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Katie Ledecky swims to AP Female Athlete of the Year honors

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Katie Ledecky got her start in swimming because she just wanted to make friends. Her brother was eager to join a team at a pool near their house and as a 6-year-old, she tagged along.

By summer’s end, the Ledecky siblings had made 100 friends ranging in age from 6 to 18. Some of them remain good friends with Katie, who went on to become the world’s best swimmer in the post-Michael Phelps era.

She earned five golds and a silver at this year’s world championships in Budapest, maintaining the upward trajectory she first established as a surprise gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics.

Her dominant performance in Hungary earned Ledecky Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year honors.

In balloting by U.S. editors and news directors announced Tuesday, Ledecky received 351 points, edging out Serena Williams with 343. Williams won the Australian Open for her Open era-record 23rd Grand Slam tennis title. Olympic track star Allyson Felix finished third in voting, with 248 points.

Last year, Ledecky was second to gymnast Simone Biles in the balloting.

The AP Male Athlete of the Year will be announced Wednesday.

MORE: Ledecky earns USOC’s Athlete of the Year honors

Ledecky is the eighth female swimmer to win and the first since Amy Van Dyken in 1996. Among the others is 1969 winner Debbie Meyer. At last year’s Rio de Janeiro Games, Ledecky equaled Meyer’s feat of sweeping the 200, 400 and 800 freestyles in a single Olympics.

“It’s a really great history of women swimmers and freestylers,” Ledecky said of the AP honor roll. “I really look up to a lot of those women.”

She is the first active college athlete to win since UConn basketball player Rebecca Lobo in 1995.

Ledecky is a sophomore at Stanford, still debating whether to major in psychology or political science, and enjoying life in the dorms, where she lives with five other swimmers.

“Just being in the college environment has kind of added another layer of fun,” she said. “Being with teammates and working toward NCAA championships and having that team goal, that’s another thing that is fun.”

Ledecky heads to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for high-altitude training with her Stanford team this week. Her focus is on the collegiate season through the NCAAs in March.

MORE: Rising star says she’s getting closer to Ledecky

In moving cross-country from her home in Bethesda, Maryland, to attend college in California, Ledecky left behind longtime coach Bruce Gemmell. But like some of those old summer league teammates, Ledecky has stayed in touch. She trains with Gemmell when she returns to visit her family.

She was a star to them in 2012 but a little-known 15-year-old to the rest of the world when she won the 800-meter freestyle in world-record time in London.

In 2013, Ledecky won four golds at the worlds in Barcelona, setting a pair of world records. Two years later in Kazan, she swept every freestyle from 200 to 1,500 meters, setting two more world records. Another two world records fell last year in Rio.

In her typically understated way, Ledecky said: “I really pride myself on the consistency I’ve had over the past couple years. Just being able to compete at the international level and come away with some gold medals each year.”

Ledecky didn’t set any personal bests or world records in Budapest, something she’s done with such frequency that people expect to witness something spectacular anytime she dives in the pool.

Her loss in the 200 free in Hungary was considered an upset.

“If they’re disappointed with me not breaking a world record, it’s an honor because it’s representative of what I’ve done in the past and a benchmark for myself,” she said. “I don’t focus on what anyone thinks of my goals or wants to see me do.”

Not yet halfway toward the 2020 Tokyo Games, Ledecky already is thinking ahead. Like Phelps, she never publicly reveals her target times or placements.

“I set big goals for myself and that’s always what has motivated me,” she said.

Despite living in a results-focused world, Ledecky enjoys the journey, something she learned between London and Rio.

“Trying to find those little things to improve on and the process of getting better,” she said. “Doing everything in practice to set yourself up well each year.”

Her sunny smile and friendly demeanor belie the competitor who is always plotting ahead and moving forward ever faster.

“I know the four years goes by very quickly,” Ledecky said, “and I want to do everything I can to prepare.”

MORE: Ledecky, Dressel lead Golden Goggles winners

Julia Mancuso skis final race dressed as Wonder Woman (video)

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Julia Mancuso bid farewell like only she could — with a tiara, cape and Wonder Woman suit.

The most decorated female U.S. Olympic skier with four medals announced Friday morning that today’s World Cup downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo would be the last race of her career.

More on Mancuso’s retirement, career and immediate future here.

She raced Friday as her nickname — “Super Jules” — and coasted to the bottom 18 seconds slower than winner Sofia Goggia.

Afterward, U.S. Ski Team members sprayed her with champagne and lifted her up in the finish corral.

Mancuso chose an appropriate venue for her last race.

