Katie Ledecky - Biography

Kathleen Genevieve Ledecky is a competitive swimmer from the United States. She is regarded as one of the best female swimmers of all time, having won seven Olympic gold medals and 15 world championship gold medals, the most in history for a female swimmer. In the women's 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle, Ledecky holds the world record (long course). She also owns the women's 500-, 1000-, 1500-, and 1650-yard freestyle world records.

Ledecky made her international debut in the 2012 London Olympic Games as a 15-year-old, winning gold in the women's 800-meter freestyle. With four gold medals, one silver medal, and two world records, she departed Rio de Janeiro as the most decorated female athlete of the 2016 Olympic Games. She has won 38 medals in various international events, including the Summer Olympics, World Championships, and Pan Pacific Championships, for a total of 30 golds, 7 silvers, and 1 bronze. She has broken fourteen world records in her career.

Ledecky's achievements have won her the title of Female World Swimmer of the Year five times, a new record. Ledecky was also named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 2017, L'Équipe International Female Champion of Champions in 2014 and 2017, USOC Female Athlete of the Year in 2013, 2016, and 2017, and Women's Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year in 2017. Ledecky set records in women's swimming with 11 individual gold medals at the World Aquatics Championships and 17 combined individual championships at the Olympics and World Aquatics Championships.

Childhood

Ledecky, the daughter of Mary Gen (Hagan) and David Ledecky, was born in Washington, D.C., and reared in the Bethesda, Maryland, neighbourhood. Dr. Jaromr Ledeck, PhD (1927–2011), her paternal grandpa, was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), to Catholic parents who married at the Kostel svaté Ludmily in Vinohrady. In 1921, his father, a quarter-Jewish procurator, visited America. Jaromr arrived in New York City as a student on September 8, 1947, and subsequently became an economist.

On December 30, 1956, he married Berta Ruth Greenwald , a Jewish lady who had lost family in the Holocaust. Ledecky's mother is from Ireland. Ledecky is a devout Catholic. Jon Ledecky, a businessman and owner of the New York Islanders, is her uncle. Due to the influence of her elder brother, Michael, and her mother, who swam for the University of New Mexico, Ledecky began swimming at the age of six. She graduated from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in 2015 after attending Little Flower School through eighth grade in Bethesda.

Ledecky twice set the American and US Open records in the 500-yard freestyle and twice established the national high-school mark in the 200-yard freestyle during her high-school swimming career. With the exception of the 100-meter breaststroke, Ledecky ended her high school career as the Stone Ridge school record holder in every swimming event.

She trained at the Nation's Capital Swim Club (previously the Curl Burke Swim Club) under coach Yuri Suguiyama throughout the summer of 2012. Suguiyama continued to practise with the Nation's Capital Swim Club under coach Bruce Gemmell through the 2016 Olympics after leaving to coach for the University of California, Berkeley. She swam with Palisades Swim Team in Cabin John, Maryland, throughout the summers previous to 2012.

Ledecky earned an athletic scholarship to Stanford University, where she swam for the Stanford Cardinal women's swimming team, coached by Greg Meehan. Ledecky, along with gymnast Simone Biles, was named one of the sponsors of the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in December 2016. This is the first time Olympians have received this award. She finished the requisite courses for a bachelor of arts in psychology at Stanford University in December 2020 and graduated in June 2021.

A career in swimming

Ledecky qualified for the 2012 Olympic squad by winning the 800-meter freestyle in a time of 8:19.78, over two seconds faster than second-place finisher Kate Ziegler in the United States Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska (her first senior national competition). Ledecky also finished third in the 400m freestyle (4:05.00) and eighth in the 200m freestyle in Omaha (1:58.66). Her third-place result in the 400-meter freestyle set a new record for the quickest time ever swum by an American between the ages of 15 and 16.

She was the youngest American athlete at the 2012 Olympic Games, at the age of 15 years, 4 months, and 10 days.

Ledecky swimming
Summer Olympic Games

Ledecky qualified for the final of the 800-meter freestyle at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London after finishing third overall in the heats with a time of 8:23.84. Ledecky surprised the competition in the final, winning gold by almost four seconds with a time of 8:14.63, the second-fastest time of all time at the time, only behind Rebecca Adlington's world record of 8:14.10 established in 2008.

She also beat Janet Evans' American record of 8:16.22, which she had held since 1989. Ledecky started fast in the final and had already established an almost body-length lead before the 200-meter mark. Ledecky's 400-meter split was 4:04.34, a personal best for the race for her, and she would have finished sixth in the individual 400-meter freestyle. Ledecky was 3.42 seconds clear of Mireia Belmonte Garca at the 750-meter mark, and 0.31 seconds slower than the world record pace.

