Missy Franklin can’t help but notice Katie Ledecky, Rio

Missy Franklin
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Missy Franklin could have jumped out her chair when a reporter mentioned Katie Ledecky at a Santa Clara Grand Prix press conference Friday.

Ledecky is not at this meet, the reporter began.

“Oh, no,” Franklin immediately replied, breaking into a laugh. “She’s breaking world records in Texas.”

Teen superstars Franklin and Ledecky are set to be linked for years and Olympics to come, even if they are currently separated by about 2,000 miles (how fast could Ledecky swim that distance, one wonders). Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are each a decade older and looking at possibly their last Games in 2016.

Franklin and Ledecky both won individual golds in their Olympic debuts in London; Franklin sweeping the backstrokes and Ledecky taking the 800m freestyle. Their ascents continued in the next year.

Franklin became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships in Barcelona last summer. But it was Ledecky who was named FINA Swimmer of the Meet, FINA Athlete of the Year and Swimming World Swimmer of the Year. She won four gold medals and broke two world records in Barcelona.

They’re gearing up for this summer’s two biggest meets, the U.S. Championships and Pan Pacific Championships in August.

On Thursday night, Franklin sat down for dinner and received a text message from her physician mother. Katie just broke a world record, it read.

“We all started freaking out,” Franklin said of Ledecky’s performance, taking two seconds off her 1500m freestyle mark from Barcelona. “[Ledecky] never ceases to amaze me. I mean, I think it’s absolutely incredible what she’s doing. I have no idea how she’s doing it. She’s unreal.”

The same could often be said of Franklin, the 6-foot-1 rising sophomore at Cal, who decided to put off turning professional to enjoy the NCAA team swimming environment for two seasons. (Ledecky, a rising high school senior, has committed to swim for Stanford, but will debut after Franklin turns pro.)

Franklin finished first, second and third in her three individual NCAA Championship swims, capping a season that saw her expand her horizons, swimming up to 1,000-yard freestyle races. Franklin has never competed at distances longer than 200 meters at major international meets.

“Doing a different event I think always gives you a nice little change,” Franklin said. “It’s really going to help my 200 going into this season, hopefully, we’ll see.”

She entered two other unusual events this weekend, her one and only Grand Prix meet of the season. Franklin finished outside the top 15 in the 100m butterfly prelims Friday. She’s scheduled to swim the 200m individual medley Sunday. She also has her usuals — both backstrokes and the 100m and 200m frees.

“This is probably the best summer if you’re ever going to experiment,” Franklin said. “This is kind of the summer to do it. I’ve been learning so much in the pool and so much out of it. It’s been really interesting getting to do some fun events here and there and try and see what I can to do better myself in my best events.”

Franklin said she hasn’t set out her plans for the U.S. Championships, Aug. 6-10 in Irvine, Calif. She will consult with her college coach, Teri McKeever.

The most anticipated event at Nationals could be the 200m freestyle, where Franklin, the World champion, could go head to head with Ledecky. Franklin and Ledecky went one-two in the 200m free at last year’s U.S. Championships, with Franklin winning by a comfortable 2.07 seconds.

Ledecky dropped the event for the World Championships, where the 200m free semis and 1500m free final were held the same night. (Looking ahead, Ledecky would seem less likely to drop the 200m free at the Olympics, where the 1500m free is not contested)

Something to think about: the last time U.S. women went one-two in an Olympics or World Championships was 2000 (Brooke Bennett-Diana Munz 400m freestyle in Sydney). U.S. men have gone one-two 25 times in the same 14-year span.

As for Franklin, she just moved into her first apartment and is learning how to cook. Salmon is her go-to meal, a step up from grilled cheese.

Franklin was heartbroken to hear about fellow Colorado native swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen‘s ATV accident and severed spine June 6.

“Growing up in Colorado, she was the Colorado swimmer,” said Franklin, who was 1 year old when Van Dyken-Rouen won four golds at the 1996 Olympics and hopes to visit Van Dyken-Rouen when she’s home for 10 days in July. “That was who I was trying to live up to. That was who inspired me growing up in everything that she did.”

