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Katie Ledecky: 15-Year-Old Will Announce Arrival with 800-Meter Freestyle Medal

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Katie Ledecky of the United States competes in the Women's 800m Freestyle heat 3 on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on August 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Adam Pretty/Getty Images
Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2012

Katie Ledecky made her first Olympic team by taking first place in the 800-meter freestyle at the U.S. Trials in Omaha, Neb. A stunning feat for such a young athlete.

Ledecky also finished third in the 400 with a time of 4:05.00. That time broke Janet Evans' record as the fastest ever by a swimmer 15-16 years old. That alone showcases how much talent the young American possesses.

On her performance at the Trials she told the New York Times, “I don’t think I was supposed to go out that fast. I wasn’t really planning to go out that fast. I went out with it, and I just kept trying to hold onto it.”

The Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart student is now in London ready to contend for a medal in the event against world record holder Rebecca Adlington. A tall task for the first-time Olympian.

Ledecky is not expected to grab gold in London, but a medal performance will officially announce her presence on the world stage.

The young prodigy took first place in her heat to qualify for the final with a time of 8:23.84. Good enough for the third-fastest time of all competitors. Defending gold medalist Adlington posted the fastest time with 8:21.78. After Ledecky, the quickest time was 8:25.26.

The battle for gold looks to be a two-woman race. Denmark's Lotte Friis joins Adlington as the favorites in the event. Friis is the 2008 Beijing bronze medalist.

If chalk holds, that leaves Ledecky swimming for bronze. The Bethesda, Md., native will not cruise to the bronze. There are plenty of other athletes in the water who will make her attempt to medal difficult.

Ledecky has the second fastest time in the world this year, but the Olympics are a different animal. The Games bring out the very best in the competitors, and it will show in the finals of the 800 freestyle.

At only 15, Ledecky has plenty of swimming ahead of her. Rio is where she could contend for gold, but London is currently her focus. The U.S. has already seen 17-year-old Missy Franklin make her mark in London, and now if Ledecky can take a podium position, the two will become of the faces of U.S. swimming for the foreseeable future.

Franklin has been the media darling thus far, but it is Ledecky's time for the spotlight.

Any medal will be a huge accomplishment, and should she take home a medal, it will make her a star for years to come. Afterward, her attention can turn to Rio and the 2016 Olympic Games. Although she may want to get her diploma first.

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