It's going to take a year longer than she or anyone expected, but Katie Ledecky is poised to swim in her third Olympic Games in Tokyo later this summer.
The coronavirus pandemic halted everything in 2020, including the Tokyo Olympics. Missing a chance to swim on the biggest stage and wondering when the games would ultimately be rescheduled gave Ledecky a new perspective on the Olympics, even if she's a veteran at this point.
"For us as Olympians, we get this opportunity once every four years," Ledecky told NBC4's Eun Yang. "It's been a lot of hard work training for this moment. So many athletes around the world have had Tokyo 2020 as their target, and for some athletes, this will be their one Olympic Games. I'm fortunate that this will be my third Olympics and I'm grateful for the fact that I've had those 'normal' Olympic experiences, so I hope that all the athletes in Tokyo really appreciate the moment and appreciate the hard work that it's taken to get there."
When the pandemic hit and there was still a chance the games would go on in 2020, Ledecky had to find a place to swim. With all indoor facilities closed for the foreseeable future, this wasn't exactly an easy task.
"The first couple weeks were probably the hardest, trying to find somewhere to keep training," Ledecky said. "I was able to find a backyard pool out here in California and I swam there for three months, and finally the Stanford pool opened back up and I've been training there in my normal environment since last June."
Now afforded to train for Tokyo 2021, Ledecky's been able to compete and sharpen her skills before attempting to add to her legacy as one of the greatest swimmers of all time.
"It's been a crazy year, a lot of ups and downs," she said. "I haven't really had the chance to race until February or March of this year, and I've had a couple of meets so far and they've gone really well, so I feel like I'm on the right track for Tokyo."
As far as her future beyond swimming, Ledecky has a few options after graduating from Stanford with a degree in psychology and political science. In the meantime, however, she's focused on swimming in another Olympics or two.
"I've been very focused on my swimming this year, and I'm going to continue to swim beyond 2020, hopefully to at least 2024 and maybe beyond to 2028," Ledecky said. "We'll see."
Portions of Katie Ledecky's interview will air on NBC4 at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m, with the entire interview at 5 p.m.