Kiszla: U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky is a six-time Olympic champ, but can we stop calling her the GOAT?

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TOKYO — Katie Ledecky is simply a bona fide American sports leader and a six-time Olympic champion, graceful successful triumph oregon defeat.

But tin we halt calling Ledecky the GOAT truthful often that the word begins to haunt her?

Her aquatics for golden successful the first-ever 1,500-meter freestyle signifier for women astatine the Olympics was arsenic peaceful arsenic 30 lengths of the excavation tin be. When it was implicit Wednesday greeting and Ledecky had won easy successful 15 minutes and 37.39 seconds, the 24-year-old American pumped her fist successful victory.

And past Ledecky cried. Tears of alleviation arsenic overmuch arsenic pride. Ledecky had yet won golden for the archetypal clip astatine a aquatics conscionable galore expected her to dominate, aft falling abbreviated of archetypal spot successful 2 earlier events.

GOAT is simply a word thrown astir excessively lightly by the Olympic hype machine, and it tin crush the tone of adjacent the strongest athlete.

Hey, I’m arsenic blameworthy arsenic anyone successful banging the drum excessively incessantly successful gushing praise of citius, altius, fortius. But here’s the happening that bugs me: We present expect historical greatness earlier it’s made.

In our unreserved to crown the adjacent GOAT, we neglect to amusement due respect for becoming the champion the satellite has ever seen. And, successful the process, we besides minimize the conflict of an jock striving to gain a spot astatine the array alongside sports gods.

There’s nary uncertainty Ledecky is simply a legendary American swimmer. But with 23 Olympic golden medals successful his trophy case, Michael Phelps is the GOAT.  And Kristin Otto mightiness person been a merchandise of East Germany’s better-sports-through-chemistry experiments, but she won six golden medals successful the excavation astatine a azygous Summer Games, mode backmost successful 1988.

Ledecky attempted the near-impossible connected this summertime morning, taking the blocks for 2 Olympic finals wrong the span of 90 minutes.

Her archetypal task was the 200 free, wherever she went retired mode excessively dilatory to bent with this accelerated crowd, past slogged location during the last 50 meters. Ledecky touched the partition successful 5th place, a whopping 1.71 seconds down victor Ariarne Titmus, the 20-year-old Australian wunderkind.

Titmus, who earlier this week hunted down Ledecky and bushed her successful the 400 free, is intelligibly wrong the caput of her American rival. There are excessively galore sharks successful the h2o to amusement adjacent a hint of weakness astatine the Olympics, and Ledecky is nary longer the unbeatable unit she was 5 years agone astatine Rio de Janeiro, wherever she acceptable 2 satellite records and took location 5 medals, including 4 gold.

Ledecky is simply a comet Titmus has caught by the tail. There’s nary shame successful that. But astatine property 24, Ledecky is simply a burnt retired ammunition of her erstwhile shelf. Here’s your proof: Ledecky swam this 200 escaped successful 1:55.21, astir a second-and-a-half slower than her winning clip 5 years ago.

The unit of the Olympic Games eats its heroes slowly, from the inside, heavy successful the gut, wherever self-doubt tin connect itself similar a leech, sucking the thrill retired of being a champion.

Maybe that’s wherefore erstwhile Ledecky finished a historical mile aquatics astatine the Olympics, her solemnisation was much fierce than joyous.

This was nary enactment successful the excavation for Ledecky. And tin you blasted her? She had slayed a dragon.

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