June 14, 2024

Westside People

Complete News World

Excerpted from Katie Ledecky’s memoir Just Add Water: My Life in Swimming

Excerpted from Katie Ledecky’s memoir Just Add Water: My Life in Swimming

10-time Olympic medalist Katie Ledecky has written a memoir for summer reading ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics. Ledecky stands alone among her peers, a towering champion who has been winning consistently since she was 15 at the 2012 London Olympics. If you want to dig deeper Knowing Ledecky’s personality, this is the opportunity for you.

Buy here: Just Add Water: My Swimming Life

Adapted from:

Just Add Water: My Swimming Life

Copyright © 2024 by Katie Ledecky. Reprinted with permission from Simon & Schuster, Inc. all rights are save.


I’m in the pool.

I’m always in the pool. Hours a day, almost every day, since I was a little kid sitting on the side step, blowing bubbles and kicking my feet. The pool is my refuge and always has been. It is my playground, my hobby, my passion, my workplace, and my lifeline.

Not long ago, a reporter asked one of my coaches for estimates of the kind of distance I would have covered in different years of my career. He thought I would easily swim from Bethesda, Maryland, where I grew up, to Tokyo, where I competed in the last Olympics. It was wild to imagine that all the paths I had swam, combined, could lead me across the sea.

When I review the statistics that are published about my swimming, it opens my eyes to how long I have been in the sport. Take the free 800, for example. I now have twenty-nine of the top thirty hits in history. There are a lot of competitors who I don’t think have swum even twenty-nine 800 freestyles in their lives. I’ve probably swam more than 800 and 1500 freestyles ever.

Seeing those numbers, and just understanding how far my body has come, makes me appreciate the longevity of my career. When I look up the number of occasions I have swum in any given event, year after year, I am left with the same conclusion: Wow, that’s a lot of swim meets. On average, over my swimming career, I estimate I swim nine times a year. It’s been twenty years now. That’s 180 meetings. This means a multi-day meet 180 of waking up with the unique excitement that fills me on race day, doing countless laps and warm-ups, and waiting through qualifying for my turn to dive into my race. Somehow, it still feels like yesterday that I dipped my feet into the pool for the first time.

I am many things—daughter, sister, Stanford graduate, Olympian—but the architecture that supports and sustains all of these roles is my identity as a swimmer. That’s why, if you want to find me, you must first look at the pool.

Today the pool hurts. Well, it hurts me. My arms and legs feel like they are filled with cement. I am intensifying my training to try to qualify for the Paris Olympics, which will be my fourth Olympics.

My story is unique because I didn’t start out early with the goal of becoming a professional athlete. I’ve been swimming races since I was six years old – over twenty years now – but I started out as a really intermediate swimmer. My initial ambition as a competitor was simply to cross the pool without stopping. On my first swim – 25 minutes – I literally stopped on the track line about ten times. It became a race between me and the girl next to me to see who stopped the least. We kept stopping to wipe the chlorine off our faces and make sure we didn’t drift into another lane. It was hilarious.

See also  GT Daniels moves on to play college football in West Virginia after stints at the University of Southern California, Georgia

I’ve heard a lot of fellow swimmers say that when they were kids, they always knew they wanted to go to the Games, but that hasn’t been my experience. At the time I looked at Olympians and thought you had to be a superhero to get to that level. I couldn’t relate what I was doing in the pool to what I saw them doing on TV. They seem so fast, so focused, so otherworldly.

And yet, here I am entering what we swimmers call our “Olympic year,” a season that brings with it a wave of promise. The Olympic year begins on September 1, when we start again after the summer break. University swimming continues during the fall semester, then championship competitions begin in February and March. This is all short-range yards. During that time, people were still training for the Olympic Trials, and as a professional swimmer, I wasn’t competing in team meets anymore. Throughout the fall and winter, training and racing may include short-run meters, short-run meters, and long-run meters. From March until the end of summer, it is limited to long races. Once the final summer competition of the pre-Olympic year is over (for me, that was the World Championships at the end of July 2023), then it becomes like-Oh, it’s time. The Olympic year has begun.

As I turn the page in the calendar for the start of the Olympic year, I can feel the excitement. The sense of urgency descends. The clock starts ticking louder. Every swim counts.

I’m experiencing it as I write this, actually. I’m doing a little more than I normally would in the pool, and stepping up every aspect of my training so I can shave seconds off my previous times. I know I need to be in better shape than I was last year, and faster than I was during the last Games. I want to get ahead of myself.

Maybe I’ve always wanted that.

I’m envisioning my first summer league combine. Temperature, smell of chlorine, and how it mixes with the air. Sharp and coated. I love That smell. When I was three years old, my mother used to take my brother and me to a pool near our house. My brother could actually swim, and I remember doing the bob, where you grab the edge and dip up and down in the water. My mother was the one who taught me how to float on my back and how to hold my breath.

