Putting perspective on the record
Nicole Auerbach, college football senior writer: Ledecky’s record-breaking performance speaks to her sustained dominance over the past decade. What she has done is really, really hard to do. Distance events are not for the faint of heart, and she has been beyond reliable at some of these distances — the 800 in particular.
NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines told me earlier this year that no one — not even Phelps — has been so dominant for so long. Phelps sometimes got beat in his best events at world championships in non-Olympic years. Ledecky makes this sustained level of dominance (and winning by many body lengths) look easy. It’s not.
What does this mean for Tokyo?
Auerbach: Ledecky is obviously the heavy favorite in the 800 and the 1,500. She will not be challenged in either of those events. (Shoutout to the Olympics for finally adding the 1,500 for the women for the first time. Ledecky would have had at least one more gold medal had this been part of the Olympic program all along.)
It’s going to be fascinating to watch the 200 and 400 frees, though. Ledecky is the reigning Olympic champion in both, but Ariarne Titmus just posted the best time in the world this year in both events at the Australian swim trials. It would not be a surprise if Titmus won either or both events in Tokyo, based on how both she and Ledecky are swimming right now. Those could be two of the best and most intriguing races of the entire Games.
What to make of Grimes’ performance
Auerbach: Grimes was startlingly reminiscent of Ledecky in 2012 — a 15-year-old distance swimmer coming essentially out of nowhere to make the Olympic team. The symmetry was obvious and still beautiful in the moment. I loved seeing Ledecky welcoming Grimes to the team and letting her have the spotlight she remembers getting nine years ago.
(Photo: Tom Pennington / Getty Images)