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Katie Ledecky Rules the Kingdom of Freestyle Swimming

At an age when most of us are barely comfortable getting our feet wet, Katie Ledecky was a natural in the water. When Katie was a toddler growing up in Bethesda, Maryland, her parents noticed how she was totally comfortable in the pool.

More than 20 years later, Ledecky has already achieved more than most athletes could ever dream of. She has won seven Olympic gold medals and 21 World Championship gold medals, the most in history for a female swimmer. Her six individual Olympic gold medals are a record in women’s swimming.

In short, she is the GOAT: Greatest Of All Time.

Katie Ledecky leads a stacked U.S. swimming team into the 2024 Summer Games.

Ledecky’s breakthrough moment came at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, when she was just 15. It was there that Ledecky shocked the world, winning her first Olympic gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle and breaking the world record in the process.

It was a moment that would change her life forever and catapult her into the spotlight as one of the brightest stars in swimming.

But Ledecky was just getting started.


Over the years that followed, she continued to dominate the world of swimming, winning medal after medal and breaking records along the way. Her signature event, the freestyle, is her kingdom, and she is its ruler.

Most swimmers have strengths and weaknesses. Maybe they’re elite sprinters — meaning they can swim super-fast over short distances — but they don’t have the endurance to keep it up over long distances. Or maybe they have the stamina to outlast opponents over long distances but aren’t that great in the shorter races.

What makes Ledecky unique is her ability to do it all.

Her dominance in the freestyle events is remarkable, with victories in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1500-meter freestyle events. She can beat you in the short run, and she can beat you in the long run.

“[I] have the approach that every race is a sprint,” she says. “Some races are just longer sprints than others.”


Ledecky is now 27, and she doesn’t appear to be slowing down. She heads into this summer’s Olympic Games as one of the favorites.

The secret to her success? She still trains harder than anyone else, pushing herself to the limit and never settling for anything less than her best.

“I try to make the good days great and take something positive from the days I’m not feeling good,” she says.

Michael Phelps, probably the greatest male swimmer of all time, is impressed.

“She’s somebody who is willing to dream as big as you can possibly imagine,” Phelps says. “That’s what you need. … She is doing things that women have never done before because she isn’t afraid to think outside the box. She isn’t afraid to give everything she can possibly give.”

The “Other” Katie

Katie Grimes might be the second-best person named Katie in the world of competitive swimming, but she takes a backseat to no one.

Grimes, 18, is one of the youngest members of Team USA. She placed fourth in the 800-meter freestyle at the 2020 Summer Olympics and is hungry for more in 2024. Grimes has proven herself to be a strong open-water swimmer, in which athletes compete in environments such as rivers, lakes and the sea.

In a 2021 interview, Katie Ledecky says she told Katie Grimes, “You’re the future.”

The future arrives in Paris in 2024.

Other U.S. Athletes to Watch

From left: Simone Biles, Victor Montalvo and Caeleb Dressell

Biles is to gymnastics what Ledecky is to women’s swimming: the greatest of all time. She was the all-around champion at the 2016 Olympics and took home a bronze medal on balance beam in 2020.

Yes, breakdancing is really a sport in the 2024 Olympics, and Montalvo is one of its stars. The athlete, also known as B-Boy Victor, won the gold medal in a world competition in 2022 and hopes to be just as good in Paris.

Dressel won five gold medals at the 2020 Summer Olympics. He specializes in the freestyle, butterfly and individual medley events. He holds world records in multiple events and has a legit chance to break some of his own records in Paris.

From left: Chuck Aoki, Sophia Smith, Oksana Masters

Wheelchair rugby
Team USA’s leading scorer, Aoki already has two silver medals and one bronze. He’s hoping to lead his team to gold at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

The U.S. Women’s National Team has been dominant for decades but is currently going through a period of change. Many of its older players have retired, opening the door for young stars like Smith.

Masters will compete in the 2024 Paralympics. Born with damage to her legs, she originally earned medals in skiing. She’s just as dominant in para-cycling, in which she pedals with her arms instead of her legs.

From left: Jimmer Fredette, Griffin, Colapinto, Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone

3X3 basketball
Fredette played college basketball at Brigham Young University and professional basketball for several years in the NBA and in China. But he really shines in international 3×3 basketball, an entertaining version of the sport in which each team has only three players on the court at a time.

Surfing is now an Olympic sport! Colapinto already has wins on the World Surfing League Tour and is hoping for his first taste of Olympic glory this summer.

McLaughlin-Levrone is one of the most dominant track athletes in the world. She broke the world record in the 400-meter hurdles, then broke her own record twice after that!

Paris 2024: Fast Facts

WHAT: The Olympic Summer Games, a worldwide sports competition usually held every four years.

WHEN: July 26 to Aug. 11, 2024

WHERE: Paris, France

WATCH: On NBC and Peacock, as well as the Olympics Channel at

Les Mascottes

The Paris 2024 mascots are the Phyrges, characters based on an ancient symbol that means freedom. Phrygia was a kingdom in what is now Turkey. They were allies of France for many years. Learn more about past mascots.

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