Gold Medalist Katie Ledecky: ‘My Catholic Faith Is Very Important to Me’

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky says she looks to her Catholic faith for support as she prepares for competition, even up until immediately before a race, when she prays the “Hail Mary,” which she says especially brings her a sense of calm.

In an interview at the Catholic Standard prior to the start of the Rio Olympic Games, Ledecky, 19, said attending Catholic schools from pre-K throughout high school has allowed her to broaden her perspective and learn the importance of achieving goals.

“My Catholic faith is very important to me,” she explains. “It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective.”

Ledecky states she attended Little Flower School in Bethesda through eighth grade and then graduated from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. The gold medalist is now headed to Stanford.

She continues:

I received an excellent, faith-filled education at both schools. Having the opportunity to attend academically rigorous schools has facilitated my interest in the world and in serving others, and has enriched my life so that it is not solely focused on my swimming and athletics. Nevertheless, going to these schools was important to my swimming – my Catholic schools challenged me, they broadened my perspective and they allowed me to use my mind in ways that take me beyond just thinking about swim practices, swim meets and sports.

Prior to races, Ledecky says she always finds herself saying a prayer “or two.”

“The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me,” she explains.

Ledecky adds that she has learned another important lesson during her Catholic education:

Going to these schools also allowed me to make wonderful friends. Friends, teachers and administrators from my schools have all helped me meet my goals in swimming, and in life generally, by being supportive and caring. The importance of balance in one’s life is a lesson I have learned, and one that I hope will help me in college and beyond.

Traveling throughout the world in international competition has helped her to appreciate her own country, Ledecky says.

“[O]ur country has such brave, dedicated military and service personnel around the world who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our nation and other nations – these are true heroes,” she observes. “I have gained a great appreciation as to what a remarkable privilege it is to represent the United States in the Olympics. I appreciate the flag being on my cap as I compete. That is a real honor.”