- Ledecky won her fourth event at the Olympic trials
- Grimes finished 6 seconds behind Ledecky but clinched her spot for Tokyo
- Nine years ago Ledecky made her first Olympic team at age 15, in the 800
OMAHA, Neb. — It was the Katie and Katie show Saturday night, the 24-year-old star of the U.S. swimming team and the 15-year-old upstart leading a pack giving chase in the women’s 800 freestyle.
Katie Grimes, the 15-year-old who used to think it was cool just to have the same first name as Katie Ledecky, ended up touching the wall nearly six seconds after Ledecky, but the pool party that ensued amid the lane ropes was all for the teenager. By finishing second, she had qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Ledecky — who won her fourth event of these Olympic trials to become the winningest woman in U.S. swimming trials history with eight titles, behind only Michael Phelps with 16 —swam over a few lanes to join Grimes and their other competitors, all gathered together.
Ledecky was smiling. Grimes was in shock.
“I had no idea what was going on,” Grimes said later. “It was fun. It was like a pool party. I’m overwhelmed, overwhelmed with emotion and stuff. It’s just crazy."
Still in the water, Ledecky gave Grimes a hug.
“The other day after the 1,500, when she got third, I told Katie, ‘You’re the future,’” Ledecky related later. “I told her after that one, ‘You’re the now.’”
Nine years ago at the 2012 Olympic trials in this same event, the 800 free, Ledecky, then 15, beat Kate Ziegler to make her first Olympic team, going on to win a surprising gold in London.
“It really is full circle,” Ledecky said. “Nine years ago it was Katie and Kate, Kate Ziegler. I don’t know what it is about Katie’s and freestyle swimming.”
As the two sat next to each other in a press conference after the race, Ledecky reveled in Grimes’ joyful, disbelieving reaction to coming in second far more than her own victory.
“Fifteen years old, that’s nuts,” Grimes said. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be like her nine years from now and there’ll be another 15-year-old, you know?”
Grimes looked at Ledecky.
“I know,” Ledecky nodded, suppressing a laugh, loving every minute of it.