Katie Ledecky is entered in eight events at next week’s U.S. Championships, and she may win half of those in record-breaking time. The 17-year-old Nation’s Capital Swim club product is scheduled to swim all six freestyle events and both individual medleys in Irvine, Calif.
She is seeded first in the 400-meter, 800 and 1,500 freestyle events, although the psych sheet lists two swimmers ahead of her in the mile event based on 800 freestyle times. She is expected to challenge fellow 2012 Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin in the 200 freestyle, as well. Franklin is the top seed in the event with a time of 1 minute 54.81 seconds; Ledecky is second with a 1:55.79 and American record holder Allison Schmitt is third with a 1:56.41.
Here is the preliminary psych sheet released Thursday by USA Swimming.
Ledecky, who already holds the world record in the 800 and 1,500 and American record in the 400, is within striking distance of Schmitt’s record of 1:53.61, especially when you consider how she has been swimming over the last few months. The four-time world champion broke her own world records in the two distance events at a tune-up meet outside of Houston in June after spending three weeks at altitude.
The rising Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart senior will also swim the 100 freestyle in hopes of making the U.S.’s 4×100 freestyle relay team. Ledecky is seeded 16th overall but less than a second out of contention for sixth, which would give her a spot on the relay. Franklin is the top seed in the event; Schmitt is seventh. Schmitt is also entered in the 400 freestyle opposite Ledecky.
Franklin, one of the biggest stars of the London Games with four golds and a bronze, plans to swim four events at Irvine. She also entered the 100 and 200 back.
Michael Phelps could swim as many as four events. The winningest athlete in Olympic history will compete in the 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley at the meet that begins Wednesday.
“I feel good,” Phelps told The Associated Press on Thursday. “Just staying relaxed is the biggest thing, not putting too much pressure on myself. I’m just going out and continuing what I’ve been doing throughout the year — just having fun. That’s how I’ve been able to swim my best.”
The national championships, along with the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia a couple of weeks later, will determine the American team for next year’s world championships.
Phelps retired after the London Olympics, having won a record 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall. He had accomplished all his goals and said he had no desire to swim into his 30s.
But he began plotting his comeback less than a year later, and began serious training last September.
Since announcing a return to competition in April, the 29-year-old Phelps has competed in four meets. The only other time he took on four events was the Santa Clara Grand Prix in June, when he tied for first in the 100 fly, finished second in both the 100 and 200 free, and settled for third in the 200 IM.
The nationals will give him another chance to gauge just how far he has come in a relatively short period of time — with much more at stake. His longtime coach, Bob Bowman, said Phelps has shaken off much of the rustiness in his technique, improving his starts and turns. Conditioning is the biggest question mark, especially as he takes on more events.
Phelps is just as concerned with his mental approach.
“A couple of races, I’ve tensed up a little bit. I tried to take it super seriously and I didn’t have good success in those races,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens. There’s going to be more heats, more training, where I can correct things if they don’t go as planned next week.”
Phelps is set to face his biggest rival, Ryan Lochte, in all four events at Irvine.
Lochte, coming off major knee surgery, has also entered the 200 free and 200 back.
Sterling-native Matt McLean is also scheduled to compete. He’s the No. 2 seed in the men’s 400 freestyle, third seed in the 200 freestyle and sixth seed in the 800 freestyle.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.