One of the world’s foremost female swimmers, Katie Ledecky had an interesting story to tell before the domestic qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics.
The 5-time Olympic gold medalist usually trains with the rest of the Stanford swimming team. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all common facilities including the state-of-the-art swimming pool and training center had shut down. Much like the rest of the team, Katie Ledecky was forced to look elsewhere in order to get access to facilities.
For the first two days after the closure, they used a private pool at a club in Menlo Park, which ultimately shut its doors as well. As a result, Katie Ledecky and her coach, Greg Meehan, had to rethink and brainstorm their approach.
Failing to find a quick alternative could prove to be detrimental to the performance levels of an athlete who currently holds the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle world records for women.
Katie Ledecky makes the most of makeshift pool
Meehan, who is also the head coach of the US Women's Olympic Team, soon ran out of options. If it hadn’t been for his colleague Ted Knapp, who found just the right quick-fix, Katie Ledecky could have been without a pool.
The solution was a small backyard pool at the home of a 1968 Olympic Trials backstroker and former UCLA All-American, Tod Spieker. The pool itself was one that, despite lacking size, had all the requirements that were needed. It was 25 yards long, had two lanes and was fitted with backstroke flags as well as starting blocks and synchronized pace clocks at both ends.
Katie Ledecky kept putting in the hard yards in that pool. Alongside, the 24-year-old also trained indoors using innovative techniques to maximize her output.
Coach Meehan described the facility as 10/10, as homeowner Spieker said: “There’s no way I could have lived with myself by denying them use of a pool that satisfied their needs.”
Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel’s backyard training regime
Katie Ledecky, who often has to swim a lonely race given her past record of leaving her opponents well behind, was joined by fellow Stanford and Olympic teammate Simone Manuel.
For the pair, training at that pool for a period of 3 months also provided a shred of normalcy at an otherwise trying time. It was here that they also developed a bond with Spieker’s grandchildren, who came to cheer for Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel whenever they trained.
Both Ledecky and Manuel continue to be hot favorites for the Tokyo Olympics and are expected to bring back around 10 gold medals from the Games.