Olympic teen swimming sensation Katie Ledecky won't make her first official swim in London until Thursday, but that hasn't stopped her from soaking in the experience of being a part of Team USA.
"She loves being on the team and really appreciates and respects the vets on the squad," said her mother, Mary Gen Ledecky. "She's enjoyed practicing with them. There a couple traditions the team has. The rookies put on a skit for the vets. She participated in that. She participated in the YouTube video that some of the older kids on the team spearheaded. They've just been terrific. Overall, she's going to come away from this with a really great experience. That's what we hope for."
Ledecky, the youngest member of Team USA at age 15, will swim in the 800m freestyle heat on Thursday morning in London. That by itself is more than the Ledecky family envisioned when 2012 began. At first, they were just thrilled she made it to the Olympic Trials. But then she qualified for the Olympics.
Ledecky's mom said it best: "We hadn't made any plans to come to London."
But now there are about 10 family members at the Games to cheer her on. But there is also an army of Team USA swimming fans who will be yelling, screaming and waiving American flags once she jumps into the pool. There are those who believe Ledecky may be the next great American swimmer. Swimming experts like Summer Sanders and Rowdy Gaines have heard rumblings of the sort.
Ledecky's mom said she's excited that people view her daughter in such high regard. But they're keeping their expectations low for the 2012 Games.
"We don't have any expectations for her at this meet," Mary Gen Ledecky said. "We want her to swim well. If she makes the finals, we'll be thrilled because we'll have another event to go and see her swim in."
Wait, did she just call the Olympics a "meet"? It's true, she did. But she has a good reason.
"I did run into one of the Olympic coaches at Starbucks," she said. "I asked him, 'What's the environment like in the pool?' And he said, 'You gotta think of it as just another meet.' That's how swimmers try to calm themselves down."
This meet, however, could possibly end with an Olympic medal. Which begs the question: What would the Ledecky family do with it?
"I don't know," said her mom with a perplexed look on her face. "We haven't thought about that. ... She'd probably show it to all of her friends."
Speaking of friends, the Ledecky family has been overwhelmed with support they have received from people back home.
"We've heard from so many people in the D.C. area, whether it's from teachers at Little Flower School in Bethesda, or Stone Ridge, or from our son's school at Gonzaga, the Palisades and Montgomery County Swim Club," Mary Gen Ledecky said. "We have heard from so many people in the whole swimming community across the whole area. We really appreciate the encouragement and support she's gotten from everyone in the Washington area. It makes us feel really good about our hometown."