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Nominee Profile: Katie Ledecky

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Katie is an Olympic gold medalist, and nine-time world champion. She is the current world-record holder in the 400-, 800-, and 1,500-meter freestyle (long course). She also holds the fastest-ever times in the 500-, 1000-, and 1,650-yard freestyle events. During her career, she has broken eleven world records. Ledecky's seven individual gold medals at the World Aquatics Championships is a record in women's swimming. She is nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award 2016.
 
You were very young when you won your first gold medal in the Olympics. Four years later, what has changed? Do you feel better now than in the beginning? 
The 2012 Olympics was my first international competition.  Since that time, I have gained more experience in international competition, and with that experience comes more confidence.  Also, my training program now includes additional dryland work as I have gotten older.
You have proven unbeatable in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 4x200m. Is there is a secret to your huge performance?
There are no secrets.  I train hard,  I try to eat well and get enough sleep.  I have a great coach in Bruce Gemmell and great training partners and teammates both at my home club, Nation's Capital Swim Club, and with Team USA.  I also have strong support from my family and friends, my community, and from USA Swimming and the USOC.
You are among the favourites to win a medal in the Games.  Do you feel any kind of pressure? How do you deal with expectations about your performance?
I do not feel any kind of pressure.  I have always set goals--which do not necessarily involve medals-- and I work hard to try to achieve those goals.
Who are your biggest competitors?
It would not be fair to single out any specific competitors.  There are so many great competitors all over the world-- all of whom are working very hard--so I have great admiration and respect for all of them. One of the wonderful things is that I have been able to meet and talk with some of them, and to become friends with several of them.
Do you want to swim 200m, 400m, 800m and the relay in the Games? Is it possible for you to think of medals for all of them?
I want to represent and support Team USA and my country in any way I can.  I still have to compete in the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in June in order to qualify through that meet to swim in Rio.  The U.S. Trials is a tough meet.  I set goals for my swimming, but they do not involve medals or specific numbers of events or medals.
Who inspires you in sport? And why?
I was inspired in sport by my older brother, Michael, with whom I began swimming when I was 6 years old and he was 9 years old.  He has always set such a great example for me, through his hard work, in sports and in all areas of life.
What´s your expectation for the Olympic Games?  And what is your best memory of the London Games?
If I am fortunate enough to qualify to swim in the Olympic Games in Rio, I hope to participate to the best of my abilities.  The most lasting memories, as they were for me in London, are built around the people and the cultures in the international settings in which these competitions are held.
You amazed the world with your medal in London 2012.  But expectations for Rio are even greater.  How many medals do you hope to win at the Games?
I set goals for my swimming and work hard to achieve those goals, but those goals do not necessarily involve winning medals or specific numbers of medals.
Do you feel any pressure for this Olympic Games?  How do you handle it?
I do not feel any pressure.  I have always set goals and I just try to achieve those goals.  I have great support from my wonderful coach, Bruce Gemmell, and from my family and community--including all of my teammates and friends--and from USA Swimming and the USOC.
Michael Phelps won his first Olympic medal when he was 19 years old.  You were just 15 when you won yours.  Is it a goal of yours to beat his record of Olympic medals?
No,  I do not set goals regarding medals or numbers of medals.  It is great to see Michael back competing to participate in another Olympic Games.
At the beginning of the year there was a lot of talk about the problem of zika virus in Rio.  Are you afraid to travel to Rio and get sick during the Games?  Will you take any special measures because of it?  Have you considered not taking part in the Olympics because of the zika virus?
If I qualify at the U.S. Olympic Trials to swim in Rio, I fully expect to travel to RIo and to swim there.  I know that all of the relevant authorities and officials are working their hardest to inform and protect everyone with regard to the zika virus.
As a Laureus nominee, could it be another triumph in your career to win this award?
I am very grateful to be nominated by such a fine organization for the award.  I congratulate all of the other nominees.   I have no expectations about winning the award but very much appreciate the nomination
How do you get the success of swimming such dramatic differences in distance in the 200 and 1500 metres?
I train hard, and I have a great coach in Bruce Gemmell.  I also have great teammates who support and push me in the pool in training in a broad range of distances.
The ability to swim well and fast is something that you can achieve through training, or do you think you are born with this gift to break the scores like you?
I think that success in swimming--at least in my experience-- is obtained mostly through hard training, setting goals, and trying to achieve them.  
How do you remember your childhood?
Very fondly, full of fun.  I have a wonderful and very supportive family, and I grew up in a great community where I received a great education and made many friends.
What do you feel when you swim, stroke after stroke? What do you think about? What do you think before you jump into the water?
Sometimes I am focused on improving a particular technique or making a particular time interval.  Sometimes I am just focused on racing my teammates.  Sometimes I might have a song in my head.  Sometimes I may not be thinking of anything specific.
Do you miss a normal youth/life with your friends without your long and hard training? Is it hard to have this kind of life?
I feel that I have had a very normal youth/life, full of happiness and friendship and no hardship.  I attended school normally, and had caring classmates and friends and teammates who treated me just as they would treat anyone else.  
During 19 years you've broken a lot of records, what is your limit?
I just wish to continue to work hard, find ways to continue to improve, and I will keep swimming as long as I am healthy and continue to enjoy the sport as much as I do.
What do you think your career would have been if you weren't a swimmer?
I am an amateur swimmer, so I don't yet consider swimming to be my "career".  I think education and being a good student are very important.  I will continue my education, enrolling as a student-athlete at Stanford University this Fall, and I hope that as I continue my education I will find my eventual career.