Missy Franklin is poised to become the darling of the U.S. women's swimming team at the forthcoming London Olympics. Yet even if Franklin delivers on her immense potential by brining home a handful of medals, she may have her thunder stolen by another, even younger budding American superstar.
Katie Ledecky is just 15-years-old. Weeks removed from completing her freshman year of high school at Bethesda (Md.) School of the Sacred Heart, Ledecky has thrown herself into full-time training for the U.S. Olympic Trials with an aim on securing a spot at the London Games.
While Ledecky's competition for a spot on the team could be seen as a sideshow and an early attempt at gaining experience ahead of the 2016 Olympics, the teen has jumped in front of those more traditional timeframes by shocking the swimming establishment with phenomenally fast times at major national meets.
Most recently, at the Charlotte Ultra Swim Grand Prix, Ledecky won her signature event, the 800-meter freestyle, by nearly 10 seconds. According to ESPN, Ledecky also turned in personal best times in the 200 and 400 freestyle, as well.
For Ledecky, part of the jump from pretender to contender has come from a sense of familiarity with her top competition. The Sacred Heart rising sophomore has long idolized the likes of American stars Katie Hoff and Kate Ziegler, swimmers who she now finds herself competing against.
"I've swum against them a few times," Ledecky told ESPN. "I've started to get used to it a little bit."
With that familiarity has come great success and times which would be very likely to land Ledecky a shocking spot in London if they are repeated during the swimming trials in Omaha.
"I want to make finals in at least one event, hopefully two or three," said Ledecky, who is noticeably more relaxed when talking about swimming than anything else. "Just placing as high as I can. I just want to come out of it knowing I've done my best."