Katie Ledecky was not angling to become the face of American swimming when she joined the Palisades Porpoises as a 6-year-old. Her grand goal was to make it to the other side of the 25-yard pool without having to stop and rest on the lane line.
“Swimming is really just for me still a hobby,” Ledecky said. Then she caught herself. “It’s more than that now, I guess.”
Ledecky, 21, was speaking in June, shortly after she had secured her first major sponsorship, a seven-year deal with the TYR swimwear company worth more than $7 million. Outwardly, her daily life has not changed much since she turned pro this spring, aside from persistent jokes about her obligation to pick up dinner checks. Ledecky still trains at Stanford, though she is no longer eligible to compete at the college level, and she remains a student there, a rising junior with a 3.9 grade point average who is majoring in psychology and planning to work as a research grunt at the university’s Mind & Body Lab.
At this week’s Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo, her first major international meet as a pro, Ledecky kept up another habit, winning Thursday’s 800-meter freestyle, the event that marked her as a star at age 15, when she won her first Olympic gold medal. Her time in Tokyo, 8 minutes 9.13 seconds, put her nearly eight seconds ahead of the runner-up, Ariarne Titmus of Australia.
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