Can't Miss Race at the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
Watch out, world records. You’re not on winter vacation, yet.
This weekend, the 2013 Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool provides Team USA the opportunity to compete against the “European All-Stars” in a made-for-TV swim event. As a spectator of previous Duels, I can say this meet is fast, fun, and spectator-friendly. As a swim fan and attendee of this month’s AT&T Winter Nationals, I can also say that one or more world records will go down.
Whenever Katie Ledecky competes, it’s almost a foregone conclusion.
Ledecky is slated to compete this weekend in the short course meters format, which allows her (and others) to break not just national records, but world records. Ledecky was on a tear earlier this month, even smashing the 1650 American record by almost 10 seconds. She took down a record set during an era of “fast suits” and that seemed like it wouldn’t be broken for a long, long time. And she made it look easy. Katie Ledecky is, frankly, experiencing age-grouper time drops, even as the best swimmer in the world. After all, she is, technically, still an age-grouper.
But she’s also making people – average, casual swim fans – pay more attention to distance swimming. Distance swimming has long been the punching bag of both fans and TV networks, their events oftentimes being interrupted by commercial, PA announcements, or concessions trips. Distance swimming has been labeled the “boring” event, the event to stretch or go to the bathroom, grab your popcorn, make a phone call. If you’re a swimmer or coach, you’ve heard it before on the pool deck: “Oh, the 1650 is next? Well let’s go get something to eat.”
Not so anymore.
Ledecky, the teenage phenom and already Olympic legend, continues to defy expectations and define distance swimming success in new and never-before imagined terms. Before this month, many swim fans would never have imagined the 15-minute 1650 barrier to be a likely candidate to be broken anytime soon. Now, breaking the 15-minute barrier seems--remotely, impossibly, inexplicably--a possibility.
The 15-minute barrier is almost like the new “4-minute mile” barrier, running’s once-impossible sounding barrier. People once imagined it was impossible for a human being to run under 4-minutes, just like a woman dipping under 15-minutes for the 1650 once sounded impossible. But after her gashing of the American record at a mid-season meet earlier this month, Ledecky has once again wowed the masses. She has not only opened up eyes, but imaginations. She’s making swim fans believe the 15-minute barrier could be broken one day, and one day soon.
That’s why this weekend’s Can’t Miss Race is, in short, anything Ledecky swims.
Let’s face it: We may have an abundance of Can’t Miss Races that feature Lethal Ledecky. But this meet is an opportunity for the Nation’s Capital teen to smash some short course world records before the holidays, and solidify an already dominating 2013. The Golden Goggle Award Winner for Female Athlete of the Year doesn’t look to stop her record-breaking ways (and neither do her Nation’s Capital teammates). And she’ll have an opportunity to not only measure up against the rest of the nation, but once again, the rest of the world’s best short course times.
Oh, there will be other great races this weekend. Don’t overlook this meet as being only the “Katie Ledecky Show.” Anthony Ervin should bring the heat, and he’ll be racing Cullen Jones, who you can never count out. Conor Dwyer and Megan Romano both look to build on solid 2013s. This meet is one final chance to gain some solid international experience and momentum heading into winter training and the rest of the swim season.
But Ledecky will steal the headlines. She deserves them. She’s earned them.
And now the real question is: How close could Ledecky get to breaking a/some world records this weekend?
If her performances earlier this month were any indication, she’ll be the star this weekend. Take note, mainstream media. And don’t miss these races. Anytime Ledecky steps up to the blocks, there’s this inexplicable feeling and electricity that you might see one of the greatest races ever swum. And the amazing thing is that Ledecky replicates this excitement every time, every race, again and again…
So, if you’re a world record, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better look out, I’m telling you why…
Katie Ledecky is coming to town.
Catch the world’s top swimmers in action on NBC both Saturday and Sunday. The AT&T Winter National Championships will air Saturday at 5 p.m. ET and the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool will air Sunday at 4 p.m. ET. Check your local listings for time and channel in your area.