There, she won junior titles in the 400, 800 and 1,500 meters. That fall, she and her coach at CUBU Swim Club, Yuri Suguiyama, sat down and talked about her future.
They agreed she would shoot for this year’s Olympic trials, and an ultimate goal, one they would keep as their little secret: making the U.S. Olympic team.
Ledecky’s times kept dropping, her performances rising. Phelps’s coach, Bob Bowman, was so impressed after watching at a grand prix meet in Charlotte in May that he brought her up out of the blue to a roomful of reporters at the U.S. Olympic media summit days later, saying she was a youngster to keep an eye on.
Terri McKeever, coach of the U.S. Olympic women’s team, also watched Ledecky in Charlotte, when she swam a career best in beating a veteran field.
“I came home and told one of my assistants, ‘She’s going to make the Olympic team,’ ” McKeever said. “You could see the intangible things. . . . Her focus is really impressive for a 15-year-old. . . . She’s a smart swimmer. It’s not just get-in-there-and-go.”
Ledecky admitted at the U.S. trials in Omaha that she had not expected to make the team even the year before, but once she did, she said, she immediately got to work.
“I’ve been training really hard for the last four or five weeks,” she said. “It’s been great. I’ve been swimming really well. . . . [In recent days] I’ve been able to watch all of the finals and prelims. I knew exactly what to expect.”
Adlington insisted that it’s not as easy as Ledecky described it. In her fourth Olympic Games, Adlington said she battled between not wanting to eat anything and feeling like she would throw up: “The nerves . . . you go through so much emotion . . . now I’m just so drained.”
Ledecky said she wasn’t really nervous at all. Phelps’s victory and the world record Missy Franklin, 17, set earlier in the 200 backstroke motivated her, she said. The thunderous crowd support for Adlington inspired her.
“I took it out fast,” she said, “ and I was able to come home hard.”
Her parents, brother and several relatives on her mother’s side cheered her in the stands, wearing Team Ledecky T-shirts. Back home, she knew her friends at Stone Ridge would be holding a viewing party to watch the live stream on NBC. A few others in the largely partisan crowd waved American flags.
Cecile Divino, a 1993 graduate of Stone Ridge who lives in London, waved a “Ledecky Team USA London 2012” sign. She wore a Team Ledecky T-shirt mailed to her from Maryland.
“I was the only one among all of these Brits cheering for her,” Divino said. “But everyone was quiet in the end.”