Swimming-Ledecky fired up for Olympic relay team with teenager Gemmell

  • Swimming
  • Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

Jun 15, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Katie Ledecky competes in the women's 400 meter freestyle swim on Saturday, June 15, 2024, during prelims for the Olympic Swimming Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Mandatory Credit: Grace Hollars-USA Today Network/ File Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Katie Ledecky said she is thrilled to lead a U.S. relay team at the Paris Games that includes 19-year-old Erin Gemmell, who grew up idolizing the seven-times Olympic gold medallist and even dressed up as her at Halloween.

Ledecky immediately embraced Gemmell in the water after they both qualified for the 4x200m freestyle team at the U.S. Olympic trials on Monday in Indianapolis and the duo will be joined by Claire Weinstein and Paige Madden in Paris.

"I've known Erin since she was seven-years-old and to see how far she's come was such a special moment," Ledecky said poolside in Indianapolis on Tuesday.

"I certainly remember her as a seven-year-old dressing up as me for Halloween," she added with a laugh.

Gemmell said she was terrified of Ledecky when she first met her at family holiday parties.

"But she was just so welcoming to a little seven-year-old fan," she said. "Katie was such a big influence. I don't think I would be here without her."

While Ledecky is fired up for the relay, she said she would likely skip the individual 200m freestyle in Paris to focus on distance events, which should open the door for Madden to take her place in the event.

"Nothing formally gets decided until the end of the week because I've got to do what I want to do in the 800 and the mile, but if all goes well, I'm not planning on swimming it individually in Paris," she said.

The main reason she has been swimming the individual 200m has been to help inspire the team, she said.

"I just want to continue to be ready for that relay and push the other girls individually to try to get our team faster," she said.

"We want to really put up a great showing and we have such a great history in that relay. We're very motivated to do really well there."

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Indianapolis; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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