Ledecky excited by Olympic double challenge

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Five-time Olympic gold medallist Katie Ledecky said Thursday she is excited by the challenge of chasing history in Tokyo when she attempts to win 200m and 1,500m freestyle titles on the same day.

The 24-year-old US swimming great is gunning for five gold medals at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, where she hopes to compete in the 200m, 400m, 800m, 1,500m freestyle and 4x200m free relay.

That ambitious schedule will require Ledecky to double up for both the prelims and finals of the 200m and 1,500m, which are taking place in single sessions.

Ledecky, the world record holder over the 400m, 800m and 1,500, is unfazed by the prospect of going for gold in both events.

"That's a little bit of a challenge for me but it's a challenge that I'm training for," Ledecky told reporters on Thursday at the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee's virtual media summit.

"I'm excited for the challenge, and I'm excited for the opportunity to show my range and compete in the shorter races like the 200m, and the 1,500m for the first time it's in an Olympics."

The women's 1,500m freestyle is being introduced at the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo, and Ledecky is determined to etch her name as the first woman to win gold over the distance.

"There have been so many great distance swimmers that have come through the US that haven't had that opportunity before," Ledecky said.

"So I want to take advantage of that opportunity and really get us started on a great note. It's one of my favorite races, and one of my best races."

Ledecky spent much of last year hunkered down in California, where for three months she made do swimming in a backyard pool and lifting weights in her apartment as facilities at Stanford University were shut down due to the pandemic.

Lockdown restrictions have also meant that she has not physically seen another member of her family in more than a year.

Ledecky says she has used those challenges as a motivator during training for Tokyo.

"These past 14 months have been very motivating for all of us," she said.

"I don't like to use the word sacrifice because I'm fortunate to do what I do and I don't see any of it as a sacrifice.

"But the challenges that Olympic and Paralympic athletes have gone through over the past 14 months -- the postponement of the Games, the uncertainty with training, the uncertainty about the Olympics -- all the different things, it adds a little bit of an extra push.

"Because once we get there we really want to show the world all the work that we've put in. I haven't seen my family for over a year. Not one family member.

"That's something that I miss -- and I want to make this time that I've spent working and honing my craft worth it."