On the Road to Rio: Katie Ledecky

Olympic swimming sensation Katie Ledecky

In 1998, the TODAY Show’s Al Roker chatted on-air, as he still does, with some folks out on the plaza. On this day, it was a mom with her two young children, Katie and Michael. Little did Roker know that in a decade and a half, Katie would return to TODAY to discuss her plans to compete at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

Katie Ledecky was born Kathleen Genevieve Ledecky on March 17, 1997, in Washington D.C. to David Ledecky and Mary Gen Hagan. Mary was once a swimmer at the University of Mexico, but it was her older brother who inspired her interest in swimming when she was only six.

Katie’s Early Swimming Career
Katie graduated from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in 2015. It was here that she set the American and United States Open Record for the 500-yard freestyle race, not once, but twice.

In addition, she twice broke the national high school record for the 200-yard freestyle. Her high school swimming career was so impressive that Ledecky graduated holding the school record in every swimming event except for the 100-yard breaststroke.

Her Future at Stanford
Upon graduation, she was awarded an athletic scholarship to Stanford University where she will train under Greg Meehan as a Stanford Cardinal. She has deferred her enrollment until the fall of 2016 in order to focus on her Olympic performance in Rio de Janeiro.

This summer, Katie can be found swimming for the Palisades Swim Team in Bethesda, MD.

2012 Olympic Games
At her first senior national competition, Katie qualified for the 2012 Women’s Olympic Swimming Team when she placed first in the 800-meter freestyle race. She became the youngest American athlete to participate in the 2012 Olympic Games at the age of 15 years, four months and 10 days.

In the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, Katie not only won her first gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle, but she also surprised the swimming world when she won by a greater than four second margin and nearly broke the world record.

At that year’s Golden Goggles awards, she won Breakout Performer of the Year and 2012 Best Female Performance of the Year based, in part, on her impressive Olympic debut.

First swim as a high school graduate... Thanks Stone Ridge for 4 great years!

A post shared by Katie Ledecky (@kledecky) on

2013 World Championships
At the 2013 World Championships, Ledecky set two world records and won gold medals in the 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle, and the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

She also won the FINA trophy for Best Female Swimmer there for scoring the most points. By year’s end, she had been named by Swimming World magazine as the World Swimmer of the Year and American Swimmer of the Year.

More Successes in 2014 and 2015
Breaking your own 800-meter and 1500-meter freestyle records – that’s how Katie kicked off 2014. Her performance at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships gained her five more gold medals and two more world records. At the end of the competition, she was given the distinction of female swimmer of the meet.

In 2015, in Kazan, Russia, Katie added five gold medals and three world records to her already impressive list of swimming accomplishments. She became the first swimmer to win the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle races in a major competition and was named as female swimmer of the meet.


Training and Giving Back
Katie is not your average 18-year old. Besides being a world-class swimmer, she also enjoys giving back.

She often visits children’s hospitals and loves seeing the small faces light up when they touch her gold medals. Even while maintaining an intensive training and competing schedule on the road to Rio, Ledecky still plans to focus on some of her charity work this spring.

How does she accomplish so much? She told The Washington Post last December that she tries to focus on doing what she loves and tries to limit the rest.

Right now, Katie is looking forward to the Olympic try-outs in June. With her swimming career already on fire, it is no doubt that this unusual teenager will bring the heat to 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

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