Katie Ledecky, Bethesda’s hometown gold medalist, returns

Flanked by fans and well-wishers at Dulles International Airport, Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky answers questions from the media. (WTOP/Katie Ledecky)
Flanked by fans and well-wishers at Dulles International Airport, Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky answers questions from the media. (WTOP/Katie Ledecky)

Well-wishers wait for Katie Ledecky to arrive from Rio at Dulles International Airport Aug. 17. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Well-wishers wait for Katie Ledecky to arrive from Rio at Dulles International Airport Aug. 17. (WTOP/Kristi King)

A four-time gold medalist in Rio, swimmer Katie Ledecky addresses the media at Dulles International Airport. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A four-time gold medalist in Rio, swimmer Katie Ledecky addresses the media at Dulles International Airport. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky displays her medals for the media at Dulles International Airport after returning from Rio. Ledecky says fellow U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps taught her how to display her medals. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky displays her medals for the media at Dulles International Airport after returning from Rio. Ledecky says fellow U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps taught her how to display her medals. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Classmate Alessa Mitchell awaits Katie Ledecky's arrival at Dulles International Airport on Aug. 17. Ledecky returns from Rio with four gold medals and one silver medal. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Classmate Alessa Mitchell awaits Katie Ledecky’s arrival at Dulles International Airport on Aug. 17. Ledecky returns from Rio with four gold medals and one silver medal. (WTOP/Kristi King)

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Flanked by fans and well-wishers at Dulles International Airport, Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky answers questions from the media. (WTOP/Katie Ledecky)
Well-wishers wait for Katie Ledecky to arrive from Rio at Dulles International Airport Aug. 17. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A four-time gold medalist in Rio, swimmer Katie Ledecky addresses the media at Dulles International Airport. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky displays her medals for the media at Dulles International Airport after returning from Rio. Ledecky says fellow U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps taught her how to display her medals. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Classmate Alessa Mitchell awaits Katie Ledecky's arrival at Dulles International Airport on Aug. 17. Ledecky returns from Rio with four gold medals and one silver medal. (WTOP/Kristi King)
November 29, 2020 | What Katie Ledecky thinks of her fame (WTOP's Kristi King report.)

DULLES, Va. — One of the planet’s top three medal winners in the 2016 Rio Olympics is back home now in Bethesda, Maryland.

But first, Katie Ledecky, 19, winner of one silver and four gold medals was greeted by a crush of friends and fans Wednesday at Dulles International Airport.

“It’s pretty crazy,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “To see them first thing when I get home, it means so much. They’ve been a big part of it the last couple years.”

Ledecky said what she accomplished at this year’s Olympics hasn’t really sunk in yet.

“I know it’ll take some time, so I’ll just enjoy these next couple weeks,” she said.

Ledecky said she looks forward to having a home-cooked meal, sleeping in her own bed and getting ready for her first year of college at Stanford — where she’ll live with a roommate she hasn’t met yet.

She won’t be driving there.

“I don’t have my driver’s license yet,” Ledecky noted. “I still have my permit. It hasn’t been a top priority of mine.”

When asked what advice she’d give anyone else who aspires to reach such heights Ledecky credited the support of friends and family.

“I have some really great friends, as you can see, and a great family,” she said. “They’ve made all this possible and it’s been fun to share the journey with them.”

Ledecky’s friends will tell you she is humble. For example, on one leg of her flight back from Rio, she  changed seats to help a dad who was separated from his two kids.

Zack Schwartz and his kids joined the crowd of well-wishers welcoming Ledecky home Wednesday.

“Katie did switch seats. She was very nice,” Zack Schwartz said, recounting Ledecky’s good deed. “And, I was very mad,” Avery, 6, chimed in about being denied the opportunity to share a flight sitting next to her hero.

Asked about the encounter, the 6-foot-tall Ledecky seemed happy to do it.

“I got an exit row out of it … so, it was nice,” she said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct details about when Ledecky switched seats with a dad so he could sit next to his kids. Ledecky was on her way home from the Rio Olympics.

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