by Bob Schaller//Correspondent
What a summer for Katie Ledecky. Her record swims last month in the 800 and 1500 even caught her a little off guard, though she is such a dedicated trainer and process oriented athlete that anything can happen each time she dives in. The 2012 Olympian talks freestyle, living near DC, and what the future holds in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. Have a fun summer?
Katie: Yes, I have had a lot of fun. I’ve been swimming a lot. Just enjoying it. It’s kind of nice to be able to focus entirely on swimming in the summer. I went to Colorado Springs in June for 20 days and that was a lot of fun.
2. Elizabeth Beisel told me she texted you the day you set the records and you texted her back that she was doing great at Santa Clara – you were following how she was doing?
Katie: Yes! And she was doing really well! Beisel is great.
3. So the records were not something you were training for or aiming at?
Katie: It was fairly unexpected. I had been training hard and hitting fast paces in practice. I knew I was going to swim pretty well. But without a lot of rest, I didn’t expect records.
4. What happened in the mile?
Katie: It was the first race of the event. I thought it was fast. It felt good, like high 15:30s or low 15:40s – so I was pretty surprised to come in at 15:34.
5. What about the 800?
Katie: The 800, which was the fourth day of the meet was a little more expected just because I had such a good 1500. At the same time, I had swum over 5,000 meters of racing that weekend so I put no expectations on that swim.
6. So where did the effort for that come from?
Katie: I just wanted a good in season swim to get a good time down, and I was just really happy with how it went.
7. How’s it going training with Nations Capitol Swim Club, the Georgetown Prep Site, under Coach Bruce Gemmell?
Katie: It’s been great training under Bruce. He has a great mind and really played a huge role in my swims over the past year and a half. I have a really great training group and great teammates. Andrew Gemmell has been training with us this summer which has been incredible for the group. He really raises the level of training for everybody. A lot of the guys in my group look up to him and try to keep up with him, and I try to keep up with those guys, so it adds to the training environment. Bruce does a great job of mixing up the practice because he knows what we need.
8. I have gotten to know your amazing brother Michael, at Harvard, quite a bit – how much does family mean to you?
Katie: It means everything to me – family is so central to my life. I have a great immediate family. My brother is the one I started swimming with, so we share that. I look up to my brother a lot. He’s been a big influence in my life. It goes to my extended family as well.
9. Your extended family is rather huge, isn’t it?
Katie: I have 15 cousins, all on my Mom’s side – my mom is one of 7. I am really close to all of them. My mom is from North Dakota. We usually go there for Christmas and most of my cousins go, too.
10. Anyone else?
Katie: I also have both of my grandmas – they are both alive and well. My grandma on dad’s side lives in New York so we sometimes get up to see her or she comes down to DC. All my aunts and uncles are really supportive too – a few of them will probably come to Nationals. They have always been really supportive and fun.
11. I was down in DC for a job interview and didn’t get to see 1/1000 of what I wanted to – what do you suggest for the typical tourist?
Katie: Well, I always love the museums. I went to the museums a lot when I was younger. I feel like I still haven’t seen everything. It’s neat to live in DC with it being such a happening area.
12. You’ve committed to Stanford, how nice it to have that out of the way as far as recruiting chaos?
Katie: It’s pretty exciting. I take things year by year. I haven’t thought too far into the future. I am definitely excited for the opportunities past this quad, and at Stanford. That’ll be really exciting once I get there.
13. You really want to focus on the moment and make the most of it, don’t you?
Katie: I am looking forward for these next few years finishing off the quad and getting to Stanford. I think I’ll really enjoy collegiate swimming and being part of that team.
14. And you’ll have Missy over at Cal – have you followed that?
Katie: Yes, and I know she’s really enjoyed collegiate swimming – you can just tell that from how well her freshman year went. I think collegiate swimming is a great facet of our sport, it should be fun to be out there. That area is pretty big for swimming. It’ll be nice to swim outside every day, and see the sun rise while I am swimming.
15. So you stay in touch with Missy?
Katie: Oh yes, a little bit, and I’ve been on the past two international teams with her. Hopefully we’ll have a few more in our future. She’s always great to be on the team with.
16. So you have math coming up in school this fall?
Katie: I do like math. Obviously I will be taking Calculus. I have always enjoyed math. That and puzzles. I have been learning more toward history the past couple of years. I think part of that stems from living in the DC metro area and following the news and government more closely.
17. So you have added the 200 free, which could get you an individual spot and/or relay spot for international meets – what’s the plan as far as events go?
Katie: I just swim most of the freestyle events at meets and try to do as well as I can. I always have to look at the meet schedules and plan it out that way. Last year, I qualified for the 200 free (at World Championship Trials) but dropped it (200 free individual event) at Worlds – the 200 free semifinals was something like 10 minutes before the 1,500 final. And that being just my second international meet, I didn’t want to have that double right off the bat.
18. That’s good reasoning, it would still seem – under the right schedule – that you could do the 200 free and even the 100 free at least going for a relay spot – if it worked out, right?
Katie: I still swam on the 4x200 relay at Worlds, and that was my first time swimming on a USA team relay, and I really wanted to do well on that. That was a blast. It’s nice being in the ready room with three other Americans, having their support and cheering with them, and being on deck with them during a race was really fun. We had great prelim swimmers as well. It’s always a competitive thing to get on relays. It was neat to be a part of that relay team. As for the future, it really depends on the schedule and training.
19. Would you plan tentatively then to keep the 200 free?
Katie: Because there is no mile at the Olympics for women, I think the 200 will be more in play at that time.
20. What have you learned about yourself since 2012, going back to Olympic Trials, up until now?
Katie: It has opened my eyes to all the support I have, both in my community and in my family – and in the country, at my school, just in general – in my life. The outpouring of support of my friends and people in the area has meant a lot to me. I don’t know if I was as well aware of it before the Olympics, but being grateful and being able to appreciate it now, I just try to express my thanks as much as I can because I could not do this without everyone. It’s been a fun couple of years. I’ve also found myself so fortunate to be around such great people on the National Team. I want to try to stay at that level and qualify for National Teams so I can be around all those National Teamers, because I really look up to them, and enjoy being around them.