.
The thought of Titmus did not cross her mind as she settled in for a training block that would prove pivotal in the story of her third Olympic cycle. Not in the lead, anyway. When compared to others, her assurance was exceptional. She had confidence in her education and abilities.
The thing is, though, that swimming is great for. Ledecky remarked, “Our sport is extremely time-based.” “The clock is what motivates me.”
Last month, she put her head down to prove that she still had Rio-esque times in her, and all she could see was a clock. There had been almost three years since she had finished the 400-meter freestyle in under 3 minutes and 59 seconds. She was prepared to do whatever it took to defeat Titmus. However, Titmus was an immaterial object. Those were palpable times.
Ledecky dove headfirst into the pool at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on Monday in pursuit of faster times. Also, how did she manage to spend her time? Superb. Her time of 3:57.36 was the fastest in the women’s international 400-meter freestyle competition in history and her best time in five years.
This wasn’t quite fast enough in Tokyo. Inspired by Ledecky’s greatness, Titmus was able to achieve victory. Despite this, Ledecky held his head high. She proclaimed, “Proud of how I swam.” “Amazed at how far I’ve come and how proud I am of myself.” Satisfied with the effort it took to complete.
“It’s not an easy road,” she admitted. Getting on top of the podium is never simple. Therefore, I do not take my position in the sky for granted.
And her self-assurance had returned, if not grown, by the time she had reached Tokyo. On Monday night, she will compete in the preliminary rounds of the 200-meter and 1500-meter events, so it’s evident that she still has time to achieve greatness and win gold medals. In three of the four finals, she’ll face Titmus again; it’s possible, though unlikely, that she’ll come away with only one gold. The events of Monday compelled us to consider the idea.
Sure, but what about Ledecky?
She finished in second place, but she was more concerned with her time and the race against the clock, saying, “I hope that sets the tone for the remainder of my meet.”
Within a couple of hours of her race, she had accepted this unfamiliar concept of Olympic failure. In interviews, she came out as calmly reflective and upbeat.
She explained her positive emotions leading up to the marathon as, “a lot of joy, happiness, and love.” On Monday night, she brought it back to the pool after having carried it through the pool, the Olympic Village, and back again.
After that, she said, “And yeah, it’s the biggest win of all.”