Katie Ledecky is a sports legend in the making, and one of America’s most loved athletes.
After winning her first Olympic gold medal at age 15, at London 2012, Ledecky returned four years later to win four more at Rio 2016.
Then she went off to college a Stanford. And after joining the Stanford Cardinal swim team, she set her sights on a national title and helping her the women’s team at her school win its first NCAA Championship in a decade.
Now, rolling out of the Olympic Games at Tokyo, Ledecky is regarded by most as the best female swimmer of all time, and perhaps only second overall in the sport to Michael Phelps, the 28-time Olympic medal winner.
During our two interviews in the last six months, Ledecky hinted that being the most dominant swimmer in the field is all good but is no walk in the park.
Failing spectacularly to win big
What does Katie Ledecky do to be the best in the world? She uses every practice session to push, tax and exhaust herself to the end. She sets lofty daily goals in the pool and hits them. But Ledecky also says she sets unreachable goals for each day. Striving to meet those little goals—eventually—is what she says helps her be great.
“Each day I work on getting better, and even the bad days have something good that comes out of them,” Ledecky said, in the first of two interviews. “One thing my coaches say is that I “fail spectacularly” in practice —and that’s something that I actually work toward.”
Early mornings and mix tapes
Ledecky also says that her parents were a big part of her development as a swimmer. Her mother Mary was a collegiate swimmer too, but only wanted Katie and her brother Michael to “feel comfortable” in the pool. When Michael took up swim team, Katie followed.
Then as high school approached, each day began with 4:45 A.M. swim practices, and car rides over of mix tapes and playlists consisting of Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny.
In Episode 19, Andy Frye speaks with Olympic superstar Katie Ledecky, who shares even more about her life experience on to 10 Olympic medals.
Read my most recent interview with Ledecky at Forbes here.