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Teenage Swimmer Katie Grimes Strives To Be The Best She Can, Guided By Katie Ledecky

by Alex Abrams

Gold medalist Katie Ledecky and Katie Grimes of Team USA give each other high fives after competing in the women's 800 meter freestyle final on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. 

Katie Ledecky jokes that Katie Grimes gives the best high fives.
The two Katies — Ledecky and “Katie squared,” as Ledecky has nicknamed Grimes — shared another high five on Saturday night.
Ledecky and Grimes finished first and second, respectively, in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle race on the fifth and final day of the Phillips 66 International Team Trials in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was a moment worth celebrating, as the result secured both a spot in this summer’s world championships.
After Grimes touched the wall, finishing in 15 minutes, 51.36 seconds, she met Ledecky along the edge of the pool and high-fived her.
“I learn a lot from her, not always through communication but just observing her actions and like how she handles things and how she goes about her business,” Grimes said. “She’s just super admirable, and I look up to her so much.”

Ledecky, a 10-time Olympic medalist, knows what it’s like for Grimes as a teenage phenom. The two swimmers have formed a close bond, and Ledecky, now 25, has helped the 16-year-old Grimes navigate her meteoric rise in the sport.
Grimes made her Olympic debut last summer in Tokyo at age 15 — the same age Ledecky was when she arrived on the scene at the 2012 London Games. Because of that and their shared first names, Grimes is often compared to Ledecky.
They also compete in the same events, with Grimes often coming in second behind Ledecky.
It’s a lot of pressure for the teenager from Las Vegas, and Ledecky has offered Grimes advice along the way. She has also given Grimes pointers on such small things as what to do when she’s standing on the medal podium at a big-time competition.
“Last year was a lot of fun getting to know Katie, and I think everyone on the Olympic team just had so much fun with her,” Ledecky said. “She was a lot more vocal than I was when I was a 15-year-old at the Olympics, and so she was a lot of fun and such a team player, even as a rookie.”

Katie Ledecky reacts with Katie Grimes after competing in the women's 1500 meter freestyle final at Phillips 66 International Team Trials on April 30, 2022 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Ledecky and Grimes will again be teammates this summer, giving them another opportunity to spend time together in the pool and out of it.
After a frustrating start to the international team trials in Greensboro, Grimes earned a spot alongside Ledecky at the 2022 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. She qualified in the 400-meter individual medley and the 1,500 freestyle.
“It was really great to come back to a high-end meet like this and see all my friends again. I just really try not to focus on the pressure,” Grimes said, surrounded by reporters inside the Greensboro Aquatic Center. “I think that a lot of the pressure I feel is self-inflected just because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to swimming. So I really strive for the best that I can be.”
Grimes qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after finishing second behind Ledecky in the women’s 800-meter freestyle race at last year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Her time of 8:20.36 was just a fraction off the 8:19.78 that Ledecky swam at the same age at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Afterward, Ledecky waved to Grimes to show her where to stand for the post-race interview. Ledecky then gave Grimes the ultimate compliment on national TV. 
“I told her after her mile (race) the other day when she got third, I said, ‘You’re the future,’” Ledecky told NBC Sports at the time. “And I told her after that like she’s the now.”
In Tokyo, Grimes became the youngest American swimmer to compete in the Olympics since Amanda Beard swam at the 1996 Atlanta Games at age 14. 
Grimes placed fourth in the 800-meter freestyle at 8:17.05, finishing just behind Italy’s Simona Quadarella, who took the bronze at 8:17.32. Ledecky won the gold in 8:15.67.
Ledecky and Grimes have stayed in touch since leaving Tokyo. While they haven’t had many opportunities to hang out, Ledecky said she has followed the teenager’s performances over the past year.
“She’s just a really great person to be around, and to see the success that she’s had since Tokyo has been awesome,” Ledecky said. “… I haven’t really seen her as much this year, but it’s fun to see her here (in Greensboro), and I can’t wait to see what she can do not just this week but in her very bright swim career ahead of her.”
Grimes admitted she has a tendency of getting “in her head” at competitions. She can get overwhelmed at times thinking about her schedule of events and everything she’d like to accomplish in swimming.
However, Grimes said she has learned to take things one step at a time. Ledecky, who was in Grimes’ position a decade ago, has provided guidance to the teenager.
“She’s super helpful,” Grimes said. “For someone like her to use what she’s learned is super admirable and bridging out to rookies like me and just giving us advice that we need, she’s super good in that aspect.”

Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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