Ledecky won by 4.13 seconds, 0.53 seconds short of the world record. Her gold was her first international medal, earning her the Golden Goggle Awards for Best Female Performance of the Year and Breakout Performer of the Year in 2012.

Ledecky at summer olympics
2013

Ledecky qualified for the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona, Spain, in four individual events and the 4200-meter freestyle relay at the 2013 US National Championships, however she later omitted the 200-meter freestyle off her programme. She won the 400, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle events in the National Championships, and she was second in the 200-meter freestyle.

World Championships

Ledecky won gold in the 400, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyles, as well as the 4200-meter freestyle relay, at the 2013 World Championships, and broke two world marks. She became only the second woman to win all four events at a World Championships, following German Hannah Stockbauer in 2003. In her first race in Barcelona, the 400-meter freestyle, Ledecky became a world champion for the first time, winning in 3:59.82, a new American record, and the second-fastest time in the sport's history.

Ledecky won gold in the 1500-meter freestyle in 15:36.53, surpassing the world mark set by compatriot Kate Ziegler by six seconds. After relinquishing the lead at the 300-meter mark, Ledecky overtook Dane Lotte Friis in the final few hundred metres during a hard-fought race that included a final 50 split of 29.47.

Ledecky and teammates Shannon Vreeland, Karlee Bispo, and Missy Franklin won gold in the 4200-meter freestyle relay in 7:45.14, her third and first international race. In the final 200 metres, anchor Missy Franklin beat Australian Alicia Coutts to win gold for the United States. Ledecky gave the US an early lead after swimming the first leg in 1:56.32, a lifetime best.

Ledecky won gold in the 800-meter freestyle in a world record time of 8:13.86, breaking Rebecca Adlington's previous world record of 8:14.10. Similarly to the 1500-meter freestyle, Ledecky let Lotte Friis lead for the majority of the race before making a move around the 650-meter mark to win by 2.46 seconds. Ledecky earned the FINA award for best female swimmer of the meet by scoring more points than any other swimmer.

Swimming World magazine selected Ledecky World Swimmer of the Year and American Swimmer of the Year at the end of the year. FINA Aquatics World magazine named her the best female swimmer of the year in 2013.

Ledecky at World Championships
2014

At the 2014 Woodlands Swim Team Senior Invitational in June, Ledecky broke her own world marks in the 800- and 1500-meter freestyle. Despite being in season and competing in many events, Ledecky broke the world record in the 1500-meter freestyle with a time of 15:34.23, bettering her previous best of 15:36.53. Ledecky then set a new world record in the 800-meter freestyle with a time of 8:11.00, bettering her previous best of 8:13.86, three days later.

Pan Pacific Championships

Ledecky won five gold medals and set two world records in the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Gold Coast, Australia. She won the 200, 400, 800, and 1500 metre freestyles, as well as the 4200 metre freestyle. With a time of 8:11.35, Ledecky came close to breaking the world mark in the 800-meter freestyle. With speeds of 3:58.37 and 15:28.36, she set world records in the 400- and 1500-meter freestyles, respectively. She made history by being the first woman to win four gold medals in a single Pan Pacific Championship.

Ledecky held a half-second lead over the field halfway through the 200-meter freestyle final before winning by 1.46 seconds in a meet record time of 1:55.74. Ledecky won the 800-meter freestyle less than an hour later, swimming under her world record pace for the most of the race until touching in at 8:11.35, the second-fastest time ever, to beat New Zealand swimmer Lauren Boyle by 7.52 seconds.

The next day, Ledecky added her third meet record by swimming alongside Shannon Vreeland, Missy Franklin, and Leah Smith on the American 4200-meter freestyle relay team. Ledecky overcame a 1.2-second deficit heading into the last leg of the race, overtaking Melanie Schlanger of Australia with a 1:54.36 time over the final 200 metres. She also competed in the heats of the 100-meter freestyle.

Ledecky established her fourth meet record in the 400-meter freestyle prelim heats on the third day of the competition with a timing of 4:03.09. That night, Ledecky broke the world record for the first time in the new Gold Coast Aquatic Center, clocking in at 3:58.37. Ledecky's winning time was more almost six seconds faster than silver medallist Cierra Runge of the United States. On the last day of the competition, Ledecky established her fifth world record of the year, reducing her 1500-meter freestyle mark by over six seconds to 15:28.36.

