Skip to content

Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky finally give U.S. women’s swimming a one-two punch

Aug 5, 2014, 7:58 PM EST

Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin AP

IRVINE, Calif. — Heads turned when Missy Franklin entered the dance room at Irvine High School on Tuesday morning. One belonged to Katie Ledecky.

The last two Female World Swimmers of the Year hadn’t seen each other since 2013, Franklin believed. They embraced and exchanged how-are-yous inside a makeshift media center at the U.S. Swimming Championships, which begin Wednesday.

Franklin, 19, and Ledecky, 17, make up the changing wave of U.S. swimming, which has benefited from the popularity of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte more than any other athletes over the last decade.

Franklin and Ledecky follow an exceptional line of headlining U.S. women’s swimmers, including Amanda BeardNatalie Coughlin and Katie Hoff.

But the difference is Franklin and Ledecky seem to be on similar trajectories, hitting new peaks every year and pushing each other. Their specialties are vastly different — the backstrokes for Franklin and distance freestyles for Ledecky.

But they meet in the 200m freestyle, which gives swim fans who relish the Phelps-Lochte duels something to savor after the leading men step away.

It could also bring history over the next couple years. The last time U.S. women went one-two in any Olympics or World Championships event was 2000 (Brooke Bennett-Diana Munz 400m freestyle in Sydney). U.S. men have gone one-two 25 times in the same 14-year span.

The 200m free is Thursday at the U.S. Championships, perhaps the most star-filled event at the meet factoring in Olympic champion Allison Schmitt.

When Ledecky was 14, she first came to know Franklin on TV, tearing up the pool at the World Championships in Shanghai and beaming with excitement that her parents brought her brand-new Colorado driver’s license to the meet.

Franklin and Ledecky first crossed paths at domestic meets in early 2012, but Franklin said she didn’t really get to know Ledecky until the 2012 Olympics.

“She really came on the scene like March of 2012, and so I think all of us were just starting to meet her,” Franklin said. “She’s just one of those personalities where she just fits right in, just one of the new people on the National Team, and she came in and just molded with everyone.”

Ledecky, nearing 6 feet, can tower above the student population at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls, Catholic preschool through 12th grade institution in Bethesda, Md. She is entering her senior year and committed to Stanford.

She is slightly shorter than the rising Cal sophomore Franklin, who met skyscraping expectations by winning five medals, four gold, at the 2012 Olympics.

Ledecky stroked away a little more under the radar in London. She was no less impressive in her only event, winning the 800m freestyle with the second-fastest time ever.

Franklin won the year-end Female Swimmer of the Year awards.

In 2013, Franklin raised the bar by becoming the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships. But it was Ledecky who was awarded a special FINA trophy as the female swimmer of the meet, winning four gold medals with two world records.

Ledecky, whose dryland activities include repairing bikes that are shipped to developing countries, took the honor with humility.

“Missy deserves this probably more than I do,” she said, pointing to the trophy at the Barcelona meet, according to Reuters.

A grateful Franklin said that was tough to hear.

“I want Katie to feel like she deserves it because she absolutely 100 percent does,” Franklin said. “Her summer was unbelievable. Her summer before that was unbelievable. And her summers for the next 10 years are going to be unbelievable.”

Ledecky also swept FINA and Swimming World‘s year-end awards, over Franklin. In June, Franklin heard that Ledecky broke another world record at a small meet in Texas, via a text from Franklin’s mom, and said she started “freaking out” at dinner.

“[Ledecky’s] accomplishments over the past two years have been unreal and she just keeps getting better, which is so incredible,” Franklin said. “She’s an inspiration for me just watching her race every single time with so much passion and just fierceness.”

Franklin and Ledecky are obviously thrilled to be teammates, cherishing prep and college competition so much that neither has turned pro yet.

But in an individual sport they are also competitors. And they go against each other in the 200m free, where Franklin is the reigning World champion.

Ledecky, though, has improved greatly in the event, the shortest on her program, and is the fastest American this year in the 200m free. She finished second in the 200m free behind Franklin at last year’s U.S. Championships but dropped it from her Worlds program because it conflicted with the 1500m free.

The 1500m free is not an Olympic event, however, meaning Ledecky could be inclined to swim it at the Rio Olympics.

