Olympic Superstar Katie Ledecky: ‘The Hail Mary is a Beautiful Prayer and I Find That it Calms Me’

By Mark Judge | August 9, 2016 | 10:08am EDT
Championship swimmer Katie Ledecky (AP Photo)

Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky, who recently set a world record in the 400-meter competition, prays before she races.

The 19 year-old talked about her Catholic faith in a recent interview with the Catholic Standard. Ledecky won her first gold medal in the 2012 Olympics for the 800-meter freestyle. Since then she has become the world record holder in the 400, 800 and 1500-meter freestyles, and the American record holder in the 500, 1000 and 1650-yard freestyles.

In 2015, she became the first swimmer in history to win the 200, 400, 800, and 1500-meter freestyles in a single world championship.

On Sunday Ledecky beat the previous world record of 3:58.37 in the 400-meter set in 2014 by almost two seconds, down to 3:56.46.

Ledecky attended Little Flower School and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland.

Kelly Seegers of the Catholic Standard asked Ledecky how her faith factors into her swimming:

How do you rely on your Catholic faith to sustain you through your training and racing?

My Catholic faith is very important to me. 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. 

Do you still say a “Hail Mary” before each race? How did you decide upon the Hail Mary as your go-to prayer?  

I do say a prayer – or two – before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me. 

How has what you learned in Catholic schools helped you in your swimming career?

I attended Catholic schools from pre-K through high school. I attended Little Flower School in Bethesda through 8th grade and then Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart for high school 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.

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.


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