Ledecky swam the second half of the race faster than the first, finishing the last 800 metres in 8:14.11, the fastest time by a woman in a textile suit in a normal 800-meter race. In the final, Ledecky lapped three opponents and won by 27.33 seconds over silver medallist Boyle. 'The most spectacular race I've ever seen, and I've been in the sport for 50 years.... She's forging a completely different trail than anyone who has come before,' said National Team Director Frank Busch of Ledecky's 1500 effort.

Ledecky was awarded the female swimmer of the meet during the championships' closing ceremony. Swimming World Magazine selected Ledecky World Swimmer of the Year and American Swimmer of the Year at the end of the year.

Ledecky at Pan Pacific games
World Championships 2015

Ledecky won five gold medals and set three world records in the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia. She won the 200, 400, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyles, as well as the 4200-meter freestyle. In the 800- and 1500-meter freestyles, she set world records. In a major competition, Ledecky is the first swimmer to win the 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyles. Ledecky was also awarded the meet's best female swimmer.

Ledecky had a strong start at the World Championships by winning gold in the 400-meter freestyle in 3:59.13, a new championship record and over four seconds faster than her nearest opponent.

On the second day of competition, Ledecky smashed her own world mark in the 1500-meter freestyle heats with a time of 15:27.71.

Ledecky raced in the 200-meter freestyle heats on the third day of competition in the AM session and qualified first with a timing of 1:55.82. Ledecky had a tough double in the evening session, competing in the 1500-meter freestyle final and the semi-finals of the 200-meter freestyle immediately after. Ledecky set a new world record in the 1500-meter freestyle with a timing of 15:25.48. Ledecky qualified sixth in the 200-meter freestyle with a timing of 1:56.76 after 29 minutes.

Ledecky earned her third gold medal of the meet in the 200-meter freestyle, finishing in a time of 1:55.16 on the fourth day of competition. Unlike her earlier races, Ledecky's victory was not easy, as she competed against Missy Franklin and Federica Pellegrini. Ledecky was able to hold off a fast-charging Pellegrini in the finish, winning by 0.16 seconds. After Pellegrini's 29.23, Ledecky's last 50-meter split of 29.33 was the second-fastest in the race.

On the fifth day of competition, Ledecky won gold in the 4200-meter freestyle relay alongside Missy Franklin, Leah Smith, and Katie McLaughlin. Ledecky swam the anchor leg in 1:55.64, and the Americans finished with an overall time of 7:45.37.

Ledecky finished her World Championships performance on the seventh day of competition by capturing gold in the 800-meter freestyle in a world record time of 8:07.39, surpassing her own mark by 3.61 seconds.

Ledecky at World Championships 2015
2016

Ledecky began the 2016 season in Austin, Texas, in the Arena Pro Swim Series. She established a new world record in the 800-meter freestyle on the final day of competition, with a time of 8:06.68. She posted world-leading speeds in the 200- and 400-meter freestyles, as well as a U.S.-leading time in the 100-meter freestyle, earlier in the competition.

US Olympic Trials

Ledecky qualified for her second Olympic squad after winning the 200-, 400-, and 800-meter freestyles at the 2016 United States Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Ledecky won and set a meet record in the 400-meter freestyle to kick off the Trials (3:58.98). She won the 200-meter freestyle event two days later with a timing of 1:54.88.

Ledecky smashed Janet Evans' 28-year-old national championship record in the morning preliminary heats of the 800-meter freestyle (8:10.91) on July 1, before finishing eighth in the 100-meter freestyle that evening (53.99). The next day, Ledecky set a new meet record by winning the 800-meter freestyle final by nearly ten seconds (8:10.32). Ledecky grabbed possession of the top 11 fastest times in the event's history with her pair of races in the 800-meter freestyle. Ledecky was awarded the meet's female swimmer at the end of the week.

Summer Olympic Games

The 4100-meter freestyle relay was Ledecky's debut event at the 2016 Summer Olympics, and she swam the anchor leg for the United States in both the prelims and final. In the heats, Ledecky set a split of 52.64 seconds. In the final, she joined Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzeil, and Dana Vollmer and ran a split of 52.79, assisting the team to a silver medal (behind Australia) with a time of 3:31.89, a new national record for the US. The 400-meter freestyle was her first solo event.

Ledecky set an Olympic record in the heats with a time of 3:58.71. She won the gold medal in the final with a world record time of 3:56.46––almost two seconds faster than her previous record from 2014 and over 5 seconds faster than the silver medallist, Jazmin Carlin.

Ledecky won her second gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:53.73, defeating Sarah Sjöström by 0.35 seconds.

