This Katie Ledecky & Michael Phelps Photo Makes Their Combined Olympic Wins Especially Surreal
American swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps both added to their Olympic medal counts on Tuesday. Phelps had become the most decorated Olympian in history even before setting foot in Rio, but Ledecky also really stood out from the crowd this time around. As they both swam into the spotlight in Rio, a photo of Ledecky and Phelps' first encounter years ago shows just how surreal the games were for both this year.
Phelps won his 20th and 21st gold medals on Tuesday, as he placed first in the 200-meter butterfly race and anchored the first-place freestyle relay team. Ledecky took gold in the women's 200-meter freestyle. It was her third gold medal overall and second at the Rio Games. She's still far behind Phelps' record — as is every other athlete in the world — but as the photo below should remind you, she's also much newer at this and is, so far, performing astoundingly.
At 19 years old, Ledecky is in only her second Olympics. She swam one event in London back in 2012, but she's played a much more prominent part of the U.S. team in Rio. Phelps, on the other hand, is 31 years old and has competed in a total of five Olympics, counting Rio. He skyrocketed onto the Olympic scene in the Athens Games in 2004, and he's stayed at the top of the podium virtually ever since.
Ledecky first met Phelps shortly after his initial ascent to the Olympic podium. The photo above was reportedly taken in 2006 at an autograph signing. At the time, Ledecky was clearly a fan of swimming and of Phelps. Now, Phelps is also a fan of Ledecky.
In June, Phelps praised Ledecky after her performance at the Olympic swimming trials. "You can tell she is very goal oriented, and for me it brings me back to kind of what I was like way, way, way back in the day," Phelps told USA Today. He's not the only one who's making the comparison.
Ledecky has become known around Olympic circles as the next Phelps. But in reality, she's her own person — an amazing competitor who deserves recognition for being just herself. She and Phelps are even swimming some of the same events in Rio, in the women's and men's races respectively. Ledecky isn't quite as tall as Phelps, but she clearly has a bright future ahead of her in competitive swimming, and her career could certainly rival that of the long-time superstar.