When you ask both Franklin and Ledecky about the 200m free, neither thinks about the individual race. Their answers immediately go to the 4x200m free relay, where they bookended the U.S. gold-medal team at Worlds last year.

“The more we push each other the faster we’re going to go,” Ledecky said, “and the faster our relay is going to be.”

Will Rio de Janeiro be ready for 2016 Olympics?

Latest Posts
  1. Pope jokes: I won’t be around for 2024 Olympics (video)

    Dec 19, 2014, 2:27 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Rome 2024 bid could include events in Vatican City.

  2. Michael Phelps gets probation after guilty plea in DUI case

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:41 PM EST

    Michael Phelps AP

    Phelps was supported by retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

  3. Steven Nyman records Val Gardena hat trick (video)

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:11 AM EST

    Steven Nyman Steven Nyman

    Nyman has won three World Cup races, all in Italy.

  4. Bradley Wiggins on Lance Armstrong, bluffing in Tour de France

    Dec 18, 2014, 4:39 PM EST

    Bradley Wiggins, Lance Armstrong Getty Images

    “He was incredible at that, almost befriending you, and then he’d slip the knife in your back.”

  5. Stephen Colbert and the Olympics

    Dec 18, 2014, 3:33 PM EST

    Stephen Colbert Getty Images

    Colbert had a memorable time at the 2010 Olympic speed skating oval and in an interview with Bob Costas in Vancouver.

  6. Adelina Sotnikova to miss Russia Figure Skating Championships

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    Adelina Sotnikova Getty Images

    Olympic champion tore an ankle ligament in November.

  7. Lindsey Vonn: I don’t know if I’ll ski slalom again

    Dec 18, 2014, 11:14 AM EST

    AP AP

    Vonn entered five races in Vancouver 2010. She may never do that again at a global championship.

  8. Jon Drummond banned 8 years after assisting Tyson Gay’s doping

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:38 PM EST

    Jon Drummond Getty Images

    Decision details Gay’s acquisition and use of performance-enhancing drugs.

  9. Fukushima wants to host 2020 Olympic events

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:31 PM EST

    AP AP

    Fukushima’s previous governor pitched the area to be part of Tokyo 2020, too.

  10. Brazil names its Olympic sports athletes of the year

    Dec 17, 2014, 3:29 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    A look at host nation medal contenders for Rio 2016.

  11. Wilson Kipsang angry that missed drug test made public

    Dec 17, 2014, 2:37 PM EST

    AP AP

    “It is breach of privacy with malicious target to soil my name.”

  12. Spotlight on Ayumu Hirano until I-Pod, White return

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:51 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Japanese teen says he wasn’t satisfied winning silver in Sochi.

  13. South Korea eyes top four in 2018 Olympic medal standings

    Dec 17, 2014, 9:55 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    History shows that’s quite an ambitious goal.

  14. U.S. will bid for 2024 Olympics, no city chosen yet

    Dec 16, 2014, 7:12 PM EST

    Team USA Getty Images

    USOC could wait until February to announce its city.

  15. Mad Dash: Drug-resistant super bacteria found in Rio bay (video)

    Dec 16, 2014, 11:36 AM EST

    AP AP

    Bacteria found next to the starting point for Rio Olympic sailing events.

  16. Se Ri Pak wants to coach, not play in 2016 Olympics

    Dec 16, 2014, 9:57 AM EST

    AP AP

    South Korea’s most decorated LPGA Tour player would have a tough time qualifying for Rio 2016.

  17. Adrian Peterson won’t try for Olympics, but other RBs might

    Dec 15, 2014, 1:51 PM EST

    AP AP

    Two retired running backs could join a long list of NFL Olympians.

  18. Sochi champions passed over for Athlete of the Year awards

    Dec 15, 2014, 1:38 PM EST

    AP AP

    Roger Federer won the Swiss men’s award, in a year he didn’t win a Grand Slam, over a Slam winner and a two-time Sochi gold medalist.

  19. Katie Ledecky to be one of D.C. 2024 Olympic bid presenters

    Dec 15, 2014, 11:49 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The USOC is expected to announce if it will bid for the 2024 Olympics on Tuesday, and possibly name the city.