A swimming sensation at the 2012 London Olympics, Bethesda’s Katie Ledecky followed her gold-medal performance in the Summer Games with a record-smashing showing at the world championships in Barcelona this summer.
For her achievements in 2013, highlighted by winning four gold medals and setting two world records at the FINA World Championships, the 16-year-old Ledecky was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sportswoman of the Year.
With it, she joins a prestigious list of past recipients that includes skier Lindsey Vonn, figure skating’s Michelle Kwan and sprinter Allyson Felix.
“This is a tremendous honor, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of the D.C. community,” said Ledecky, a junior at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, in a telephone interview following the second of her two practices Thursday.
The 5-foot-10 Ledecky is the first female swimmer to be named the USOC’s Sportswoman of the Year since Natalie Coughlin in 2008 and joins a distinguished group of swimmers so honored, including Janet Evans and Jenny Thompson.
“Those swimmers are definitely ones I have looked up to. I know their histories and have watched their races on the computer, so it’s a great honor,” added Ledecky, who trains under Coach Bruce Gemmell with the Nation’s Capital Swim Club, which has produced former world record holders Tom Dolan, Ed Moses, Mark Henderson and Mike Barrowman.
In June, Ledecky won three titles at the U.S. championships, becoming the first American woman to qualify for a worlds in the 200-meter, 400-, 800- and 1,500-freestyle events.
At the world championships on July 30, she crushed the previous world record in the 1,500 free by more than six seconds with a time of 15 minutes 36.53 seconds. In the 800 free final the following week, she won gold with a record time of 8:13.86.
She became the first American woman to break the four-minute mark in the 400 free, winning gold in 3:59.82, and became the second woman and first American woman to sweep the three freestyle races at a world championships.
Ledecky will receive the award Tuesday in New York, where the USOC will stage a “100 Days Out Celebration” to commemorate the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Alpine skier Ted Ligety was named the USOC’s 2013 Sportsman of the Year, and tennis-playing twins Bob and Mike Bryan were named the Team of the Year.
In Paralympic sport, Sportswoman of the Year honors went to para-cyclist Monica Bascio, while track & field athlete Raymond Martin was named Sportsman of the Year. The men’s 4x100-meter track & field team was honored as team of the year.