GOLDEN GIRL: With five gold medals and three World Records at the Fédération internationale de natation World Championships, Katie Ledecky has stamped herself as a huge favorite heading into next year’s Olympic Games.
She swept the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle competitions in Kazan, Russia, in addition to anchoring the victorious 4 x 200-meter free relay. The 18-year-old American is 9-0 in finals at FINA World Championships, having won four golds and set two world records in 2013 at Barcelona.
Without question, Ledecky’s clean sweep at last week’s FINA World Championships made her the sport’s brightest star. But as an amateur athlete, the 18-year-old’s rewards were solely congratulatory.
The Bethesda, Md., swimmer smashed two of her own world records, in the 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle events, helping her cinch FINA’s Female Swimmer of the Meet title.
While her fellow 2012 Olympian and U.S. team national member Missy Franklin cut her collegiate career short to turn pro in March and signed a deal with Speedo in June, Ledecky is sticking with the amateurs. The recent high school grad is headed for Stanford University this fall. Ledecky wore Speedo competing at the world championships in Kazan. But aside from countless well wishes, Ledecky was out of luck in terms of any post-win surprises or informal parties to celebrate her record-breaking swims. A USA Swimming spokesman said Wednesday, “There was no gift or anything from her teammates but universal support and affirmation for her incredible achievements.
A Speedo USA spokeswoman explained, “We have no plans to do anything at all with or for Katie as she is still amateur status. She is not an official or paid endorser of Speedo and we have no real conversations or interaction with her. She is free to choose whichever suit she wants to swim in and as Speedo is the best, she chooses us!”
During the world championships on Aug. 4, Speedo sprang for a birthday cake and six smiley-faced balloons for one of Ledecky’s teammates, Ryan Lochte. As a Speedo-sponsored athlete, he posted a snapshot of the surprise for his nearly 1.1 million Twitter followers. Along with Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, Lochte helped make swimming the most talked-about sport on social media during the 2012 Summer Olympics. Phelps, who had to sit out this month’s swimming showdown in Russia as part of his punishment for a drunken-driving conviction, will be gunning for a 2016 Olympic spot and has reportedly sworn off alcohol until after the Rio Games. As another Olympic hopeful for the American team, Ledecky could potentially attract gold-star viewership for NBC, which reeled in record-breaking ratings of 219.4 million for the 2012 London Olympics.