Franklin has also been watching the World Cup, marveling at overview videos of the stadiums, which has her thinking about 2016.

“Rio just looks gorgeous,” she said. “Hopefully I have the opportunity to go there.”

World champion swimmer unretires after Sochi trip

Katie Ledecky talks swimming legacy and life in Gainesville

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OlympicTalk recently caught up with Katie Ledecky to discuss life since moving from Stanford to Florida 15 months ago, her meticulous mindset, and the legacy she continues to build.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can also catch an encore presentation of Ledecky’s performance at the 2022 U.S. Open this Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

What does a typical day look like for you Gainesville? Walk me through a full day starting from the minute your alarm clock goes off.

Ledecky: A typical day would be waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and swimming from 6 to 8. Then I have weights from 8 to 9:15. I get breakfast, have lunch and then take a nap. Then I have practice again at 2 or 3 in the afternoon for another two hours.

Wow, that sounds incredibly busy! Have you had a chance to find any new favorite places to eat in Gainesville?

Ledecky: I’m still kind of finding my spots. There is a breakfast spot pretty close to campus that a lot of the swimmers like, so I go there quite a bit, but I’m still looking. I haven’t gone to very many places more than once.

What are you doing in your free time? Are you coaching?

Ledecky: Yes, I’m volunteering with the [University of Florida] team, but I think of myself more as a teammate. I have a lot of other things going on with sponsorships, but aside from that, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a piano and enjoy playing that!

How often do you get to see your family?

Ledecky: My parents, David and Mary, still live in the D.C. area, and then my brother, Michael, lives in New York, so I’m a lot closer to home [than at Stanford]. I see them around the holidays, and they come to a lot of my swim meets.

I know how much you love to stay academically engaged. Are you taking any classes at the University of Florida?

Ledecky: I’m not taking any classes right now. I’m taking a break, but I’m still trying to learn as much as I can just in other areas, reading a lot and watching the news, following different things that I’m interested in. I think at some point, I’ll probably go to grad school, but I’m still figuring out what area that would be in right now.

There’s a quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel like that only scratches the surface of describing your work ethic and mindset. You demand excellence in every area of your life, not just from yourself, but from others around you. Can you talk about where that mindset comes from?

Ledecky: I’ve always had that kind of a mindset. I’m very driven, and I’m always setting new goals for myself no matter what I’ve achieved in the past. I’m always looking forward, I don’t take very many breaks, and so it’s always on to the next goal and making sure I’m doing the little things right and doing the things I need to do to reach my goals.

To be able to perform at the level that you do every single day takes a lot of mental toughness. What do Katie Ledecky’s inner thoughts look like? What do you tell yourself? Any affirmations? 

Ledecky: I try to stay positive no matter how well or how poorly a practice or a race is going. When I’m swimming, I give myself positive mental pep talks along the way throughout a race. I’ll say “keep it up,” “hold pace” or “hit this turn.”

I just want to read you a few tweets… 

You idolized Michael Phelps when you were younger, and now you’re that person for a lot of people. You’re the GOAT. You’re Katie Ledecky. Someone’s idol. What does that feel like?

Ledecky: It’s an honor to have young swimmers look up to me, and I don’t take that lightly. I try to be a good role model and reach out to young kids and sign autographs and take photos if people approach me at swim meets. I hope that there are some young swimmers out there that will grow up to be champions or maybe they’ll just continue to love the sport or find other things that they’re passionate about, but it’s an honor.

Have you had any memorable interactions with young swimmers?

Ledecky:  Yeah, actually the World Cup in Indianapolis [in November]. We were given those giant checks at the end of the meet that you really can’t travel with, so I was able to sign it and give it to one of the basket carriers at the meet. They were thrilled, and it was fun to be able to put a smile on their face.

Give me just one word to describe each of these milestones in your life, starting with the 2012 Olympics.

Ledecky: The first. It was my first international competition and my first gold medal, so that’s the one that’ll probably be the most special for me forever.

OLY-2012-SWIM

2016 Rio Olympics.

Ledecky: Consistency. I was swimming in multiple events at the Olympics for the first time and I just got into a really good rhythm and felt so comfortable in the pool deck. So confident. That was just a very unique feeling.

