In 2012, at age 15, Katie Ledecky took the swimming world by storm by winning the 800 meter freestyle at the London Olympic Games. It wasn’t since 2000 that the United States had seen such a young swimmer reach and thrive at the Olympic games.
It was Michael Phelps who placed fifth in the 200 meter butterfly in the 2000 Sydney Games and then went on to break his first world record in the same event the following year. Both Ledecky and Phelps broke their first world records during the year in which they turned 16, which is partly why Ledecky’s early success and record shattering accomplishments have been so impressive thus far. But following her first NCAA Championships in Indianapolis this march and dominance in Rio last year, Ledecky beating the best swimmers in the world has not only become a common occurrence, but a routine.
During the 2016 Olympic games, Phelps spoke on the growth of the sport and talent of young swimmers throughout the world. Of Ledecky he said, “She’s somebody who is willing to dream as big as you can possibly imagine. That’s what you need. And that is what all kids should do.” Phelps had previously mentioned the work ethic of the young phenom at a press conference while training in San Antonio prior to the 2016 games but what is becoming increasingly apparent is that he is in awe of her ability to believe that she can do unprecedented things in the swimming world. When asked for his perspective on Ledecky, Phelps stated, “She is doing things that women have never done before because she isn’t afraid to think outside the box. She isn’t afraid to give everything she can possibly give. Her mind is open to everything.”
The video describing Ledecky’s ability to dream big can be found here:
The high praise that she has received from the most decorated Olympian of all time has only heightened the level of admiration that swimmers young and old have for Ledecky, who will be just a sophomore at Stanford come the fall. Ledecky, who is undefeated in freestyle events on the international stage, has cemented herself as the most dominant female distance swimmer in the world and the new face of United States Women’s swimming. More importantly, as Phelps discussed, Ledecky has broken down barriers in the swimming world that were previously never thought possible, and has inspired many young swimmers to dream as big as they possibly can imagine.