By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Katie Ledecky has become a force that gives the U.S. two of the best swimmers in the world, along with another amazing teen, Missy Franklin. Ledecky’s haul of four golds at Worlds after gold in London has left her with a bright future. In Part I of II with Katie, she talks about what she’s doing now, and what she learned at Worlds, in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. What are you doing right now?
Katie: Right now I am taking a few weeks off. I haven’t had a practice since my last week in Barcelona.
2. So are you still around the water?
Katie: I have been hanging out at the pool and swimming a few laps. I am just enjoying the rest of my summer.
3. Any vacation?
Katie: I went up to New York with my grandma and family, and went to a few musicals on Broadway, Motown, and Jersey Boys, and really enjoyed it.
4. Do you still do dryland while on a break?
Katie: I am doing a little bit of dryland on my own, trying to stay in shape. I am also resting a good amount and enjoying time away from pool.
5. How did it go in Barcelona in regard to what you expected?
Katie: I felt great. I exceeded all my expectations and met all my goals. Definitely, I am very pleased. Once again I am very honored to be on the U.S. team and represent our country.
6. Bruce Gemmel is a coach you have been working with – Andrew’s father – how has that gone?
Katie: He’s great. He just started coaching me in October. He’s done a great job with my group and continued to push me. We set goals right at the beginning and worked throughout the season to meet them.
7. How different was it swimming so many events at Worlds compared to doing the 800 only in London?
Katie: Since I was swimming a number of events instead of just the 800, it was a lot more yardage. The meet in general though really felt pretty much the same. We didn’t have as long of a training camp leading up to it as we did last year (at the Olympics), but it was still a lot of fun. The team came together like it did last year. If anything, as far as the event itself, I think there were more people at the meet this year than in London – more in the stands and such. But I guess the World Championships isn’t as well recognized publically compared to the Olympics. But from a swimmer’s point of view, Worlds is just as big.
8. Was gold in the 400 something you expected?
Katie: I don’t think I knew what I could do in the 400. After I went 3:59, I went up to Bruce and asked him, “Did you know I had that in me because I sure as heck didn’t.” He said something like, “You wouldn’t have gone it if you didn’t believe it.” But I did not think I was going to go that fast. I was really stunned. I used that to get to my other events going and had some good swims.
9. Since the 1,500 wasn’t an event at the Olympics, what was it like to win that at Worlds, especially since you had such great competition in Lotte Friis?
Katie: That 1500 was a really tough race. I had Friss right next to me. We got into a really great race. I blank out a little sometimes in distance races, but in that race I really had to judge it and decide when I wanted to make a move. I have not been in that heated of a race for a long time – not in a distance race – so it was a new experience on the international level. I tried to enjoy that, and try to do my best.
10. How about defending the 800 title?
Katie: The 800 was my last event of the meet. Mainly, I just wanted to finish on a good note. I knew it was going to be tough. I was starting to feel a little bit tired and I could feel the yardage catching up to me from the last couple of days. But I wanted to leave everything in the water and finish on a good note so I would be completely happy with my week. I definitely did end on a good note and was really happy.
11. What was it like being on that relay?
Katie: Being on a relay was really amazing. I think growing up watching swimming, the thing that I really remember from that are the U.S. relays. Being on a relay was part of the dream I had when I started swimming. Three other girls – six other girls really – did a great job. We had great prelim swims in the morning. Just to be part of that and feel that team aspect and really represent the U.S. was a great honor, and we all had a lot of fun with it.
12. What did you see in Missy with her six golds and one place from medaling in the 100?
Katie: Missy is amazing. She is such a great person and she’s really inspiring to watch when she trains and when she races. We sit there during her races with our jaws dropped at how she can handle doubles every day. She’s really a fun person and loves the sport. It’s great to be around people like that. It is really great to be part of the team with her. I know a lot of people in the country look up to her because I am in high school and my friends are always talking about her and asking about her; she’s such a great role model.
13. Will you add any events or is it possible?
Katie: I haven’t thought about it yet. My schedule at Worlds was pretty busy. I will sit down with my coach and figure out some new goals and how I can improve. The main challenge moving forward is in these events I swam this summer. I don’t think I’ll add too much more but I would love to be on another relay. I don’t know if it’ll be possible but maybe there’s a possibility I could do the 100 to try to make it (on the 4x100 relay).
14. What has made this so enjoyable for you?
Katie: I think the people I am surrounded by, for sure. I have great parents, a great brother, and great teammates, friends and classmates, coaches…Everyone this past year in particular has been very supportive. It’s really special to share my stories from the Olympics and Worlds with them, and enjoy every aspect of life with them. The entire community here in the metro area has just been so supportive, and that keeps me motivated and happy.
15. You and Missy deservedly got a lot of attention, but what was it like to have some of the most incredible women in sport as veterans on the Worlds team?
Katie: Oh yeah, definitely, having Dana and Natalie as our captains meant a lot. They were really great at providing information on things to remember for the meet. For big things, but also for little thngs, such as Caitlin Leverenz mentioning something about the sticker (meet officials) put on your jacket when you go out for the finals races, and what to do with it – that’s something I was really wondering about. There were so many swimmers who provided really helpful advice and direction.
16. Natalie and Dana – how impressed are you by the length and quality of their careers?
Katie: it’s really inspiring to watch what they have been able to do . Natalie has been swimming great this year and Dana is also. I remember watching them in 2004 and 2008, and to be on the team with them is so great, getting to know them and learn their perspectives. It’s great for the U.S. team to have that kind of accomplished leadership.
17. Pretty neat guys on the team too?
Katie: They are the best. Last year at the Olympics with Michael (Phelps), Ryan (Lochte), Nathan (Adrian), Matt (Grevers) and Anthony (Ervin), and I know I am leaving a few out who were also awesome, but it’s been great to be a part of two teams with these kinds of people on both the men’s and women’s team. You get to know them a little at team camps, and I love listening to them talk about normal things. Laughing with them is fun. It’s just such a unique team, with people from different ages and backgrounds and with different perspectives on the team – it’s really interesting.
18. What did you eat in Spain?
Katie: We mostly ate at the hotel. I think I had pasta for at least one meal a day for about three weeks, but that was good because I needed the pasta. We didn’t eat out too much.
19. Did you get to see any sights?
Katie: I didn’t get to do that much sightseeing in Barcelona but driving around I think it’s sort of a mix of a number of cities here in the U.S. and that’s sort of what my family was saying also, a lot like San Francisco in some ways with some unique smaller areas, but at the same time a bustling city. It’s a really interesting place with its architecture, and the people there were really nice. It’s a great city
20. Were you surprised at how passionate the fans were at Worlds?
Katie: Oh yes, definitely, we had a lot of people in the stands and even a lot of people outside the venue each day of the meet. Sometimes, we would be able to stop and talk to them and sign autographs or answer questions, though sometimes we had to get to the warm-up pool. The fans in Barcelona were really into the sport, and I think a lot of that was from the Spanish and French fans who really like swimming, who were excited to be there and cheer everybody on.
Next week in the final of two parts, Katie tells us some stories from the Olympics, and her feeling on starting the college recruiting process next year.