For 72 hours here, Katie Ledecky got to see how the other half lives. The half that doesn’t necessarily need to swim 70,000 grueling yards every week in practice to achieve its goals. The half that measures its times in fractions of seconds, not whole ones. The half that doesn’t set or threaten world records every time they jump in a pool — and that sometimes finishes fourth, or 18th.
For one weekend only, Ledecky, the 18-year-old freestyle phenom, got to experience life as a very good sprinter, not the all-time-great distance specialist she has become. Her program for the Arena Pro Swim Series Orlando event, held at the aging but oddly charming YMCA Aquatic Center, featured none of the events she has come to dominate internationally, with world records in each: the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyles.
Instead, she shortened up and went heavy on the sprints — racing the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles, plus the 200 and 400 individual medleys. It was a curious program, designed not to maximize victories but to break up the monotony of an intense period of training, as Ledecky builds toward what is shaping up to be a historic performance in August’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
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