Katie Ledecky: 5 Things to Know About the Teen Olympic Swimming Champion

Katie Ledecky, 19, has already medaled four times at the Rio Games

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Katie Ledecky stunned the world when the high schooler finished in an almost-record-breaking performance in the 800-meter freestyle race at the 2012 London Olympics. In the Rio Games, the swimmer continues to make America proud.

Since the 2016 Olympics started, Ledecky has earned a total of three gold medals – two of those being for individual events – and one silver.

She’s also set a whopping 11 world records, including the world record for the 800- and 400-meter freestyles. On Thursday, she broke another record: clocking in at 8:12.86 in the 800-meter freestyle in Olympic prelims.

And it’s worth mentioning that she’s only 19 years old.

Ledecky is quickly becoming one of the most celebrated athletes at the Rio Games, and the Maryland native hasn’t even begun college. Get to know the swimming superstar below:

1. Her brother inspired her to start swimming

Ledecky’s brother, Michael, is often seen cheering her on from the stands, and he’s a big reason she’s in the pool. When the swimming phenomenon was just 6 years old, Michael wanted to join a swim team. Being a typical younger sibling, Ledecky wanted in on the action.

“I swam with my brother throughout that and always followed him to the pool and wanted to be in the same group as him in everything,” Ledecky told WBUR last year. “I just always enjoyed swimming with him and I think that’s how I really found my love of the sport. I think if I didn’t have my brother swimming with me, I don’t know if I would have loved it as much as I did and still do.”

Of course, it wasn’t long before Ledecky could easily beat her brother, despite their three-year age difference.

“I think by the time she was in high school, she was catching up and beating me in the longer events and now I don’t think I can beat her in a 25-[meter race],” Michael admitted.

2. She has surrounded herself with great athletes since a young age

No wonder Ledecky set her sights on Olympic greatness: she’s grown up around amazing athletes!

Ledecky’s uncle used to be a minority owner of the Washington Wizards with basketball great Michael Jordan, and a very young Ledecky hung out with the celebrated athlete. Nowadays, Ledecky has more Olympic gold medals than MJ.

But perhaps more influential was meeting decorated Olympian Michael Phelps. Though they’re both making waves as part of Team USA now, a decade ago Ledecky was thrilled to receive an autograph from the emerging swimmer.

Road to Rio: How Did Team USA Train for the Olympics?

3. Even fellow Olympic swimmers are amazed by Ledecky’s prowess in the water

No one wants to compete against Ledecky, even the guys of Team USA.

Fellow American Olympic swimmer and former reality star Ryan Lochte told Sports Illustrated she is one to watch after practicing with her for a few days at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in March.

“She swims like a guy,” Lochte said. “Her stroke, her mentality: She’s so strong in the water. I’ve never seen a female swimmer like that. She gets faster every time she gets in, and her times are becoming good for a guy. She’s beating me now, and I’m, like, ‘What is going on?'”

Phelps agrees, saying Ledecky is reminiscent of his younger self.

“She is such a strong swimmer and such a dominant swimmer,” Phelps told USA Today. “You can tell she is very goal oriented, and for me it brings me back to kind of what I was like way, way, way back in the day. Every time she gets in the water, it’s like a world record. She is improving so much, and I think she is just trying to push that barrier, and I think it’s pretty exciting to watch her do that.

4. Her mom was also a competitive swimmer

Ledecky’s brother wasn’t the only family member who encouraged her to jump into the pool. Her mother, Mary Gen, had a collegiate swimming career and even qualified three times for the nationals while she was a student at the University of New Mexico.

“Every set she did in practice, every race Mary Gen swam, she was as tired as anyone could get,” Rick Klatt, Mary Gen’s coach, told SI. “Katie’s at a different level, but her mom was that kind of worker. I can remember her heaving for air after races. There was never any lack of effort in any workout or any meet. She was going after it as hard as she could.”

5. Ledecky is set to attend Stanford in the fall

Unsurprisingly, Ledecky accepted a swimming scholarship from the esteemed university. Even though she signed a letter of intent with Stanford in November 2014 ahead of her graduation from Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart High School, Ledecky deferred her enrollment for a year to train for this summer’s Olympics.

“I am thrilled and excited to be admitted to Stanford, and I very much look forward to my enrollment there as a student in the fall of 2016 and swimming in NCAA competition as a member of Coach Meehan’s Stanford team,” Ledecky said when she announced the news.

Following the Games, Ledecky will be moving to California for school.

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