Sacred Heart Olympians visit Greenwich



Olympians Katie Ledecky, sophomore at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland, and Lia Neal, senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City, visited Sacred Heart in Greenwich on January 14. courtesy of Alison Brett ’13

Katie Ledecky, freestyle gold medalist, and Lia Neal, bronze medal relay winner, walked into Convent of the Sacred Heart’s gym on Monday, January 14 sporting their Olympic medals and even their Sacred Heart uniform skirts.  Students from all divisions proudly waved American flags and welcomed their two Sacred Heart Olympian sisters.

“I thought it was really special to have Sacred Heart students compete in the Olympics and come visit our school,” senior Jennie Chieco said.

Katie Ledecky, freestyle gold medalist.  Alison Brett ’13

Katie, a sophomore at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland was the youngest Olympic athlete at the 2012 London Games.  Katie won the gold in the 800-meter freestyle with the second-fastest swim of all time.
“It was unbelievable,” Katie’s brother, Michael Ledecky, said. “I was in the nose bleeds and after Katie won, I ran down all the flights of stairs cheering so loudly. It was so cool to hear the National Anthem play, and the American flag rise up.”

Lia, a senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City, won a bronze medal swimming the third leg of the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay. Receiving a bronze on top of her entire Olympic experience was, “just a cherry on top,” as quoted in the New York Times article, “Lia Neal wins Olympic bronze.”

Lia Neal, bronze medal relay winner. Alison Brett ’13

Lia and Katie both found the entire Olympic experience to be surreal. Katie was so excited to swim that she neglected to perform her usual routine.
“I don’t listen to any music before my event. But, before going out onto the blocks, I usually say a Hail Mary and I clap three times,” Katie said. “I was so worried about hearing the event though, that I forgot to do the claps. I guess it worked out though.”
Both Lia and Katie find their inspiration from other swimmers, especially those on the National Team, and the United States Olympic team.
“I really look up to Natalie Coughlin,” Lia said. “She is so kind and personable.”
Just as Katie and Lia have role models that they look up to, hundreds of girls around the world now idolize these two strong Sacred Heart women.
“I would just tell each girl to work hard and to have fun,” Katie said. “If you enjoy what you do, you will push yourself to get to the next level.”
And indeed, Katie and Lia are ready for the next level.
“There is a lot in between now and the next Olympics, but I’m pretty sure Katie and I will be working our best to get to 2016,” Lia said. “There are a lot of meets before the next Olympics including an international meet in Barcelona and World Championships.”
Being an Olympic athlete requires sacrifice. However, Lia does not view the word “sacrifice” negatively.
“You’re not really giving anything up,” Lia said. “It’s just natural instinct to choose swimming over other events-such as a party.”

“It’s so inspiring to see these two girls accomplish so much at such a young age,” senior and swim team member Marguerite Francois said. “They spend so much time and just do it. You could tell that they have given their all into this sport.”
Though nearly the entire student body was aware of the success that these two young Sacred Heart students obtained at the Olympics, goose bumps and excitement filled the gym when watching the highlights.
“I loved watching Katie and Lia watch themselves in the video,” Jennie said. “It was like they were going through the whole race and experience again.”

– Catherine Considine, Online Editor