The changes suited Katie Ledecky.
He moved from coast to coast and became a new coach after the Tokyo Olympics. As a result, the American swimmer pulled off another stellar performance at the World Cup, set a pair of records and capped off 2022 with The Associated Press’ award as Female Athlete of the Year.
Ledecky, who had already won the award in 2017, trailed her compatriot, American athlete Sydney McLaughlin, in the vote, the results of which were announced on Wednesday.
Both were even in total points, but Ledecky earned the distinction by virtue of his 10 first-place votes against McLaughlin’s nine. Basketball player Aja Wilson finished third.
“I know that many great athletes have received this honor,” Ledecky said. “I’m really happy with the way my year has gone, and I’m excited for the future.”
Ledecky, who won her first gold medal in 2012 at age 15, has remained at the pinnacle of freestyle swimming for the better part of a decade.
He has held long course records in both the 800 meters and 1,500 freestyle since 2013. He rarely faced a serious challenge in any of those tests.
At this year’s Swimming World Championships in Budapest, Ledecky came in first in the 800 with an advantage of over 10 seconds. He conquered 1,500 by about 15 seconds. He also won gold in the 400 m freestyle and was part of the US team that won the 4×200 freestyle relay.
Before 2022 ends, Ledecky will add two world records to his résumé. He set short course records in both the 800 and 1,500 meters over the span of a week. He did this despite the fact that he hardly competes in the 25-meter pool.
But Ledecky has even more fun when no one is cheering for her, when she works alone with her coaches and teammates during long training hours.
“I may be one of the few swimmers who prefers training over competition,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love racing too. But I really enjoy practicing every day. When I get out of bed in the morning to train, I get excited.”
Last year, after an Olympic performance that was somewhat disappointing by his high standards, Ledecky severed ties with coach Greg Meehan and the team at Stanford University, where he had competed and trained since graduating with a psychology degree. Had taken.
His priority was to move a little closer to his family in the Washington, DC area. He was intrigued by the program he had built under rising star Anthony Nesty as a coach at the University of Florida.
One of Nesti’s freestyle protégés, Bobby Finke, surprisingly won gold in the 800 and 1,500 meters in Tokyo. Another, Kieran Smith, was made from an unexpected bronze.
“Every day has been great fun,” he said. “It is the right place for me to be at this point in my career. I’m training really well and learning a lot along the way.”
It seems that the switch to working with Nesty on a show in which she regularly rehearses with men took Ledecky to new heights at the age of 25.
Nesty said one of his main challenges was making sure Ledecky didn’t train too hard.
“She needs to understand that once you get older, your body changes,” the coach said. “I have to tell her, ‘Katie, you have to understand that you’re not 18 anymore.’ The body gets tired. It’s okay to slow down a bit when you get tired.'”
Florida’s move has sparked other changes.
Normally somewhat reserved, Ledecky now seems more willing to talk, even engaging in some friendly verbal duels with her male colleagues, according to Nesti.
“This group is very competitive, fun and sometimes talks a lot,” he said. “It seems to have amplified his point further. You have to be with our group, I think it’s made her a little more outgoing.
“Boys are boys. They like to challenge each other,” he said with a smile. “I make some jokes with him, I force some things on him. I definitely feel comfortable in this environment now.”
Ledecky faced a brutal schedule at the Tokyo Olympics, where women competed in the 1,500-meter freestyle for the first time. As expected, she doubled in the 800 and 1500, but lost to Australia’s Arianne Titmus in the two shorter freestyle events.
He had to settle for a silver medal in the 400m, finishing behind Titmus. She also did not clinch a medal in the 200, finishing fifth, second and a half behind the Australian.
It was the first time that Ledecky did not finish the Olympic trials by coming in on the podium.
He admitted, “There were many things I wanted to do better in Tokyo.” “But I also really pushed myself. I also swam the 1,500 and the 200 free at the Olympics for the first time. The events were also on the same day, and I didn’t think anyone else was doing it. It was a challenge that went through many challenges in my mind.” It’s been years that I wanted to try. I don’t regret it”.
Fifth place was definitely an anomaly in Ledecky’s illustrious career.
In three Olympic Games, Ledecky has won seven gold and three silver medals. In World Cups, his impressive harvest is 19 gold and three silver.
And he has every intention of continuing to win.
Ledecky is now focusing on the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, where she could compete in at least four events. He also dreams of reaching the Olympic event in his country in Los Angeles 2028.
By then he will be 31 years old. But she sees no reason why she can’t be competitive at that age.
“I always set new goals for myself,” Ledecky said. “I enjoy the process more and more every year, which is enough to stay at this level and keep looking forward to something happening in a few years time.”