She’s hung out with the Boss. She’s used the National League MVP as a medal rack. Olympic champion Katie Ledecky is enjoying quite a victory tour before she heads off to college. “It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, but I’ve also had a lot of fun with it,” said Ledecky, one of the biggest stars of the Rio Games.
On Thursday night, the swimmer attended a Bruce Springsteen concert at Nationals Park in Washington. She was able to meet backstage with the Boss, even tweeting out a picture with each of them holding one of her gold medals.
“I have been listening to Bruce Springsteen music riding in my family’s car throughout my youth, going to early morning practices and to swim meets,” Ledecky said. “I have over 400 Bruce Springsteen songs on my iPod, including recordings of his live performances.”
Her father, David, is a longtime Springsteen fan, attending his first show at Madison Square Garden in 1978. He’s passed on that passion to his 19-year-old daughter, though this was the first time she had been able to attend one of the Boss’ shows.
“A relative of ours surprised us by obtaining tickets,” Ledecky said. “I have never had the opportunity to attend a Springsteen show because of my training and meet schedule, but I finally had a break in my training after the Olympics that coincided with Bruce’s show at Nationals Park.”
Ledecky, who lives with her parents in suburban Washington, also was at Nationals Park the previous week, throwing out the first pitch before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles.
Bryce Harper, last year’s NL MVP, accompanied Ledecky to the pitching mound, which came in handy when the swimmer decided to shed the five medals _ four golds and a silver _ she captured in Rio, two of them in world-record times. It was the most successful showing by a female athlete in U.S. Olympic history.
Harper, smiling, patiently draped the hardware over both arms.
“Bryce was a great sport holding the medals,” Ledecky said. “We had a lot of fun with it. And I threw a pretty good pitch.”
Springsteen, who has been playing shows longer than four hours on his current tour, was intrigued to hear about Ledecky’s grueling schedule.
She told him how she “would get up at 4 a.m. and drive to practice with my dad, listening to Springsteen songs, then go to high school, and practice again in the afternoon following school.”
The Boss, Ledecky added, seemed especially thrilled to hold one of her gold medals, “which was nice since he has won several Grammys and an Academy Award.”
“He said, `I always wondered what people do with these medals,”’ Ledecky recalled. “We laughed when my brother said, `They take them around to show them to rock stars.’ We told him how much his work and music have meant to us, and how much we love him.”
Passing on the chance to cash in on her Olympics success, Ledecky is preparing to head across the country for her freshman year at Stanford. She’s in no hurry to turn professional, saying she believes college will help her develop both as an athlete and as a person.
Ledecky hasn’t decided on her goals heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but said she will continue to focus on improving in the 100-meter freestyle and may take on the 400 individual medley.
But the longer freestyle events will continue to be her bread and butter. In Rio, she became the first woman since 1968 to win the 200, 400 and 800 free.
“I want to have the college experience,” Ledecky said. “I think that’s going to be a great experience for me. I think that’s going to continue to help me improve both in swimming and in school. I’m excited for the next couple of years and what they have to hold.”
She’s still holding off on getting her driver’s license, even though she’ll be living in car-crazy California.
“I will be riding a bike around campus,” Ledecky said. “That should be good.”