Ledecky’s 400 WR in Statistical Context

Katie Ledecky crushed the world record last night in the women’s 400 metre freestyle, swimming 3:56.46, to better her own world record by 1.91 seconds. Since swimming world records converted to all LCM marks in the late 1950s, that is the 7th largest improvement in the women’s 400 free world mark – see the table below. Further, in an era in which records are often improved by 100ths of a second, the mark is a quantum leap, as it has been 40 years since anyone improved the 400 free world record by a larger margin, done in 1976 by Barbara Krause at the GDR Olympic Trials, most likely with a little, shall we say, assistance. The all-time best in this category is held by Debbie Meyer, the woman whose marks Ledecky is chasing in Rio, who won the 200-400-800 freestyle treble at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and improved the WR by 3.8 seconds at the 1967 Pan American Games. Second is another swim legend to whom Ledecky can aspire, Shane Gould, who won gold at the 1972 Olympics by bettering the world mark by 3.16 seconds. But that was all in a different era.

Mark Improvement Name NOC Date Event
4:32.6 3.8 Debbie Meyer USA 27 July 1967 Pan American Games
4:19.04 3.16 Shane Gould AUS 30 August 1972 Olympic Games
4:11.69 3.07 Barbara Krause GDR 3 June 1976 GDR Olympic Trials
4:42.0 2.5 Marilyn Ramenofsky USA 11 July 1964
4:26.7 2.3 Debbie Meyer USA 1 August 1968 AAU Championships
4:39.5 2.2 Marilyn Ramenofsky USA 31 August 1964
3:56.46 1.91 Katie Ledecky USA 7 August 2016 Olympic Games

One thought on “Ledecky’s 400 WR in Statistical Context”

  1. Have you a list of sixty year olds who have won olympic medals? Mark Todd is set to join that (small) group today

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