Catholic Olympic swimmer awarded presidential Medal of Freedom 

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CNA Staff, May 6, 2024 / 16:15 pm

Katie Ledecky, Olympic swimmer, devout Catholic, and winner of 10 Olympic medals, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday. 

“Thank you Mr. President for this honor, and thank you to everyone at the White House for an incredibly special day!” Ledecky wrote in a post on X.

Since she began her Olympic career in 2012 as a 15-year-old in the London Olympics, Ledecky has earned seven Olympic gold medals and three silver medals. She also earned 26 world championship medals, 21 of which are gold, and she currently holds two world records in the 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle events. 

Ledecky finds herself among other iconic athletes including gymnast Simone Biles, golfer Tiger Woods, and baseball star Babe Ruth in receiving the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom.

But between the excitement of the Olympics, Ledecky is a regular parishioner of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland.

Raised in Washington, D.C., she attended Catholic high school and practices her faith by praying before her meets, according to her local diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard.

Ledecky was a student at the all-girls Catholic school Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart when she flew to London for her first Olympic competition. The Olympian has since returned to Stone Ridge to visit with the students and share her gratitude for the community’s support for her.

She’s not the only Catholic to receive the medal this year. Jesuit priest Father Gregory Boyle, who founded a rehabilitation program for gang members, was one of 19 who received the Medal of Freedom this year.

Biden also extended the award posthumously to Jim Thorpe, who in 1912 became the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal, as well as to his political allies such as former speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat Party leaders.  

President Joe Biden is himself Catholic, though he has received criticism from Church leaders for his pro-abortion stance. 

Ledecky will compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics, which will begin July 26, while her memoir, “Just Add Water: My Swimming Life” is set to be released on June 11.


Kate Quiñones

Kate Quiñones is a staff writer for Catholic News Agency and a fellow of the College Fix. She has been published by the Wall Street Journal, the Denver Catholic Register, and CatholicVote, and she graduated from Hillsdale College. She lives in Colorado with her husband.

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