Now that the 2021 Tokyo Olympics have wrapped up, Katie Ledecky ’20 boasts 10 Olympic medals, 15 world championship medals and 14 world records, making her one of the most accomplished female swimmers of all time. Ledecky was a part of Stanford’s collegiate swimming team from 2016 to 2018 under Greg Meehan, before turning professional after her sophomore year season. The Daily sat down with Ledecky after a busy year to ask: what’s next?
Ledecky announced Wednesday she’ll be leaving Stanford to train at the University of Florida after five years at Stanford. This interview was conducted before the announcement.
Stanford Daily [TSD]: Ok, so you’ve won all these medals, you’re one of the best swimmers in the world. What do you do now? Do you take a break, do you work? What’s next for you?
Katie Ledecky [KL]: So in the short term, I’m just enjoying some time with my family right now, and being home relaxing a little bit. And it’s been a couple of weeks now since the games. So I’m starting to shift my mindset toward the future, but also just kind of trying to let these past five years sink in, and Tokyo especially, and my whole career up to this point. So just kind of taking a step back for a little bit, celebrating with family and friends, getting to see some people I haven’t seen in a long time, just given the pandemic and things like that. So that’s sort of the short term.
I’m still kind of short term, but, and maybe in a couple of weeks, I’m really starting to get back into the hard training and starting to set my goals for the future. I’m planning on 2024 and I hope I’ll be in Paris. So I know I need to start setting my goals for the next three years, pretty soon.
TSD: How did the Stanford athletic program and coach Greg Meegan help you become a better swimmer? What type of training did they have you do?
KL: I really thrived under the Stanford program and under Greg and [associate head coach] Tracy [Slusser]. I really just had so much fun training with my teammates over these past five years. Being a part of the Stanford collegiate team for NCAA swimming for two years, and then being a professional continuing to train with them the past three years since then. So yeah, Greg has been an incredible coach for me and the training has been hard. It’s training for the Olympics, it’s what you’d expect.
TSD: What was it like being an athlete at Stanford and how did you juggle getting your degree in psychology while still being a really competitive athlete?
KL: I loved being a student-athlete at Stanford. It’s such a supportive community. All the athletes and coaches are really striving for high performance and are really at the top of their sport and all the athletes are and all the coaches are the best of the best. And it’s a really inspiring community to be around and a really motivating community to be around people that are really pushing you to try to be the best that you can be.
I’m supporting my teammates and trying to help them achieve their goals. And they’re doing the same for me. And that’s the best. That’s all you can ask for.
TSD: What are you looking forward to for Paris?
KL: I’m looking forward to the new challenges and new fun. I think each Olympic cycle brings something new and different challenges. Of course, this time around, there were some challenges that we couldn’t have expected five years ago. So I think I’m excited to just take all the lessons that I’ve learned, not only from the past five years but over my whole swimming career, even just going back to my first Olympics in 2012.
TSD: You are a huge inspiration to young girls. What is something you hope to teach them?
KL: I always like to talk about finding your passion and trying to be the very best that you can be in whatever that is. So if that’s swimming or another sport, school, a certain subject within the school, some other activity, maybe it’s playing an instrument or something like that. Just try to really go all-in on it and be the very best that you can be and use the people around you to support you and help you set goals for yourself along the way to be able to aim for the top and aim for your full potential.