Ledecky won her third gold medal in the 4200-meter freestyle relay, which she shared with Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith, and Maya DiRado.

Ledecky at summer olympics
NCAA Season 2017

Ledecky set 12 NCAA records and nine American records as a freshman at Stanford University during the 2016–17 NCAA season.Ledecky reduced her American and U.S. Open records in the women's 500-yard freestyle and 1650-yard freestyle at the Ohio State Invitational in November 2016. On the first day of the competition, she set the team record for the quickest split to reduce the 800-yard freestyle relay time to 6:45.91 alongside Manuel, Neal, and Eastin.

The next day, she broke her own 500-yard freestyle record with a time of 4:24.06, defeating the second-fastest performer of all time, Leah Smith, by over five seconds. On the third day of the competition, Ledecky's 20th birthday, she posted a personal-best time of 1:40.36 in the 200-yard freestyle to edge Manuel and tie for the championship with Louisville sophomore Mallory Comerford.

On the last day of the meet, Ledecky established an NCAA record in the 1000-yard freestyle (9:06.90) on her way to a championship record in the 1650-yard freestyle (15:07.70), beating out runner-up Smith by 21.19 seconds and outpacing all other rivals. Ledecky swam the second leg of Stanford's 400-yard freestyle relay with Manuel, Neal, and Hu in the meet's final event. With a time of 3:07.61, the team broke their previous record, securing a 526.5–366 triumph over runner-up California-Berkeley, the greatest championship margin of victory since 2003.

Following the season, Ledecky became the first freshman in 35 years to receive the Honda Cup, which honours the top female collegiate athlete in the country.

Ledecky at NCAA Season 2017
2017 World Championships

Ledecky won the 200-, 400-, and 800-meter freestyle events at the 2017 US National Championships, which served as a qualifying competition for the 2017 World Aquatics Championships.

In Budapest, Ledecky surpassed the all-time female gold medal record at the World Aquatics Championships, earning five golds and one silver to increase her career total to 14.

Ledecky successfully defended her world title in her first event, the 400-meter freestyle, swimming with a championship record time of 3:58.34. Ledecky swam the third leg of the 4100-meter freestyle later that evening. Ledecky achieved a split of 53.83 alongside Mallory Comerford, Kelsi Worrell, and Simone Manuel, helping the team win gold with a time of 3:31.72, a new national record for the United States.

Ledecky wrapped up the competition with a victory in the 800-meter freestyle, her sixth consecutive triumph in the event at the Olympics and World Championships.

Ledecky swimming at 2017 World Championships
NCAA Season 2018

During the 2017–18 NCAA season, Ledecky established three more NCAA records and two American records while leading Stanford to their second consecutive team championship.

In November 2017, during the Texas A&M Invitational, Ledecky set a new American and U.S. Open record in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 15:03.31.

Following another flawless dual meet season, Ledecky was named Swimmer of the Meet at the Pac-12 Championships in Federal Way for the second year in a row, sweeping the 500-yard freestyle, 400-yard individual medley, and 200-yard freestyle. Stanford defeated runner-up California-Berkeley by 220 points in the team rankings, the biggest margin of victory in 25 years.

A week after Stanford won the national title, Ledecky revealed at the National Press Club that she will sacrifice her remaining two seasons of NCAA eligibility in order to pursue professional endorsement and commercial possibilities. Dan Levy, Wasserman's sports agent, agreed to represent her.

Ledecky in 2018 NCAA Season
Professional career

On May 16, 2018, during the TYR Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis, Indiana, Ledecky made her professional debut, breaking her previous world record in the 1500-meter freestyle with a time of 15:20.48. She smashed the previous record by five seconds.

On June 8, 2018, Ledecky inked her first sponsorship agreement with TYR Sport, Inc.

Ledecky qualified for the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships by winning the 200-, 400-, and 800-meter freestyle events at the US National Swimming Championships in July 2018.

Ledecky Professional career
Pan Pacific Championships

Ledecky topped all swimmers with three individual championships at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo, earning gold in the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle. She also won bronze in the 200m freestyle and silver in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

On the first day of competition, Ledecky won gold in the 800-meter freestyle with a championship-record time of 8:09.13, beating out runner-up Ariarne Titmus of Australia by 7.94 seconds. A little more than an hour later, Ledecky finished third in the 200-meter freestyle (1:55.15), after Canada's Taylor Ruck (1:54.44) and Japan's Rikako Ikee (1:54.85).

