Katie Ledecky was born on March 17, 1997 at Sibley Hospital and has lived her entire life in Bethesda, Maryland. She graduated from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in 2015 and now attends Stanford University. Katie began swimming at the age of six, having been inspired by her older brother, Michael. A five-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time world champion, she is the world-record holder in the women’s 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle (long course). She also holds the fastest-ever times in the women’s 500-, 100-, and 1650-yard freestyle events.
In her debut at the 2012 London Olympics as a 15-year-old and as the youngest athlete in the entire U.S. Olympic delegation, Ledecky surprised the world by defeating the defending champion and winning gold in the women’s 800-meter freestyle competition in American record time. The win gave Team USA its first gold medal in the event since 2000. Four years later, her stellar performances at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics made her the most decorated female athlete of the 2016 Olympics, where she won four gold medals and one silver. After winning gold in the 800 freestyle in world record time, Ledecky went on to become the second woman ever to sweep the 200-, 400-, and 800-meter races. (Debbie Meyer won those races in 1968.)
Ms. Ledecky has won a total of 20 medals - 19 gold and 1 silver - in international competition, and the combined 11 gold medals she has won in individual events in the Summer Olympics and World Long Course Aquatics Championships are already the most ever won by a woman swimmer in the history of the sport. In the process, Katie has broken World Records 13 times and American Records 23 times. In her first few weeks of collegiate swimming for Stanford this past Fall, Katie immediately broke NCAA records five times and set two new American records.
Her athletic accomplishments have been many, including being named Swimming World’s Female World and American Swimmer of the Year a record four straight years in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016; USA Swimming’s singular Athlete of the Year (male or female) also a record four straight years; International Female Champion of Champions by L’Équipe in 2014; the youngest person to grace the 2016 Time Magazine list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World; and following each of the past two Summer Olympic Games, she has been named the sole U.S. Olympic Committee Female Athlete of the Year across all sports.
In addition to her astounding athletic accomplishments, Ms. Ledecky contributes to charitable work as well. She is involved with Catholic Charities, Shepherd’s Table, Bikes for the World, and the Wounded Warriors Project at Walter Reed Bethesda Naval Medical Center.
Recently, when asked by President Obama at a White House visit about the first thing she would do if she had the job, she responded with the candor she brings to her sport:
“To do something to honor the people of this country. I know what it’s like to represent the country, but that’s nothing compared to what people have done for our country and have sacrificed for our country.”
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2017.
© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2017