Humans are not natural swimmers. Unlike most animals, we must learn. We don’t enter our lives ready to swim. Quite the opposite. Many of us have a natural fear of water, which is a logical warning, given the consequences of not knowing how to survive.

I never had this fear.

It’s not that I’m not afraid. I love dogs, but some animals scare me. I’m worried about people I love dying. I find horror movies unpleasant. But the pool never scared me. You can watch videos of children kicking their feet up when diving into wet water, or children screaming during swimming lessons. But I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the water. It was love at first dive.

See also  Barcelona vs Real Madrid match, La Liga: Match Thread, El Clasico live updates

I remember playing sharks and minnows, Marco Polo, the feeling of jumping into a pool before I learned any strokes. I felt more at home in the water than on land. I felt free.

Swimming hit me differently than other sports. Resistance was offered. This fundamental shift from moving through the air to moving through the water was at the core of my relationship with the pool. This and the paradoxes inherent in the water provided. The water made me feel weightless even as it forced me to pull more weight while swimming. In the pool, I was unencumbered and able to spin and spin and rotate my body in every direction. I was also encircled with a concrete pen. He represented creativity within limits. When I wasn’t in the pool, I longed to float. I missed resistance. I wanted, more than anything else, to test my limits in the water. So I did. Starting at the age of six. And she hasn’t stopped once since.

I swam my first race on June 25, 2003. I was assigned the third course. Like I said, I wasn’t a miracle that dives into the water and manages to zoom all the way. There I was, swaying around with goggles on, wiping my nose as I stopped on the trail rope, which was often (stopping and wiping my nose). During one of these stops, my eyes fell on other swimmers who were passing by me. Something was triggered. I let go of the rope and swam, plowing forward, my arms spinning like windmills until I hit the wall. She was able to place second in the eight and under 25 yard freestyle.

My father filmed the race on his video camera, and when I finished, he interviewed me from the pool deck.

“Tell me about your first race. How did you find it?” Asked.

“great!” I answered, my heart beating like a drum in my chest. He asked me what I was thinking about in the pool.

“nothing!” I said.

Then he said, “Just trying to finish, right?”

“Just trying hard,” I replied, smiling all the time.

I always smile when I think about this video. Not because it was my first race but because of the way I answered my father. My observations as an excited and exhausted six-year-old became the template for my entire swimming journey. great. difficult. Just trying to finish.

In the 20 years since that day, swimming has never stopped being a difficult sport. unique. It tests both my body and my psyche. It challenges me as I imagine a marathon—a marathon with the added burden of the force of the water that reminds me with every stroke of what I’m up against. But in my opinion, difficult It kind of makes swimming great. Doing your best has been ingrained in my DNA for generations. Trying hard is the point. This is what makes something as simple as swimming meaningful.

See also  Knicks blasts a big bullet to Trail Blazers, ending the ride on a bad note

I realize I didn’t understand the importance of this when I was a kid. But some part of my mind or body understood that happiness would result from being in a place where the mind could calm down and the body could try harder. Swimming is an extraordinary profession because it is up to the will of the swimmer, in this case me. I’m the only one who was there in the pool with me every step of the way. I have been fortunate to be mentored by a series of dedicated and wise coaches who were willing to lift me up without making swimming my sole reason for being. My family did the same thing. I wasn’t pressured by anyone to perform but myself. Of the many twists of fate that lead to greatness, this support system has been the one I am most grateful for. This is what I credit for keeping me sane and stable all these years.

My goal was to improve myself through swimming. To discover who I am and what I was created from. The pool provided the perfect tool for that trip. Olympic medals, world records, those are amazing achievements. But I’m even more grateful for how swimming shaped me. How striving has made me the best version of myself.

One thing I’ve learned, and perhaps the most important thing, is that you are who you are in this moment only because of all the moments that came before it. Past is prologue in swimming. The same applies to life. Swimming has transformed me into someone I wouldn’t have been otherwise. Long after another swimmer breaks my records, I will still have the advantage of growing up in and next to the pool. I hope my determination can withstand any flash of sporting fame. That would be the gift of a lifetime.

Throughout my time swimming, people have been asking me how I got to where I am now. They speculate on my physiology, analyze my body geometry, and scrutinize my workouts. For many people in the sports community, I am a puzzle to be solved. A code that, if hacked, would enable them to replicate my results. When I was young, they asked my parents. Then my coaches. Now inquiring minds come to the source.

This book is my answer. My attempt to put all the components of my life into swimming.

You cannot become a successful athlete without the help of many others. As I now reflect on my childhood, teenage years, and early twenties, I can begin to understand and comprehend how and why I developed into the person I am today. People who influenced my personality. Places that welcomed me. The life experiences that shaped me into the dedicated swimmer I am today opened my eyes and heart to all the possibilities until all that remained was to add water.

End of excerpt

Enter to win special sweepstakes Swim Swam News Instagram. Three winners will receive a copy of the book with a plaque signed by Katie!

Copyright © 2024 by Katie Ledecky. Reprinted with permission from Simon & Schuster, Inc. all rights are save.