An Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer and world record holder has revealed that praying the Hail Mary calms her down before she competes in a race.
Four years ago in London, at age of 15, US swimmer Katie Ledecky won Olympic gold in the women’s 800-metre freestyle.
Since then Ledecky, who attended Catholic schools in Bethesda, Maryland, has become the world record holder in the 400-, 800- and 1500-metre freestyles, and the American record holder in the 500-, 1000- and 1650-yard freestyles.
In the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she will compete in the 200-, 400-, and 800-metre freestyle.
Before every race, she’ll offer a prayer, she told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.
“I do say a prayer – or two – before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me,” she told the Catholic Standard in an email interview.
In the interview, Ledecky discussed how her faith is a source of strength and how the communities at home have supported her along the road to her second Olympics.
She attended Little Flower School and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart for high school.
“I received an excellent, faith-filled education at both schools. Having the opportunity to attend academically rigorous schools has facilitated my interest in the world and in serving others and has enriched my life so that it is not solely focused on my swimming and athletics,” Ledecky said in the email.
“Nevertheless, going to these schools was important to my swimming – my Catholic schools challenged me, they broadened my perspective and they allowed me to use my mind in ways that take me beyond just thinking about swim practices, swim meets and sports.”
She also spoke of the support and caring she received from students, teachers, administrators and coaches, some of who travelled to Omaha, Nebraska, to cheer for her during the Olympic trials.
“I feel that I have very special people in my life and, because of that, I feel very fortunate,” she said.
“The importance of balance in one’s life is a lesson I have learned, and one that I hope will help me in college and beyond,” said Ledecky, who will attend Stanford University in the fall.
“My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective,” she said.
Thea LaFond, a parishioner at St John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, has also discovered that she is bound for the Olympics.
She will represent her home country, Dominica, in the triple jump, part of track and field competition.
The first thing she did was thank God and ask: “How did you do this, God? How did this happen?”
While she was just shy of the qualifying mark for the Olympics, each country is entitled to two athletes – one male and one female -and since Dominica only had a male entrant, the Olympic Committee accepted LaFond as the female competitor.