NEW YORK The star of USA Swimming’s annual Golden Goggles awards banquet was a record-breaking prodigy from Maryland.
Katie Ledecky was on hand Monday night in Manhattan after another year of setting new standards in the sport. Michael Phelps, meanwhile, is suspended for six months after his second DUI arrest.
He is banned from competing at next summer’s world championships, swimming’s biggest event before the 2016 Rio Olympics. Phelps carried the sport to new heights of popularity. Now other stars must try to captivate fans.
“We still have people like Katie Ledecky who are doing absolutely incredible things that have never been done before,” said four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin.
“We’re all supporting Michael and we’re so happy that he’s doing what Michael needs to be doing,” she added, “and we’re all doing what we need to be doing. Hopefully we’ll continue to draw amazing attention to this sport.”
Like Phelps, the 17-year-old Ledecky is entering and winning a slate of events once not thought possible. She won five gold medals at last summer’s Pan Pacific championships at freestyle distances ranging from 200 to 1,500 meters, setting world records on consecutive nights.
Ledecky could drop the 1,500 at next year’s worlds to save energy for a still-grueling schedule of the 200, 400 and 800. After all, the 1,500 isn’t an Olympic event, and she chose not to enter the 200 at the last worlds in 2013 when she swept the titles in the three longer distances.
But Ledecky was hearing none of it.
“I’ll be two years older, a little more experienced,” she contended.
She quickly added: “I’m not saying I’m swimming them all.”
Her coach, Bruce Gemmell, wonders how Ledecky will handle the extra round of preliminaries for the 200 that the longer events don’t require. Then again, nothing seems to faze Ledecky, who won Olympic gold in the 800 in 2012 at age 15.
“There were maybe a couple challenges that I don’t want to say I thought she might back down from, because that would be not true, but that I wasn’t sure she was ready to take head on,” he said. “She just took them head on.”