As History Beckons in Paris, Katie Ledecky Keeps Focus on the Details

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

As History Beckons in Paris, Katie Ledecky Keeps Focus on the Details

It took Katie Ledecky a moment to get the statistic straight, which is relatable for anyone who’s ever tried to quantify Ledecky’s greatness.

Ledecky was watching NBC’s coverage of U.S. Olympic Trials from her hotel in Indianapolis on one of her nights off last week. She had to pause when the announcers mentioned that if Ledecky wins the 800 freestyle at the Paris Olympics this summer, it would make her the first woman to win four straight gold medals in the same event.

“And I was like, wait, I would?,” Ledecky shared Sunday. “These things kind of go in one ear and out the other.”

Some of that is just a matter of volume – Ledecky has won so often and for so long that she requires new echelons of achievement that only she populates. But it also speaks to how Ledecky arrived here: By eschewing concern about her legacy or her accolades and applying her legendarily laser focus onto immediate, granular goals.

So no, Ledecky is not doing the math that, with four events at the Paris Olympics, she could add to her 10 career Olympic medals and surpass the three-way tie for the most decorated American female Olympian shared by Natalie Coughlin, Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson. She’s not cognizant that her next gold will level her with Thompson on eight golds, the most for an American woman, or that two golds will tie her with Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis, Larisa Latynina and Paavo Nurmi for the second-most all-time, trailing only Michael Phelps.

That isn’t what gets Ledecky out of bed and into the pool each morning.

Katie Ledecky; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“I hear them, I see them. But I don’t really focus on them,” Ledecky said. “And that’s one. I know there are a couple others out there.”

If Ledecky wanted to start tracking the historic aspects of her career … it would take some time. She has, after all, been the first to do so many things, among them winning the same event at four straight Olympic Trials and at seven straight World Championships (both the 800 free). She is second all-time in gold medals won at World Championships with 21 and third in total medals with 26 (to Phelps in both, with Ryan Lochte in the latter).

Ledecky is notoriously secretive (though respectfully apologetic) about her goal-setting process. She’s aiming for achievements “that excite me,” in terms of performance. Almost always, that’s against the clock or her peers, not swimmers of past generations.

She graciously leaves the historic considerations for others. Maybe someday she’ll revisit that, once the short-term goals no longer hold sway. But that won’t happen before or at Paris, where it’ll remain far from the list of things that motivate her.

“I just stay focused on my own goals,” Ledecky said. “And I know I don’t share my goals with you guys. But I will share that my goals are not to be the first person to do this, to be the first person to do that and join this person and this person as the only ones that have done this.

“My goals are very time-focused and splits-focused and technically focused. The rest is what it is. And you guys can write about it. You guys can focus on it. But personally, I’m just going to stay focused on my own goals.”

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28 days ago

Made easier by the fact that unfortunately current world leader Summer has decided not contest this event. But Australia’s Titmus is an outside chance of spoiling the Ledecky (pronounced: Leh-Dets-Skee) party.

27 days ago

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