On Thursday, February 9th, Upper School students had the opportunity to dive deep with Olympic swimmer, Katie Ledecky, in a Zoom conversation moderated by Alexandra Bastone, ’23. Ledecky is 10-time Olympic medalist and 19-time World Champion, making her the most decorated female swimmer of all-time. Ledecky has broken 14 world records in her career. However, around here, Ledecky’s greatest claim to fame might be that she is an alumnae of the Sacred Heart Network, graduating in 2013 from Stone Ridge, in Washington, DC.
Ledecky immediately connected to students with warmth and humor, sharing her happiest Sacred Heart memories (“Everyone loves Conge, right?”) favorite ice cream flavor (chocolate!) and describing the incredible support she has received from the entire Sacred Heart Network. Ledecky first qualified for the Olympics when she was 15 years old. “This was a huge moment for me…I came back to Stone Ridge after the Olympics and started my sophomore year of high school. So many people have asked me, “What was it like to go back after that?” I can honestly say…everyone at school treated me the same as before! Except that I really felt their support, and support from Sacred Heart Greenwich and 91st Street- and from schools all across the country. I realized the power of the Sacred Heart community.”
Ledecky described herself as “goal-oriented, determined, and balanced,” explaining how even as a young child, she wrote her targets on paper and went back to evaluate them after every race. Along with her intense commitment to swimming, Ledecky was also deeply focused on academics. “I’ve had a big swim career, but I’ve also prioritized my education. Swimming was never my sole focus, and that has contributed to my success in the pool.”
One of the most powerful pieces of wisdom Ledecky offered is her approach to failure. From Ledecky’s perspective, failure is inevitable when someone is in pursuit of greatness.
“I strive for failure,” Ledecky said. “I push myself to the point of failure in my training. If you don’t reach that point every now and then, you’re not pushing hard enough. It’s making sure that I am being taken out of my comfort zone and being able to fail on a regular basis, but not to get caught up in it. I roll with it and know it is part of the process. Failure is part of the day-to-day of trying to get better.”
Throughout her incredible career, service and giving back to her community has remained an important commitment for Ledecky. She attributes this to the foundational ways that Sacred Heart Schools instilled the five Goals into her core values. “Being an Olympian has given me new opportunities and a platform to give back to my community. I’ve visited schools and children’s hospitals. I was able to put the gold medal around the neck of wounded soldiers at Walter Reade.”
We’re grateful that Katie Ledecky had time to talk with us. Her tremendous prowess in the pool is equal to her great generosity and kindness. See you in Paris, 2024, Katie Ledecky!