Two world records, four world championships, one Olympic gold. All before she passed her driver’s license test. Born in Washington, D.C. in 1997, Kathleen Ledecky (Katie, for short) did not waste much time before beginning her already-legendary swimming career. She started swimming at age 6, following in her older brother Michael’s footsteps.
Ledecky grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and attended Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. She trained with Nation’s Capital Swim Club, where she was first coached by Yuri Suguiyama, followed by Bruce Gemmel after Yuri’s departure to Cal.
2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
Ledecky exploded onto the U.S. swimming scene in 2012 at the Olympic Trials, where she was the youngest swimmer at the meet. She quickly claimed her spot in the future of American swimming by winning the 800 freestyle and finishing third in the 400 and ninth in the 200.
2012 Olympic Games
A few weeks later, she surprised her country and the world with a gold medal finish in the 800 freestyle at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Her time of 8:14.63 was incredibly close to the World Record and broke Janet Evans’ long-standing American Record of 8:16.22.
2013 FINA World Championships
Ledecky returned to school and continued to train at NCAP with coach Bruce Gemmell. After
countless splits and times that danced around world record paces, Ledecky made her move at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona. She set world records in both the 800 and 1500 freestyles and an American record in the 400.
In the 1500, she shaved nearly six seconds off of Kate Ziegler’s previous world record in a hard-fought battle against Denmark’s Lotte Friis. Ledecky also made her international relay debut in Barcelona and won gold in the 4×200 freestyle relay with teammates Shannon Vreeland, Karlee Bispo and Missy Franklin. The 2013 FINA Female Swimmer of the Meet has certainly proven herself as a crucial part of the future of American swimming.
World Record 1500 Meter Freestyle – Race Video
2014 Pan Pacific Championships
At U.S. summer nationals, Ledecky broke the world record in the 400 freestyle in addition to winning the 200 freestyle and 800 freestyle. At the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, she won five golds (200 freestyle, 400 freestyle, 800 freestyle, 1500 freestyle, 800 freestyle relay) and became the first female to win four individuals.
World Record 400 Meter Freestyle – 2014 Pan Pacific Championships
2015 World Championships
At the 2015 World Championships in Kazan Ledecky faced a lot of pressure going off of her recent successes. Her first swim of the meet was in the 400 free, and as the reigning world record holder, it was hard to imagine anyone but Katie taking the gold. She took out the race hard, swimming he first 200 split in under 1:58, and she held on for the win. Although she didn’t break her World Record mark, she set the tone for the meet.
Her next event came in the 1500 free, when she set her first World Record of the meet in the prelim of
the 1500 free. The following day in the final, Ledecky dropped her World Record by another two seconds and finished ahead of the runner-up, Lauren Boyle, by 15 seconds and finished when much of the field was turning for their last 50.
She also picked up another gold medal in the 200 free, an event she isn’t as widely known for, but probably her event with the most improvement. Ledecky was placed on the U.S. 800m free relay, which she swam the anchor leg. Along with her American teammates, Missy Franklin, Leah Smith and Katie McLaughlin, Ledecky pulled ahead of record-pace Sweden, and eventually touched for a gold medal.
Ledecky returned for the final of her fourth individual event — the 800 free. This time around Ledecky crushed her 800 World Record mark she set in 2014, reducing the record by nearly four seconds. She finished 10 seconds ahead of the second finisher in the field. Her split at the 400-meter mark was good for a second place finish, behind only herself, in the 400 event.
Katie Ledecky starts the Olympic year off with a bang! Coming down from altitude training for the 2016 Pro Swim Series at Austin, broke the World Record in the women’s 800 meter freestyle on Sunday swimming an 8:06.68.
World Record 800 meter Freestyle Race Video – 2016 Austin Pro Swim Series
2016 US Olympic Trials
Ledecky made her second Olympic Team by winning the 400M Freestyle with a time of 3:58.98. She made her near record swim look easy beating second place finisher, Leah Smith by just 1.67 seconds, a slim margin compared to most of her races.
It is no surprise that Ledecky made the Olympic Team in a second event, the surprise is that she won the 200M Free. Before this year, that may not have been a reality, but Ledecky added the event to her repertoire seamlessly.
Ledecky won her third event, the 800m Free, with a time of 8:10.32, outdistancing second place finisher Leah Smith by almost 10 full seconds.
2016 Rio Olympics
Ledecky was named to the US 4x100M Freestyle Relay for the preliminary heats and turned in the
fastest split for the US Women, therefore giving her a spot on team swimming at finals. The US Women finished behind the favored Australians to win the silver medal, with Ledecky anchoring the foursome.
However, not surprisingly, Ledecky won the 400M freestyle. Her blazing fast time of 3:56.46 shattered the previous world record, and was almost five full seconds ahead of second place finisher, Jazmin Carlin.
In the 200m freestyle, Ledecky went out from the start, took the lead around the 60 Meter mark and never relinquished it. She finished three tenths of a second in front of silver medalist, Sarah Sjostrom, 1:53.73 to 1:54.08.
She followed that performance up with an anchor leg in the 4x200m free relay. 600 meters in, the USA was behind Australia by over 1 second, and then Ledecky hit the water. Splitting a field best 1:53.74, she led USA to victory in a final time of 7:43.03.
Ledecky has said that she treats every race as if it is a sprint, and during the 800m Free that was never
more evident. Her time of 8:04.79 not only broke the World Record by almost two seconds, but was also over 11 seconds ahead of second place finisher, Jazmin Carlin of Great Britain. By the time Ledecky was finishing, she was a full 25 Meters ahead of some other swimmers in her heat, all of whom swam to a spot in the finals and are considered amongst the best in the world.
