Katie Ledecky Prepares for Olympic Gold
by Russell O. Karr
Katie Ledecky in the best swimmer in the world – male or female. A partial listing of her accomplishments illustrates her dazzling swimming skills: USA Swimming National Team member, fourteen-time USA Swimming National Champion, winner of ten gold medals in major international competitions including the 800 M Free gold at the 2012 Olympics, current world record holder in three events (400 M Free, 800 M Free and 1500 M Free), current American record holder in five events (400 M Free, 800 M Free, 1500 M Free, 500 Y Free, and 1650 Y Free), a US Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year, and USA Swimming Athlete of the Year.
Katie is finishing her senior year at Stone Ridge School in Bethesda, Maryland, and then committed to a path for Olympic gold in 2016. Katie had earlier committed to Stanford University and was scheduled to begin her freshman year this fall, but has now decided to defer her college career so she can focus on preparations for the 2016 Olympics.
High School Illustrated recently interviewed Katie as she begins her journey to Rio de Janeiro.
High School Illustrated (HSI): When and how did you get into swimming?
Katie Ledecky (KL): I learned to swim when I was very young. I joined my summer league team, the Palisades Porpoises, when I was 6. I joined it with my brother, Michael. We both enjoyed it and then we decided to join a year-round club swim team.
HSI: What do you love most about this sport?
KL: I embrace the ability to set goals and then work toward achieving those goals. I also really enjoy working hard and having teammates who work hard along with me. We have a great training group.
HSI: Describe your feelings/list your thoughts after winning gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
KL: Throughout that race I couldn’t believe I was in the lead, and when I reached the wall at the end of the race, I felt like I was in a dream. It was a really great feeling representing the USA and winning the gold.
HSI: What have you been doing to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games? What are your hopes and expectations?
KL: I have been training hard in preparation for 2016. This summer I will be competing at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia. The Olympic Trials begin in late June of 2016, and I hope to swim well there and qualify for the Olympics.
HSI: Who is your role model and why?
KL: My role model is my brother, Michael. He is currently a junior at Harvard University. He works hard at everything he does and he is such a good person. He has been my biggest supporter, and I really admire him.
HSI: How have you handled being in the spotlight? What are your likes and dislikes about being in the spotlight?
KL: I haven’t really felt like I’ve been in the spotlight. I think that’s because my family, friends, coaches, teachers, and teammates have been very supportive over the years. I’ve been able to continue to work hard toward my goals in both school and swimming. My classmates at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart have been especially nice to me. They have been supportive of my swimming, and they treat me like any other student in class.
HSI: What’s your advice for young swimmers and swim fans around the nation who dream of making it to the Olympics?
KL: My advice is to work hard but have fun. It is really important to enjoy this sport (or any sport in which one competes) because the training can be rigorous. It is also important to set goals that are both challenging and realistic. Once you reach those goals, set new ones! And be nice and supportive to your teammates–they are very important in helping you meet your goals.
HSI: You have deferred your enrollment at Stanford so you can concentrate on your Olympic preparations. Yet, you must be pretty excited about heading to Stanford after the Olympics. Tell us how you decided to attend Stanford?
KL: Stanford has everything I was looking for in a college: great academics, great professors, and great athletics. The coaching staff at Stanford (Coach Greg Meehan and Coach Tracy Duchac) is outstanding. They are very instrumental in helping the team and the individuals on the team excel. I am looking forward to swimming for them, and alongside other Stanford students. Finally, there are tremendous resources and facilities for students and athletes at Stanford, on what I feel is the most beautiful college campus in the country.
HSI: If you could magically go back in time to give your younger self some advice, what would it be and why?
KL: I am too young to give my younger self any advice, and I have no regrets about anything at this point. I guess my advice would be to stay young at heart and live your life in a manner in which you will have no regrets.
HSI: What are your career goals?
KL: To help other people.
HSI: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
KL: Somewhere I can continue to smile while being productive, surrounded by people whom I love.
Favorite Subject in School? I have many favorite subjects in school. I enjoyed AP US History in my Junior year and I am enjoying AP Government and AP Psychology right now. I have always done well in math classes and enjoy the challenge of AP Calculus.
Favorite Food? I really like fresh fruit, especially blueberries, strawberries and raspberries.
Best High School Memories? I have many wonderful memories from High School. My best memories are probably those built around the swim team, my campus ministry, and my service activities.
Favorite Restaurant? Ize’s of Rockville. It’s where I buy my breakfast (bacon, egg, cheese and tomato omelet) after practice.
Favorite Movie? I have many favorites including School of Rock, Notting Hill, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and every one of the Harry Potter movies. My Favorite TV show is Blue Bloods.
Favorite Place to hang out? I enjoy going to my summer pool, Palisades. I feel very comfortable there and can spend hours having fun there with friends and family. I also enjoy attending hockey games, and I am a fan of the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals.
Something people don’t know about you? People may not know that I grew up visiting my grandparents in both North Dakota and New York City and, as a result, I am very comfortable in both small towns and large cities. Also, I am very proud of the fact that one of my grandparents was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia.
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