"I definitely have greater expectations for myself," Katie Ledecky tells PEOPLE

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katie ledecky
Katie Ledecky
| Credit: TYR Sport, Inc

Katie Ledecky knows what she's doing.

Ledecky, a swimmer who has already secured 15 world championship titles and an impressive five Olympic gold medals, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue that she's settled into herself as an athlete in the nine years since she first competed at a Summer Games.

"I am more confident in myself than I was back when I was 15 in 2012 [for the London Olympics]," the 24-year-old says. "I really didn't expect to even make the Olympic team back in 2012. So just doing that was a huge step and everything on top of that — winning the gold medal and making it the London — all that was just icing on the cake."

Ledecky, who spoke to PEOPLE ahead of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics at the Team USA swimming trials in Omaha last week, adds, "Now, just with having two Olympics under my belt and lots of world championships and other meets, I definitely have greater expectations for myself."

On top of that, the swimmer says, she's become "more comfortable" at big meets and in dealing with the pressure of the environment at international competitions: "I just have so much experience under my belt and really comfortable and confident at that stage and at that level. And I've continued to set big goals for myself at that level."

For more on Olympic superstar Katie Ledecky, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE.

Outside of swimming, Ledecky says she's undergone a lot of growth as well. She's now a Stanford University graduate when in 2012 she was only at the beginning of her sophomore year of high school.

katie ledecky
Katie Ledecky
| Credit: Sean M Haffey/Getty

"I have just taken a lot of big steps along the way, both in and out of the pool," the Olympian tells PEOPLE.

The Tokyo Olympics are currently scheduled to take place from July 23 through Aug. 8, 2021.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23rd and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning August 24th on NBC.