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CoachStuartMcDougal 08-15-2015 06:46 AM

Best Athlete in the World, Katie Ledecky
An excellent article on Katie Ledecky from Outsider, author Brad Stulberg and narratives from Michael Joyner and Terry Laughlin:



sojomojo 08-15-2015 07:09 AM

I normally don't watch non-Olympic swim competitions, but when I heard what Katie Ledecky was doing at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, I was compelled to watch it on TV and I'm glad that I did. I was absolute amazed at what she accomplished. I was stunned at how fast she swam . . . and she only 18 years old. It made me feel real old when she said she still doesn't have a driver's license.

Zenturtle 08-15-2015 12:50 PM

Dont know what race these guys where looking at.
Normally she takes 40 strokes-50 m if you count the last stroke to get to the wall if she would use an open turn.
In the last 50m she took 41 -41,5, with a much bigger kick, so thats even a shorter stroke with added propulsion from the kick.
You cant see all the strokes , but if you count through the time where you diont see her swim you can see if you counting syncs with the stroke when she is visable again.(for drummers this is a bit easier)
The last 5 meter where done Manadou straight arm style. Not exactly a style maximizing stroke lenght.

She is 5ft 11 (1.80m) @ 70 kg. For this body 40 strokes/50 m is not a long stroke. About avarage.
She is a great example to follow. Not a physical freak like Sun Yang, Phelps or Thorpe.
Its just good technique, an iron will power and a great aerobic engine.

Then there is the question about the lope.
Most of the fastest swimmers liope.
Phelps, Ledecky, Paltrinieri; Sun Yang (to a lesser extend but its still loping), Thorpe, vd Hoogenband, Leezak etc etc
Can you call a style all these swimmers are using a stroke flaw?
You could, but its certainly not an important speed limiting one...

CoachStuartMcDougal 08-16-2015 12:16 AM


I believe Terry is referring to the 200m, come from behind final. Katie is taking a consistent 39 strokes (that includes 1 for the flip) on each 50m. Surprisingly, the last 50m, she dropped 2 strokes to 37 while digging deep, while other swimmers added two strokes, maybe more. Quite amazing.

Katie has a significant wall push which I estimate at 8m, so 42m stroked. 5'11 or 180.4cm in height, at 39 strokes stroke length = 1.077m, 37 strokes stroke length = 1.135m. This puts Katie at 60% and 63% respectively, stroke length to height or SL/height. Given her 5'11" frame, this is not a short stroke length, but an effective range that worked for her. Katie's range is right in the middle, above middle of what we (TI) refer to as the "Green Zone".

In the 800m, it sure looks to be the same pattern, 39 strokes consistent until the last 50m, 37 strokes.

The 1500m is hard to tell, camera kept panning to the audience, but I count 39 strokes as well, maybe a 40. But she didn't drop 2 strokes on the last 50m probably since she had a solid lead over the entire field.

I certainly agree with the narrative from Michael Joyner (and Terry): Ledecky had among the most remarkable endurance performances ever, and her best years are yet to come.


Zenturtle 08-16-2015 06:31 AM

I will take a look at the other distances.
I always count stroke as if the swimmer would touch the wall lIke in an open turn.
Then she would take 1 extra stroke.

Hope there is coming acceptable footage quality at youtube. Only good quality is from london 2012.

Found some footage from Ledecky doing 500 yards

Cant see any super good technique that can explain the difference between other world champion calibre elites.
Nobody would think of talking about her technique if she was not winning medals.

Stuart, dont you agree that the loping that she does makes it possible to lower the avarage head position? The head position is only high when she takes a breath. The rest of the time its lower than normal breathing height.

WFEGb 08-16-2015 10:33 AM

Hello Zenturtle,


...The head position is only high when she takes a breath. The rest of the time its lower than normal breathing height....
Think her average head position is in "our" wished surface line. For me what also is interesting: She seems to throw herself out the water and this while her stroking arm is too far back to help. Is it her kick that helps also?

What I always think about loping seen by elites: The loping helps to get the recovery arm above the front wake and they'll get their arm full of water for the catch a little msec earlier.

