4 Hometown Elite Athlete Friendships

Photo Courtesy: Twitter, @raylewis

By Kate Walter, Swimming World Intern. 

There’s nothing fans love to see more than two of their favorite athletes posing together for an Instagram photo. On the rare occasion when Olympic swimmers emerge from the pool to socialize, some of them have found time to hang out and even form friendships with athletes in other sports from their hometowns. From having a selfie photo shoot to attending games together, it’s always exciting to keep up with the adventures of hometown athlete heroes. 

Katie Ledecky and Bryce Harper

While Katie Ledecky was swimming the 800-meter freestyle at the Rio Olympics, the Washington Nationals stopped their game to display her world record setting performance on the Jumbotron. Upon arriving home as a five-time Olympic medalist, Ledecky had captured the hearts of D.C. and was asked to throw out the first pitch at a Nationals game.

Bryce Harper, a five-time all-star and Washington right fielder, graciously assisted Ledecky by holding her medals as she prepared to throw a strike over home plate. The sports stars of the nation’s capital appear to have a lot in common, with both making their marks at an early age and achieving milestones in fives.

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What a team!🍾 #NLeast

A post shared by Bryce Harper (@bharper3407) on

A few months after the worlds of D.C. sports collided, Harper once again showed his support for Ledecky by donning a team USA swim cap with her name on it while celebrating the team’s National League East Division title. Ledecky tweeted Harper, congratulating him on the victory as well as giving him props for the cap.

Missy Franklin and Mikaela Shiffrin

It was no surprise that these two bubbly, upbeat Colorado-bred Olympians would become fast friends. After years of intending to meet up, Missy Franklin found herself in alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin’s hometown of Vail, Colo., and the rest was history. Both athletes posted pictures together on social media, and the world was overjoyed that the two beauties of the Rocky Mountains had finally hit it off.

Michael Phelps and Ray Lewis

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Photo Courtesy: Bryan Bedder (Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

The relationship between Michael Phelps and Ray Lewis, Super Bowl champion and former Pro Bowl linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, is truly one that has stood the test of time. After Phelps claimed gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Lewis was one of the few people in whom the rising sensation could confide about his struggles with stardom and reputation.

The pair were often seen together in the following years and Lewis was credited with playing a critical role in Phelps’s recovery during his struggles with alcohol. Phelps spoke of the life-changing effects that two books, The Purpose Driven Life and The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, had on him – both of which were gifts from Lewis. Phelps cheered on Lewis at his final Super Bowl and shared an emotional moment with him in the locker room after the game.

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Photo Courtesy: Twitter, @AlbertBreer

Prior to his final Olympic Race, Phelps talked to Lewis about finishing out his career and beginning a new chapter in his life. In a Facebook Live video, he described how “Ray has become a brother from another mother for me.” Through the ups and downs, good times and bad, these Baltimore legends have been through it all together.

Simone Manuel and Simone Biles

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Photo Courtesy: Twitter, @Simone_Biles

August 12, 2016 was a day to remember; the name Simone flooded the headlines and became permanently engraved in Olympic history. Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to win gold in an individual Olympic swimming race, and Simone Biles proved herself to be the most dominant gymnast of all time, securing a win in the women’s all around event.

The two Texan stars served as trailblazers for African-American women in sports, becoming the best in the world at their respective sports. Hours after their groundbreaking wins, both Simones met up to take a selfie that captivated the social media community, garnering shout-outs from several celebrities such as Michelle Obama and Serena Williams.

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So amazing 😍🇺🇸 #simonemanuel #simonebiles

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

Manuel said that she and Biles had met the year prior to the Olympics, occasionally hanging out when their schedules aligned and quickly became friends.

Although many athletes compete in alternating seasons and have jam packed schedules, the one thing that binds them together is the love and appreciation they have for their hometowns. With so few getting the opportunity to pursue their sport at the professional level, it’s always great to see hometown athletes from different sports support each other as they strive to bring glory to where they came from.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Author: Kate Walter

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Kate Walter is a freshman at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, MD. She swims year round for Machine Aquatics and for the Langley Club Wildthings in the summer.

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