Katie Ledecky is a swimmer unlike any before.
Katie Ledecky is quite possibly the greatest swimmer of all time. The six-foot-tall D.C. native has been dominating competitions for years now, leaving opponents so far behind in her wake that photos of her victories often only show her with no one else in the shot.
Yesterday, she broke through to a new height in her already astonishingly remarkable career: she beat Michael Phelps’s record by 4.4 seconds on the clock. Ledecky hasn’t lost an event in over a decade, but yesterday’s record-breaker is especially impressive, considering she hadn’t even set out to break it in the first place. She also became the first swimmer to ever win six gold medals at the same event, in this case the 800-meter freestyle. Incredibly, she doubled down on the win without even realizing it. With her sixteenth 800-meter gold medal, she also blew past the previous record of fifteen (also held by Michael Phelps).
For a long time, outlets have been calling her the greatest female swimmer of all time. While there is no contest to be made with this assertion, it’s time we also recognize this: Ledecky is the greatest swimmer of all time. She has consistently blown past every challenge posed to her, with ease that belies her intense focus and determination, and she dominates her previous records year after year. The Tokyo Olympic Games held in 2021 awarded her the gold medal in the 800-meter with an 8-minute, 12.57-second run. On Saturday, she beat her own Olympic record by nearly four seconds.
Ledecky left Stanford University after the Tokyo Games to compete against the men swimming at the University of Florida. In an interview with USA Today reporter Christine Brennan back in May of 2022,
Ledecky had this to say: “It’s something that I knew would help me in my career at this point, training with some of the top male distance swimmers in the world and being in that environment. I love to train, I love the work and so I knew that if I put myself in a position where I could really love the work every day and be pushed every day that the sky’s the limit from there.” The definition of ‘team player,’ Ledecky is well known for celebrating her teammates’ victories as much as she does her own. Back in 2021, she even joined the Florida Gator’s coaching staff, where the Olympic medalist will no doubt serve as a shining reminder of both her dedication to the sport and of passing it on to the next generation of top athletes.