There isn’t much Katie Ledecky hasn't accomplished in a swimming pool.

The 27-year-old is already a seven-time Olympic gold medalist, the most decorated individual female swimmer of all time, and the most recognizable active athlete in her sport. Unphased and undaunted, Ledecky’s adopted a “come what may” approach ahead of what will be her fourth Olympic Games this summer in Paris, as she told NBC Olympics in an exclusive April interview facilitated by her recently-announced partnership with Core Power

"I'm excited to be an official Core Power partner. Core Power has been a staple in my training and competition regimen for many years now, so I think the campaign is a real fun authentic look at how I train, and just as importantly, how I recover," Ledecky said.

Since bursting onto the Olympic stage as a 15-year-old at the London 2012 Games, where she won her first gold medal in the women’s 800m freestyle, Ledecky has mainly let her swimming do the talking. And in doing so, she’s carved out a deserving spot for herself in any conversation of sports’ all-time greatest champions, alongside the likes of Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods and others of that ilk. However, while her game face is up there with the best of them, Ledecky has never espoused the cold-blooded competitiveness that has often defined the personalities of other GOATs.

“I just want to have a lot of fun and I want to represent Team USA really well, and just kind of step up as much as I can and do the best that I can,” Ledecky said. “I’m not trying to be intimidating. I might look really serious behind the blocks, but like, trust me. I want to have a lot of fun at this meet.. I just know the level of focus that it requires to perform the way I want to.”

Change of scenery

Just over one month after winning four medals, including a pair of golds, at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Ledecky announced a massive decision to relocate her base of operations across the country. From Palo Alto, California, where Ledecky had been since enrolling at Stanford University in 2016, Ledecky moved to Gainesville, Florida to train with coach Anthony Nesty of the Florida Gators.

The idea, she said at the time, was to keep things fresh while embarking on a new four-year cycle toward the Paris Games. Nesty had also earned praise among the distance swimming community for helping mold Bobby Finke, a relative unknown prior to the Tokyo Games, into a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

“Most of the changes have just been in the training and the environment, being in a different environment and having different people to race in practice,” Ledecky said. “[I’m] training a lot with the boys and trying to keep up with them as much as I can.”

Another notable change between northern California and central Florida, as Ledecky has learned, is weather. The regular heat and humidity of gator country has added a new challenge to her already grueling training routine, Ledecky said.

Inspiring the next generation

Though she’s still very much in her prime – just last summer she won two gold medals and two silver medals at the 2023 World Swimming Championships – Ledecky has been a force in the sport of swimming for so long that, for many of her competitors, she was the hero they grew up idolizing. 

Canada’s Summer McIntosh, projected to be one of the stars of the pool in Paris and a rival of Ledecky’s in the 400m freestyle, even decorated her childhood bedroom with quotes from Ledecky that she had made into posters.

“It's very cool. It's an honor,” Ledecky said of inspiring the swimmers she now competes against. “It's kind of surreal how long I've been doing it, and it doesn't feel like it's been that long, because I've truly enjoyed it each year and I enjoy the process [but] when you dive into the pool you're not really thinking about those things.”

Writing a memoir

It’s certainly not uncommon for athletes – especially all-time greats – to reflect on their careers via the written word. Although, that kind of thing usually waits until post-retirement. 

Not so for Ledecky. On June 11, the week before Ledecky is set to compete for her spot in Paris at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, Simon and Schuster will publish Ledecky’s memoir, "Just Add Water."

The book, which Ledecky worked on over the past year during gaps in her training schedule, draws heavily from journals she kept since childhood. It charts her growth in swimming with reflections from several stages of her ongoing career.

“It just felt like I have a lot of stories from my swimming career and even just growing up in sport. I just wanted to kind of get it on paper,” Ledecky said of the unusual timing of the memoir. “I've kept journals over the years, so I relied a lot on those to remind me of different stories and anecdotes. And it's been kind of a fun project away from the pool over the past year that I've been able to put my energy into.”

Eyes on Los Angeles 2028

Though Ledecky insists that Paris has her undivided attention and she's given little thought to what will come after, it's no secret what lies on the other side of 2024. Ledecky and her fellow American Olympians will have an opportunity they haven't had since 1996, before Ledecky was even born: to compete at a Games on home soil.

The following Summer Olympics after Paris are slated to take place in Los Angeles, and that fact is not lost on the greatest female swimmer ever, despite the fact that she'd be on the other side of 30 by 2028.

"The [2028] Olympics being in LA is very appealing. Not very many athletes get an opportunity to compete in a home Games," Ledecky said. "I definitely at this point am planning on going through 2028... whether I compete in one event, multiple events, a relay, whatever."