The most dominant female swimmer in history, three-time Olympian and seven-time Olympic gold medallist Katie Ledecky has already cemented her place in history at the age of 25. Ledecky is now the owner of the top-13 fastest times in the world in the mile and six of the top-7 times in 2021, but how did she reach such heights?
Born in the American capitol, the Washington D.C. native started swimming at the age of six. Since then she’s become the most decorated female freestyle swimmer of all time.
"When I was six, right before I started swimming, we went to a national competition here in Maryland and watched Michael Phelps swim and I got to meet him afterwards and I got his autograph. Fast forward nine years and I'm at the Olympics with him and it's like: 'Woah.' That was probably the most surreal moment of the entire Olympics and that's just when it all hit me."
That was Ledecky speaking to the Guardian in 2013, after winning gold in her first-ever Olympic appearance at the London 2012 Olympic Games, aged 15. This was just the start.
At the 15th FINA World Championships 2013 in Barcelona, her first FINA World Championships, Ledecky would shave nearly six seconds off the previous 1500 world record, touching the wall at 15:36.53.y
Her consistency and ability to continue to break records was already clear to see. Ledecky continued her run of incredible form at the 12th Pan Pacific Championships 2014 in Gold Coast, Australia, claiming gold and breaking her own world record with a 15:28.36. She would also become the first female to win four individuals.
Come 2015, after back-to-back successes, the pressure was building. But Ledecky was ready for this, “I would encourage you to set really high goals. Set goals that, when you set them, you think they're impossible. But then every day you can work towards them, and anything is possible, so keep working hard and follow your dreams,” she told the Olympic Channel.
She would shave another two seconds off her own record at the 16th FINA World Championships 2015 in Kazan, clocking in at 15:25.48.
At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, her second Olympic Games, Ledecky took four golds and one silver, completing a historic 200, 400 and 800 freestyle hat-trick, breaking two world records in the process.
In 2017, at the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest, it was Ledecky vs. the clock. No one else in the pool came close. Her 15:31.82 in Budapest saw Ledecky become the first three-time champion in the women’s 1500 at worlds and the all-time leader in gold medals (12) among female swimmers, passing Missy Franklin for the most gold medals in long course FINA World Championships history.
In the first race of her professional career at the 2018 TYR Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis, Ledecky would once again break her own world record in the 1500. Her 15:20.48 shaved a full five seconds off her previous record from the 16th FINA World Championships 2015 in Kazan. Simply outstanding.
Her record is there to be broken. Can she do it again this summer at the 19th FINA World Championships Budapest 2022?