Olympian Katie Ledecky is focused on Paris, but could 2028 Games also be in the picture?

Katie Ledecky, the greatest female swimmer in history, calls herself a “sports nerd” who always has the television turned to some sort of game, so she knows all about the dramatic changes occurring across the women’s sports landscape.

“I’m always flipping through the channels, just seeing the number of women’s games and meets on TV,” Ledecky said in a phone interview the other day. “I’m seeing more and more of it. It’s an exciting time, just getting more eyes on women’s sports and having some really great stars show what they can do, just showcasing what women can do at that level.”

It’s not just on TV. While she has been training for this summer’s Paris Olympics, she has seen fans lined up for an afternoon gymnastics meet at the University of Florida when she is walking into her 6 a.m. practice.

And while Ledecky and Caitlin Clark have not yet met, she, like pretty much everyone, is a huge fan.

“She’s someone that you watch and you just see how much she enjoys playing, enjoys putting on a show, enjoys pushing boundaries, isn’t afraid to take those long three-pointers,” Ledecky said. "She just plays with a fearlessness that I can relate to.”

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Ledecky, who turns 27 on March 17 and is just months away from what would be a fourth consecutive trip to the Summer Olympics, has increasingly embraced a role beyond the pool as one of the world’s most visible, enduring and successful athletes. She is way too young to be an elder stateswoman, but she does relish the opportunity to be a role model and advocate for women and girls in sports.

So it should come as no surprise that Ledecky just signed her latest endorsement deal with the women’s performance, lifestyle and sports apparel company Athleta, a partnership announced Friday morning in USA TODAY Sports. For the next five years, she will be a member of Athleta’s The Power of She Collective and serve as an advisor to Athleta’s The Power of She Fund, which supports organizations aligned with the company's mission of empowering women and girls to build confidence, strength and well-being through sports and movement.

Katie Ledecky, who turns 27 on March 17, is just months away from what would be a fourth consecutive trip to the Summer Olympics.
Katie Ledecky, who turns 27 on March 17, is just months away from what would be a fourth consecutive trip to the Summer Olympics.

“I do more than just swimming for my training; I do dry-land training, weights training, and Athleta is supporting me in that in terms of the apparel that I’m wearing,” Ledecky said. “I have really long admired Athleta’s commitment to supporting women and girls in sports. I have been passionate about that since the beginning of my career and I love any opportunity I have to give back or to inspire. … There’s just a really great movement right now that Athleta is at the forefront of in terms of women’s sports and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”

This summer, Ledecky will be one of the most-watched athletes in the world when she goes to Paris to try to add to her Olympic cache of seven gold medals and three silvers. While she likely will be favored to win gold in the women’s 800 and 1,500 freestyle events as she did in Tokyo three years ago, she will not go unchallenged as younger swimmers who grew up idolizing her are now some of her top rivals.

“I feel good about where I’m at,” she said of her preparation. “I’m doing everything I can in training, just trying to string a lot of good weeks together. Racing is tough, and there are a lot of great athletes out there. I know I have to be on top of my game in a couple months (at the U.S. Olympic trials in June).”

Because she has been so dominant for so long, she knows much is expected of her.

“I think I have a pretty good handle on the perspective that I need to have at all times,” she said. “I know there are expectations, but I stay very focused on my personal expectations, which are probably just as high or higher than anyone else’s. So I just try to stay true to that.”

No matter what happens in Paris, Ledecky says she will keep swimming competitively. The Summer Olympics are coming back to the United States in 2028 in Los Angeles. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

“I still have LA in mind, so that’s not totally out of the question,” she said. “I’m definitely just taking it year by year, focused on Paris this year, but I’m not going to be done after Paris. I’m going to keep going.”

While she, and we, take a peek into the future, it’s worth remembering that her new Athleta deal runs for five years. At that point, it will be about three years to the next Summer Olympics in Australia. Brisbane 2032, anyone?

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Katie Ledecky focused on 2024 Paris Olympics. What about 2028 Games?