She notched her first World Cup podium in Cortina in January 2006, then won the Olympic giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy, four weeks later.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s dominance rarely seen in sports, let alone skiing

Jordyn Wieber says she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar

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Jordyn Wieber said she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar, becoming the fourth member of the Fierce Five 2012 Olympic team to come forward Friday.

McKayla MaroneyAly Raisman and Gabby Douglas previously said they were sexually abused by Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team doctor for nearly two decades.

Two more Olympians — Jamie Dantzscher (2000) and Simone Biles (2016) — also said they were sexually abused by Nassar.

Wieber spoke for six minutes to start the fourth day of a Nassar sentencing hearing at a Michigan court on Friday.

Michigan state Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said Wieber reached out this week to say she wanted to speak at the hearing where more than 100 women are expected to deliver victim impact statements.

Here’s what Wieber said in front of Nassar on Friday:

I thought that training for the Olympics would be the hardest thing that I would ever had to do, but in fact the hardest thing that is process that I’m a victim of Larry Nassar. It has caused me to feel shame and confusion, and I have spent months trying to think back on my experience and wonder how I didn’t even know this was happening to me and how I became so brainwashed by Larry and everyone at USA Gymnastics, both whom I thought were supposed to be on my side.

I started seeing Larry Nassar at the age of 8 in my hometown of Lansing. He was known as the best gymnastics doctor in the world. Everyone in my club, on the U.S. national team and across the country saw Larry, and everyone said the same thing. He was a miracle worker, and he could fix just about anything. I was treated by Larry for any and all of my injuries from ages 8 ’til I was 18, and it wasn’t long before he had gained my trust. He became a safe person of sorts, and to my teenage self he appeared to be the good guy in an environment that was intense and restricting.

He would try to advise me on how to deal with the stresses of training or my coaches. He would bring us food and coffee at the Olympics when we were too afraid to eat too much in front of our coaches. I didn’t know that these were all grooming techniques that he used to manipulate me and brainwash me to trusting him.

When I was 14 years old, I tore my hamstring in my right leg. This is when he started performing the procedure that we are all now familiar with. I would cringe at how uncomfortable it felt. He did it time after time, appointment after appointment, convincing me that it was helping my hamstring injury. And the worst part was that I had no idea he was sexually abusing me for his own benefit. I knew it felt strange, but he was the national team doctor. Who was I to question his treatments, or even more, risk my chance at making the Olympic team or being chosen to compete internationally. And after all, he was recommended by the national team staff, and he treated us monthly at all of our national team camps. I even talked to my teammates, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, about this treatment, and how uncomfortable it made us feel. None of us really understood it. After I made the Olympic team, I suffered a stress fracture in my right shin. It was extremely painful to tumble and land using my legs, but I fought through the pain because it was the Olympics, and I knew it would be probably my only shot.

Our bodies were all hanging by a thread when we were in London. Who was the doctor that USAG sent to keep us healthy and help us get through? The doctor that was our abuser. The doctor that is a child molester. Because of my shin, I couldn’t train without being in extreme pain, and it affected the number of routines I could do to prepare before the competition. And, ultimately, it made me feel less prepared than I should have been. I didn’t qualify to the all-around competition, and I went through a dark time right before we won the team gold. 

Now, I question everything about that injury and the medical treatment I received. Was Larry even doing anything to help my pain? Was I getting the proper medical care, or was he only focused on which one of us he was going to prey on next? What does he think about when he massaged my sore muscles every day? Now I question everything.

To this day, I still don’t know how he could have been allowed to do this for so long. My teammates and I were subjected to his medical care every single month at the national-team training center in Texas. He was the only male allowed to be present in the athlete dorm rooms to do whatever treatments he wanted. He was allowed to treat us in hotel rooms alone without any supervision. He took photos of us during training and whenever else he wanted. Nobody was protecting us from being taken advantage of. Nobody was even concerned whether or not we were being sexually abused. I was not protected, and neither were my teammates. 

My parents trusted USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar to take care of me, and we were betrayed by both. And now the lack of accountability from USAG, USOC and Michigan State have caused me and many other girls to remain shameful, confused and disappointed. 

I am angry with myself for not recognizing the abuse, and that’s something I’m struggling with today. But even thought I am a victim, I do not and will not live my life as one. I am an Olympian. Despite being abused, I worked so hard and managed to achieve my goal. But I want everyone, especially the media, to know that despite my athletic achievements, I am one of over 140 women and survivors whose story is important. Our pain is all the same, and our stories are all important. And now the people who are responsible need to accept responsibility for the pain they have caused me and the rest of the women who have been abused. Larry Nassar is accountable. USA Gymnastics is accountable. The U.S. Olympic Committee is accountable. My teammates and friends have been through enough, and now it’s time for change because the current and future gymnasts do not deserve to live in anxiety, fear or be unprotected like I was.