Tokyo Games.

Ledecky: Tokyo was different with all the COVID protocols. Nobody in the stands. No family there. But it was a lot of fun still, so a lot of great memories with my teammates there.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind at the end of your career? What do you want to be remembered for?

Ledecky: I’d like to be remembered as somebody that worked really hard and gave my best effort every time I got up on the blocks and represented Team USA. Hopefully, I can continue to inspire young kids to work hard in whatever it is that they are passionate about, whether that’s something academic, athletic, or something else. If you find something that you really love, you should go all in on it and try to be the best you can be at it.

You’ve achieved so much in life already personally and professionally, I just want to ask: Are you genuinely happy? Are you satisfied in this season of life right now?

Ledecky: Oh yeah, I’m very happy. I love the sport more and more every year. I get a little sad thinking about the day I will eventually retire–which isn’t anytime soon. I love the sport. I’m trying to just enjoy every day of training and racing and trying to be the best that I can be.

I say this all the time, I never imagined I would even make it to one Olympics and so to be training now to try to qualify for a fourth Olympics is it’s all just icing on the cake at this point and something that I truly enjoy. I enjoy doing it with my teammates, striving for similar goals, and getting to do it with really great people.

Knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self — the little Palisades Porpoise?

Ledecky: I don’t have very many regrets or anything in my career, so I think I would just continue to tell myself to have fun and enjoy every moment. Maybe, write down a little bit more early on. I’ve done a better job of journaling and writing down different things so that I can remember them down the road, but I didn’t do as good of a job in 2012 and 2013.

Rapid-fire questions. Race day hype song? 

Ledecky: “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen.

Finish this sentence: I’m not ready for a meet without … 

Ledecky: My suit, cap and goggles.

Did you have AIM back in the day? What was your embarrassing screen name?

Ledecky: I didn’t. I didn’t even have a cell phone until before the London Olympics. I think I actually borrowed my brother’s phone for that, and then we went out and bought an iPad so that I could FaceTime my family from London. I didn’t have an email account either until high school.

Your life is on the line. You need to sing one karaoke song to save it. What are you picking?

Ledecky: Well, USA Swimming did carpool karaoke in 2016 before the Olympics. My car did “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which is a great karaoke song because it’s like 10 minutes long so maybe I would choose that just as a fun memory. We also did “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen in 2012. Those are two fun songs with some fond memories.

Post-workout meal?

Ledecky: After morning practice, eggs and toast or veggies and eggs. I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast food for all three meals and I’d be satisfied.

Cheat meal? 

Ledecky: Either pizza or a burger.

If you had to choose another Olympic sport to compete in what would it be and why? 

Ledecky: Probably hockey. I’m not good on skates, but it’s my favorite sport to watch.

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Marie-Philip Poulin is first female hockey player to win Canada Athlete of the Year

Marie-Philip Poulin
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Marie-Philip Poulin became the first female hockey player to win Canada’s Athlete of the Year after captaining the national team at the Winter Olympics and winning her third gold medal.

Poulin, 31, scored twice and assisted once in Canada’s 3-2 win over the U.S. in the Olympic final on Feb. 17. She has scored seven of Canada’s 10 goals over the last four Olympic finals dating to the 2010 Vancouver Games — all against the U.S.

Nine different male hockey players won Canada Athlete of the Year — now called the Northern Star Award — since its inception in 1936, led by Wayne Gretzky‘s four titles. Sidney Crosby won it in 2007 and 2009, and Carey Price was the most recent in 2015.

Poulin is the fifth consecutive Olympic champion to win the award in an Olympic year after bobsledder Kaillie Humphries in 2014, swimmer Penny Oleksiak in 2016, moguls skier Mikaël Kingsbury in 2018 and decathlete Damian Warner in 2021.

Canada’s other gold medalists at February’s Olympics were snowboarder Max Parrot in slopestyle, plus teams in speed skating’s women’s team pursuit and short track’s men’s 5000m relay.

In men’s hockey, Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in leading the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup and the Norris Trophy as the season’s best defenseman.

The Northern Star Award is annually decided by Canadian sports journalists.

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