It’s Not Always About the Gold for Katie Ledecky by Swimming World Intern Rachel Emodi

By Rachel Emodi

Check out all of the 2013 CeraVe Invitational race videos, features and daily recaps on the 2013 CeraVe Invitational Event Landing Page.

PISCATAWAY, New Jersey, January 12. DESPITE her status as an Olympic gold medalist, Katie Ledecky is as laid back as any other 15-year-old out of the pool. When it comes to her day-to-day life, she insists that “…it hasn't changed that much.” She proudly announced that her high school swim team at Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart, in Bethesda, Maryland, is 12-0 so far this winter season.

In the pool, though, Ledecky is anything but average. She established herself as the top female distance swimmer in the world at the London Olympic Games this past summer, taking the gold in the 800 meter freestyle with a time of 8:14.63 over Rebecca Adlington, an English powerhouse who was favored over Ledecky going into the race.

“Not at all,” was Ledecky's response when asked whether she felt intimidated at the Olympics because of her age. “I knew what to expect coming in [. . .] I couldn't have asked for a better experience.” Ledecky described swimming on the Olympic team as “a great honor,” and jokingly added that for being her “first time swimming on a national team. . . [it was] a good place to start.”

Ledecky's coach at Nation's Capital Swim Club, Bruce Gemmel, agrees that this is just the beginning of her career. Ledecky herself looks forward to swimming at Nationals again this year.

After the Olympics, Ledecky took a three-week break, which was, she stated, “…the longest break I've ever had and probably ever will have.” Following in fellow swimmer Missy Franklin's footsteps, Ledecky plans to swim in college rather than go pro. She has not started thinking about where she wants to attend college, which, as a sophomore in high school, can be readily excused.

Has winning gold affected Ledecky's race strategy? “Not at all,” she insisted. “I do the same thing I've always been doing. It's worked for me so I keep doing it.” It certainly worked for her in her 800 m freestyle at this CeraVe Invitational, which Ledecky won Friday night, with a time of 8:29.47.

Going into this meet, Ledecky was glad to “…get some racing in. I've been sick all week,” she said, ruefully. Maybe that's why Gillian Ryan (of North Baltimore Aquatics) got the best of her in the 200 m freestyle in finals Friday night. Ledecky took second, with a time of 2:01.77, with Ryan gliding into first at a 2:01.33.

“Definitely,” Ledecky agreed when questioned about whether she finds herself swimming the same people often. “We've got good relationships because we swim each other a lot.” She and Ryan raced for the third time during Saturday morning's prelims in the 400 m freestyle. Ledecky qualified first for finals, with a 4:16.80, while Ryan took third at a 4:22.37. The pair will race again at tonight's finals to decide the event winner.

Even gold medalists realize that it is not all about winning; Ledecky's advice to young swimmers? “Have fun. That's what it really comes down to.”

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