Best Athlete in the World
A 15-year old, Katie Ledecky shocked the 2012 London Olympic Games, when she unexpectedly won the Gold Medal in the women’s 800-meter freestyle. Currently, she is a five-time Olympic Gold Medalist and nine-time World Champion. Some consider her the best athlete of the World.
Kathleen Genevieve Ledecky was born on March 17, 1997, in Washington, DC, to Mary Gen (Hagan) and David Ledecky. Her paternal grandfather, Jaromír Ledecký, was Czech, and came to the United States from Czechoslovakia in 1947.
Ledecky began swimming at the age of six. Ledecky’s family resides in Bethesda, Maryland, where she attended Little Flower School and then graduated from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in 2015. During her high school swimming career, Ledecky twice set the American and US Open record in the 500-yard freestyle and twice set the national, high-school record in the 200-yard freestyle. Ledecky finished her high-school career as the holder of the Stone Ridge school record in every swimming event except the 100-meter breaststroke.
At the 2013 World Championships, Ledecky won Gold in the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle, and in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, and set two World records.
At the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, Ledecky won five Gold Medals and broke two World records. Her wins came in the 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle and the 4×200-meter freestyle.
At the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia, Ledecky won five Gold Medals and broke three World records. Her wins came in the 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyles and the 4×200-meter freestyle. Her world records came in the 800- and 1500-meter freestyles.
In the 2016 Summer Olympics, she won the Gold Medal in the 400-meter freestyle, with a world record time of 3:56.46, nearly two seconds faster than her previous record from 2014. She won a second Gold in the 200-meter freestyle with a personal best of 1:53.73, beating Sarah Sjöström by 0.35 seconds. She claimed her third Gold in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, with Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith, and Maya DiRado. She won a fourth Gold Medal in her final individual event, the 800-meter freestyle, setting a World record in the finals of 8:04.79, over 11 seconds faster than the Silver Medalist, Jazmin Carlin.
During the 2016-17 NCAA season, Ledecky set eight NCAA records and six American records while swimming as a freshman for Stanford University. At the Pac 12 Championships in Federal Way, WA, Ledecky earned Swimmer of the Meet honors with four American records as Stanford won its first conference title in four years.
Ledecky holds the record for most individual Gold Medals at the World Aquatics Championships, and her combined eleven individual titles at the four Olympics and seven World Aquatics Championships) are a record for female swimmers.
Ledecky’s success has earned her Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year and the American Swimmer of the Year awards in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Ledecky was also named the international female Champion of Champions by L’Équipe in 2014 and the Female Athlete of the Olympic Games by the United States Olympic Committee in 2016. In 2016, Ledecky was the youngest person on Time magazine’s ‘Time 100 list.’
“She’s the greatest athlete in the world today by far,” said Michael J. Joyner, an anesthesiologist and researcher for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., specializing in human performance and physiology.
(Our note: She turned down $5 million annually to attend Sanford, read about that here.)
Guest Post Author
Miloslav Rechcígl, Jr. is one of the founders and past Presidents of many years of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU), an international professional organization based in Washington, DC. He is a native of Mladá Boleslav, Czechoslovakia, who has lived in the US since 1950.