The Day Michael Phelps Saw Swimming’s Future: 9-Year-Old Katie Ledecky
Having already won gold in both the 200m and 400m freestyle and silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay in Rio, Katie Ledecky is well on her way to becoming the next Michael Phelps. Her incredibly fast times and strong, loping stroke have become her signature, a style some describe as a masculine. NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines said it best, however, when he snapped that sports analysts, teammates, and fans should stop saying she “swims like a man… She swims like Katie Ledecky, for crying out loud.”
Even Phelps is blown away by her strength in the pool. “She knows what she’s doing, and it’s fun to watch her,” he told NBC Sports.
Phelps and Ledecky were on the 2012 London Olympic team together, back when Ledecky won gold in the 800m freestyle and Phelps made history by becoming the most decorated Olympian ever.
Five years before making the 2012 team, Ledecky met Phelps—at an autograph signing in 2006.
Phelps couldn’t have known at the time, but he was coming face to face with the 9-year-old who would also go on to become the next “future of USA swimming.” That meeting, with one of her self-described “idols,” may have even been part of Ledecky’s inspiration to pursue a career in competitive swimming and to follow her own Olympic dreams.
And in those 10 years Ledecky has made quite a name for herself.
Last year, at the world championships in Russia, she became the first swimmer ever to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle in international competition. In her first individual event in Rio, Ledecky set a new Olympic record in a qualifier and then went on to win the event with a world record time—one that was almost five seconds ahead of the silver-medal finisher.
But another photo recently came out of the Ledecky family archives, one that would have allowed her to have an equally cute #TBT shot had she excelled in another sport: basketball.
In 1999, Ledecky met another famous Olympian, Michael Jordan, at a Washington Wizards game.
Her uncle, a stakeholder in both the Wizards and Washington Capitals, brought his then-2-year-old niece to meet the two-time Olympic gold medalist (Jordan won gold in the 1984 Los Angeles and 1992 Barcelona Games).
While the meeting likely didn’t have the same inspirational effect on Ledecky as meeting Phelps, it just goes to show that the Washington, D.C. native has been rubbing elbows with world-class talent for nearly two decades.
She was even featured on the Today show at 16 months old!
All right, she wasn’t featured on the Today show, but her brief cameo can now been seen as some very intense foreshadowing for Olympic greatness.
Watch Ledecky take on the competition again in the women’s 800m freestyle, Thursday, Aug. 11 at 12:26 p.m. ET.
How to Live Stream 2016 Rio Olympics Swimming:
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