2017 US World Team Trials
Ledecky added a sprint race to her repertoire, finishing 6th in the 100m free, giving her a chance for a spot on the 4X100m Free Relay. Ledecky then went on to win the 800m Free on the same night, finishing almost 9 seconds ahead of the second place finisher. On Day 2, Ledecky added another win in the 200m free finishing in 1:54.84, well ahead of silver medalist, Leah Smith (1:56.68). Ledecky started Day 4 by winning the 400m Free setting a new US Open Record and Long Course National Meet Record of 3:58.44. Ledecky did not swim the 1500m free but earned a spot in Budapest when she won the 800m Free.
2017 FINA World Championships
Day one of the 2017 FINA World Championships, Ledecky won the 400m freestyle in 3:58.34. It was the second-fastest time in history, behind her own world record. USA had the 1-2 sweep in the event with Leah Smith grabbing silver at 4:01.54. Ledecky followed up with a gold on the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay, helping Team USA to a new American record time, 3:31.72.
Day three Ledecky dominated the 1500m freestyle, winning her third Worlds gold in 15:31.82, which stands as the 4th-fastest swim in history. With her third consecutive 1500 free title, Ledecky passed Missy Franklin for the most gold medals in long course World Championships history, holding a dozen world titles in as many appearances.
Day four in a thrilling 200 freestyle battle, Ledecky and Emma McKeon tied for silver–Ledecky’s first silver in a major international championships. Both women were faster the previous night in the semis, 1:54.99 for McKeon and 1:54.69 for Ledecky, but each wound up touching in 1:55.18 for the tie in the finals. Italian swim star Federica Pellegrini won in 1:54.73.
Day five of competition in the women’s final of the 4x200m freestyle relay, Leah Smith led off for the Americans in a personal best 1:55.97. Mallory Comerford (1:56.92) and Melanie Margalis (1:56.48) took over the middle legs of the relay as they battled down the stretch with China and Russia. It was a very tight race with China going into the final leg, but Ledecky took off with a 1:54.02 split to help the Americans strike gold again. The 4x200m relay was Ledecky’s 5th medal of the competition, and her 4th gold.
Day seven Ledecky won gold in the women’s 800m freestyle. It wasn’t the most dominant performance of her career, but she got the job done in the 800m freestyle in a time of 8:12.68. That gives Ledecky three straight World titles in the event, giving her three three-peats along with the 400 and 1500 freestyle.
2016 College Preview SwimSwam Magazine Cover
In the fall of 2016, as Katie was just starting her freshman season as a cardinal, she was featured on the cover of SwimSwam Magazine‘s college preview. Giving swimming fans a sneak peak into what they could expect in the coming NCAA season, Ledecky was an automatic highlight, coming into the scene with best times that would lay waste to the NCAA record books. And soon enough, she did just that. The cover shot was captured by Mike Lewis.
The top high school recruit in 2014, Ledecky committed to the Cardinal; however, she chose to defer her enrollment until 2016 to train for the Rio Olympics with her home club of Nation’s Capitol.
Stanford University 2016-2017 Freshman Year
If there was any doubt that Ledecky would continue her dominance, look no further than Stanford vs Texas. Ledecky smashed the 1000 yard freestyle pool record, beating the rest of her heat by 35 seconds. Her 9:10.49 is also a Stanford school record, annihilating the previous record held by Janet Evans (9:30.69).
2017 Pac 12 Championships
After winning the 4×200 free relay with her Stanford teammates, Ledecky won the 500 free with a time of 4:25.15, lowering her previous NCAA Record by more than a second. She then followed that up by winning the 400IM, finishing 3 seconds ahead of the rest of the competition. Then just two events later she finished just behind Stanford teammate, Simone Manuel, in the 200 Free.
2017 NCAA Championships
Ledecky started her individual campaign by winning the 500 Free and rewriting the record books with a time of 4:24.06, more than four seconds ahead of second place finisher, Leah Smith. The 200 Free brought another gold, but this time Ledecky shared the top of the podium with Louisville’s Mallory Comerford, both touching the wall at 1:40.36. Ledecky set another Meet and Pool Record in the 1650 Free with a time of 15:07.70. Ledecky and her Stanford teammates capped the meet of by capturing the team title, beating runner up Cal by over 100 points.
2018 Pac-12 Championships
Stanford’s Katie Ledecky made history on Friday night at the 2018 Pac-12 Championships in Federal Way, Washington. Ledecky went up against American Record holder and teammate Ella Eastin in the 400 IM, reclaiming the American Record from Eastin and taking down Katinka Hosszu’s NCAA Record as she won the race in 3:56.53. Eastin was also under the former American Record, taking silver in 3:57.32.
- 100 Fly Split- 54.75
- 100 Back Split- 59.29
- 100 Breast Split- 1:09.43
- 100 Free Split- 53.06
- Final Time- 3:56.53
2018 NCAA Championships
Although she didn’t go any best times in her individual performances, Katie Ledecky had a stellar meet which included 2 individual titles. She started the meet by anchoring Stanford’s 800 free relay in 1:39.87 to victory. On night 2, she added 2 seconds from her time last year in the 500, going 4:26.57. Ledecky still bested the field by over 8 seconds, and seemed more excited that her teammate, Katie Drabot, came in 2nd with a personal best of 4:34.86 than her own individual title or performance. On night 3, Ledecky battle with Stanford teammate Ella Eastin in the 400 IM, ultimately finishing 2nd behind Eastin in 3:58.29. On the last night of competition, Katie swam the 1650, lapping every other contender in the final heat and finishing in 15:07.57, nearly 30 seconds ahead of 2nd place.