FWIW with best regards,

Zenturtle 08-16-2015 12:43 PM

I have very little loping experience. Have no opinion about it but find it interesting.
Though it might have some propulsive advantage, but nobody lopes in backstroke, so maybe it only started and developed from a one side breathing habit.
Breathing makes the stroke asymmetric.

CoachStuartMcDougal 08-16-2015 04:01 PM


Loping is really long slower stride. Although Katie's SL is in an excellent range, her rate of turnover at 96 spm for 200m and 86 spm for 1500, nothing loping about that. There is asymmetry in her breathing, lifting the head higher than on her non breathing strokes. Like Werner noted, maybe she needs this asymmetry to breathe swimming at the those speeds, wave drag and its characteristics are much different at Katie's speed than ours. But I'm curious, what would happen if she kept her head low when breathing, what impact it would have on her stroke length. But something tells me, Katie and her coach have already experimented, high and low breathing positions - and the high position is working for her. What is also amazing to see on Katie's breathing stroke is she has a full tank of air *before* her recovery hand/arm has exited the water - maybe this is the reason for the extra lift to get the air she needs a bit earlier to maintain her pace.


sojomojo 08-18-2015 05:04 AM

1500 m WR freestyle @ 2015 FINA World Championship
All of Katie Ledecky’s races at the 2015 FINA World Championship are available on the Universal Sports’ YouTube channel.

This is a shorter edited video of Ledecky's amazing 1500m world record freestyle performance:

When you watch the video, it looks like Ledecky is swimming by herself since there’s no other swimmers near her.

Richardsk 08-18-2015 08:07 AM

The Universal Sports video is not available in the UK (possibly not anywhere in Europe) but I think all her races are available. The video quality varies.

Richardsk 08-18-2015 08:15 AM

Here ,for example, is one of the 200m final in Kazan with title in Russian and commentary in Spanish:

I know the female commentator's voice well, but I'm afraid I don't know her name. I expect she's an ex-international swimmer as most commentators seem to be.

It looks as though nearly everything form Kazan is available on this channel.

P.S. At first glance it looks that way but many videos are blocked because of violation of FINA's copyright.

Richardsk 08-18-2015 09:39 AM

Here is Ledecky's WR in the heats from the same channel. With English commentary (well, Scottish mostly).

I don't know who these chaps are either but familiar voices.

Rhoda 08-19-2015 02:59 AM

One thing I noticed from the underwater shots of her 1500m is that she has not so much a 2 beat kick as a 1.5 beat kick. It's almost a scissor kick. The left leg kicks quite strongly, the right leg barely moves. For shorter races she uses a more standard six beat kick.

Richardsk 08-19-2015 07:41 AM

Hi Rhoda

Gregorio Paltrinieri, as has been noted elsewhere, is another exponent of the almost one beat kick, whereas most female two beat kickers, such as Laure Manaudou and Brooke Bennett, seem to favour the symmetrical kick.

Interestingly, and puzzlingly for me, since most of the commentators are former swimmers, they nearly all comment that the swimmers are 'merely trailing their legs behind them', which is certainly not the case, even if the main propulsion is coming from the upper body. Perhaps they all had developed a near perfect body position while they were still very young and were unaware of the importance of body position to forward speed.

The race between Paltriieri, Cochrane and Jaeger in the men's 1500 in Kazan was very interesting because of the different kicking and pacing strategies.

Cochrane, with a mainly four beat kick as far as i could tell, went into an early lead but could not maintain the pace. Paltrinieri took the lead at around the 450 mark and held it until the end. Jaeger, with a six beat, I think, swam close behind Cochrane until about the 1000m mark, when he moved into second place and was gaining on Paltrinieri but could not quite catch him.

Too bad Sun didn't show up for the final. I'm sure the three medallists are pleased with their medals but they'd be even happier if they'd actually beaten him. An unlikely event perhaps, but who knows? Perhaps they will get the chance again at the Rio Olympics.

Ledecky was so far ahead in her race that one hardly saw anything of the other swimmers. It must be disheartening, but I suppose for a true competitor sort of inspiring as well. Perhaps there is some young swimmer out there thinking 'if she can do it, so can I'.

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