The next day, Ledecky anchors the US team of Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith, and Katie McLaughlin in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. Ledecky swam the fourth-fastest relay split in history (1:53.84), nearly surpassing Australian Madeline Groves, who touched 0.25 seconds ahead of Ledecky to create a new championship and national record.

On the third day, Ledecky won the 400-meter freestyle by a wide margin over Titmus.

Ledecky wrapped off the championships with another gold medal, this time in the 1500-meter freestyle, which she won by a margin of 21.11 seconds (15:38.97).

Ledecky at Pan Pacific Championships
World Championships 2019

Ledecky fought sickness and withdrew from two races at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, before capturing her fourth World Championship gold in the 800-meter freestyle.

Ledecky led Australian Ariarne Titmus towards the last wall in the 400-meter freestyle final on the first day of competition before fading to second. Despite qualifying first for the event's final, Ledecky battled in her preliminary heat of the 1500-meter freestyle the next morning.

Ledecky competed for DC Trident in the inaugural season of the International Swimming League.

For the seventh year in a row, Ledecky completed the year with world-leading times in both the 800- and 1500-meter freestyles (8:10.70 and 15:35.98).

Ledecky received numerous end-of-decade awards. Ledecky was named the best swimmer of the decade by 52% of SwimSwam.com readers, ahead of Michael Phelps. Ledecky was named International Sportswoman of the Decade by readers of The London Evening Standard. She came in third place in the Associated Press' Female Athlete of the Decade vote, trailing only Serena Williams and Simone Biles.

Ledecky at World Championships 2019
US Olympic Trials

As part of the NBC evening telecast for day one of the 2020 USA Swimming Olympic Trials , Ledecky was featured in an interview discussing Stanford University's commencement, finishing her college degree, and training for the Olympic Trials. Because training facilities were closed during the pandemic, Ledecky and her colleague Simone Manuel trained for the Olympics in a 25-yard private pool in Atherton, in the backyard of masters swimmer Tod Spieker.

Two events later, she swam a 15:43.10 in the 1500 meter freestyle prelims, ranking as the fastest swimmer of prelims heat, advancing to the final, and setting a new Championship Record over four seconds faster than the previous record she set in 2013. Later the same day in the evening semifinals for the 200 meter freestyle, Ledecky finished first with a time of 1:55.83.On day 4, June 16, she won both the 200m and 1500m freestyle finals in the evening.

Ledecky swam a 15:40.50 in the 1500 meter freestyle, lowering her Championship Record from the day before and becoming the first winner of the women's 1500 meter freestyle at the US Olympic Trials. She swam a 1:55.11 in the 200 meter freestyle. These two swims secured her spots on the US Olympic Team for the 2020 Summer Olympics in the 1500 meter freestyle and 200 meter freestyle individual events as well as the 4x200 meter freestyle relay.

Ledecky won the 200 meter and 1500 meter freestyle finals in a time span of about 70 minutes as well as collecting her medal at the 200 meter freestyle medal ceremony and eating a snack.

Ledecky at US Olympic Trials
Summer Olympic Games

At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, Ledecky won two gold medals and two silver medals, making her the most decorated U.S. female athlete for a second straight Summer Olympics.Ledecky began her racing in the prelims of the 400 meter freestyle, ranking first overall with her time of 4:00.45 and advancing to the final. However, she finished second to Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus to win the silver medal, trailing Titmus by half a second after leading at the 300m mark.

Ledecky's time of 3:57.36 was the second-fastest time of her career and fourth-fastest in history. This was Ledecky's first loss in an individual event at the Olympics.In the debut of the women's 1500 meter freestyle at the Summer Olympics, Ledecky set an Olympic record in her heat with a time of 15:35.35 and advanced to the final ranked first overall.

The next day, Ledecky anchored for Team USA in the women's 4x200 freestyle relay, winning a silver medal alongside teammates Allison Schmitt, Paige Madden, and Katie McLaughlin behind China. Before she entered the pool, the United States was trailing both Australia and China, but she swam a time of 1:53.76 to finish the race 0.4 seconds behind the Chinese swimmer Li Bingjie and ahead of Australia, who were the favorites coming into the competition.

Ledecky's split was the fastest of all swimmers in the relay finals.Ledecky won her second gold medal of the Olympics and her seventh of all time in the 800-meter freestyle. Her six individual gold medals are the most of any female Olympic swimmer and female US Olympian, and the second-most of all Olympic swimmers behind Michael Phelps. She became the first swimmer to win a distance event three times in a row, as well as the youngest and oldest person to win the 800 free.

Ledecky at 2020 Summer Olympic Games