Miss Katie Ledecky delivers inspiration and awe

Olympic swimmer and Sacred Heart alumna discusses living the Goals, and “the power of the gold medal.”


Jacqueline Franco '23

Miss Katie Ledecky, Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart alumna, visits Sacred Heart Greenwich.

Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart alumna and three-time Olympian Miss Katie Ledecky spoke to Upper School students over Zoom February 9.  In a question and answer (Q&A) interview with senior Alexandra Bastone, a member of the Sacred Heart Greenwich swim team, Miss Ledecky highlighted her inspirations and motivations inside and outside the pool.  She also shared advice about navigating decisions high school students face as they prepare to graduate and move onto new chapters of their lives, where some may continue their sporting careers.

Miss Katie Ledecky wears her medals from the 2012, 2016, and 2021 Summer Olympic Games.  Jacqueline Franco ’23

Miss Ledecky graduated from Stone Ridge, a Sacred Heart Network school in Bethesda, Maryland, in May 2015 and took a gap year to focus on her training before attending Stanford University in Stanford, California, according to washingtonpost.comMiss Ledecky is a two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion.  She holds multiple records at the Avery Aquatic Center, Stanford University’s outdoor swimming and diving facility, including the fastest time in the 200-meter free (1:40.36), 500-meter free (4:24.06), 1000-meter free (9:05.89), 1650-meter free (15:03.31), 400-meter free relays (3:07.61), and 800-meter free relays (6:45.91), according to gostanford.com

She competed in the 2012, 2016, and 2020 Summer Olympics Games and won seven gold and three silver Olympic medals.  Before her sophomore year at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, she competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics Games in London, England.  Miss Ledecky has the most world championship gold medals in history for a female swimmer and holds the world record in the women’s 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle, according to rscj.org.  Her long list of achievements makes her an inspiration to many, especially swimmers and female athletes.  Alexandra introduced and welcomed Miss Ledecky to the Sacred Heart community at the beginning of the Q&A.

“You have been my idol and inspiration in my swimming career and so many other young women who aspire to excel in and out of a pool, on the field, on the stage, and in the classroom,” Alexandra said.  “It is an honor to moderate this lunchtime talk on behalf of Sacred Heart Greenwich.  We are so happy to welcome you back.  I hope to use this time to learn more about your drive and motivation and also to help my fellow classmates and peers with some of the decision-making that they are facing in high school as we all prepare for leaving high school.”

Miss Ledecky visited Sacred Heart January 14, 2013, after competing in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.  She recalled returning to Stone Ridge after winning her first gold medal and the immense support she felt from the entire Sacred Heart Network.

Miss Katie Ledecky visits Sacred Heart Greenwich January 14, 2013, after competing in the 2012 London Summer Games.  Courtesy of Alison Brett ’13

“My school’s support during the Olympics was unlike anything else,” Miss Ledecky said.  “That was also the moment that I really realized the power of the Sacred Heart community because I did feel that support not just from Stone Ridge, but from Sacred Heart Greenwich, from New York, all across the country.  I was receiving messages and videos and just really saw it with my own two eyes, the community and the ability for the community to really support one another.”

In response to an audience question, Miss Ledecky reflected on attending and swimming at a top-tier university while also training for Team USA.  She believes that her Stone Ridge education significantly contributed to her academic and social success.

“I loved competing at the DI level at Stanford and had a great experience there,” Miss Ledecky said.  “I get asked a lot by high school students, what was it like balancing it?  Was it difficult?  And I always say I felt so prepared coming from Stone Ridge.  The Sacred Heart education is unlike anything else, and you do learn how to balance things, and you have other things going on in your life that you’re balancing, and you’re working hard at such a high level that I truly think you’re some of the most prepared people.  And I think as long as you continue to have that balance in college and continue to rely on your coaches and your teachers and communicate with one another.  I think it’s so much fun and a really great experience, so I encourage all of you to pursue that.”

So it’s making sure that I’m being taken out of my comfort zone and being able to fail…

— Katie Ledecky

Miss Ledecky is currently training to compete in her fourth Olympics games, the 2024 Summer Olympics Games in Paris, France.  She follows an intensive training program, including practicing for two hours twice daily and one hour of weight training.  On race days, she gets to the pool two hours before her race and follows the same warm-up she has been doing for 15 years.  Miss Ledecky advised students to embrace failure rather than stray away from it, as it is a vital part of training.

Alexandra Bastone ’23 hosts the zoom with Miss Katie Ledecky in Caroline’s Core Center. Jacqueline Franco ’23

“I strive for failure,” Miss Ledecky said.  “I want to push myself to the point of failure in training every day and in competition.  I think if you’re not reaching that point every now and then, you’re not being pushed hard enough, or you’re not reaching your full potential.  I mean, I can honestly say I failed at practice this morning, and I have another practice this afternoon, and it’s going to go better than this morning.  So it’s making sure that I’m being taken out of my comfort zone and, you know, being able to fail on a regular basis but not get caught up in it.

“I call it the power of the gold medal…It’s just amazing when you can bring it to a children’s hospital and see a sick kid light up…

— Katie Ledecky

In recognition of her prior involvement with humanitarian groups such as Bikes For the World, Wounded Warriors, Shepherd’s Table, Jesuit Refugee Service, and Horizons Greater Washington, Miss Ledecky received the Community Hero of 2022 honor last year, according to swimmingworldmagazine.com.  Her Sacred Heart education inspired her to achieve these goals and give back to the greater community.

“I had opportunities that came up now that I had gone to an Olympics to help other people and put smiles on people’s faces,” Miss Ledecky said.  “I call it the power of the gold medal.  Showing a gold medal to someone can really light up someone’s face.  It’s just amazing when you can bring it to a children’s hospital and see a sick kid light up, take it to a school, take it to wounded warriors who have been through so much, and it’s amazing.  It’s an amazing feeling.”

Miss Ledecky shared how Stone Ridge instilled the value of faith in her life.  She believes that her faith has helped her persevere through challenges.

“My faith has been a constant throughout my life, and I would say going to a Sacred Heart school really instilled in me the five goals,” Miss Ledecky said.  “Kind of having those as a foundation for everything I do, whether that’s community, whether that’s faith, whether that’s personal freedom and growth and all those things.  I think those are foundational pieces to my life, even beyond Stone Ridge.  As I’ve gone to college and beyond now, I think trying to give back and be a member of whatever community I’m in and support those less fortunate than us.  I think those were things I learned on a daily basis at Stone Ridge and things I’ve tried to carry with me.”

Featured Image by Jacqueline Franco ’23