Sometime between preparing for two December swim meets and keeping up with her studies at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, Katie Ledecky squeezed in a photo shoot for Swimming World at her Bethesda home. The image, which features a beaming Ledecky draped in her four gold medals earned at the recent world championships in Barcelona, graces the cover of the issue due out Sunday heralding her selection as 2013 world female swimmer of the year.
Ledecky is the first distance swimmer to claim the female honor since Janet Evans did so for a third time in 1990.
“This means a lot,” Ledecky, 16, said in a telephone interview Friday, shuttling between her workout in the pool and dry-land training. “It was a tremendous year — a very exciting and fun year. And this captures it.”
Showing no sign of fatigue or self-satisfaction following her gold medal performance at the 2012 London Olympics, Ledecky stormed through the 2013 season in record-shattering style.
In June, she won three titles at the U.S. championships, becoming the first American woman to qualify for a worlds in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-freestyle events.
The following month, she knocked more than six seconds off the world record in the 1,500 free at the world championships in Barcelona, posting a time of 15 minutes 36.53 seconds. The next week she won gold in the 800 free with a record time of 8:13.86, hauling home four golds by the time the competition ended.
For those achievements, Ledecky was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s sportswoman of the year in October. But the high school junior has pressed on.
This week she’s fine-tuning preparations for the 2103 winter national championships, which run Thursday through Saturday at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. The field includes 16 members of the U.S. 2013 FINA world championships team — fellow gold medalists Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin among them.
Ledecky’s busy December continues with a trip to Scotland, where she and Ryan Lochte will lead the U.S. delegation against a European all-star team in Duel in the Pool, to be held Dec. 20-21 in Glasgow.
“Both Knoxville and the meet in Scotland are short-course meets, so really I’m just looking forward to getting in some racing and putting up some good times,” Ledecky said. “There will be some great swimmers at both competitions, so I’m hoping to get some good racing and maybe a best time here or there.”
Swimming World has awarded world swimmer of the year honors since 1964 and has recognized both a male and female recipient since 1966. Michael Phelps boasts a record seven awards, claimed in 2003-04, 2006-09 and 2012.
China’s Sun Yang was named the 2013 male swimmer of the year, marking the first time an Asian has won the award. A 20-member international media panel selects the recipients.