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Swimmer Katie Ledecky says the thrill of winning a gold medal for Team USA never gets old

She might recently have surpassed the legendary Michael Phelps for the most career individual world swimming titles, but Katie Ledecky says the thrill of winning remains as powerful as ever.

Ledecky eclipsed Phelps’ tally of 15 world swimming titles at the 2023 World Aquatic Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, in July. The 26-year-old finished first in the 800-meter freestyle, an event she was won an incredible six times in a row.

With 23 Olympic gold medals to his name, Phelps is considered by many to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. For this reason, overtaking such a great of the sport was something that Ledecky hadn’t spent any time contemplating.

“Michael [Phelps] is someone that I’ve known for a long time now and to break that record was cool. I didn’t really know that I was going to achieve it until a lot of people started telling me that that was a possibility,” Ledecky explained.

The 2024 Paris Olympics are now also less than a year away and Ledecky, who has been training at the University of Florida, is looking better than ever as she looks to add to her impressive medal collection.

“I’m continuing to train really hard,” Ledecky said. “It’s just a great place to be [the University of Florida]. It’s where I’m thriving and I’m loving every day. I have a smile on my face every day when I go to practice and I’m around people that have similar goals.”

Ledecky says that being in an environment with other world champions and Olympic medalists helps those training to push each other ahead of Paris 2024.

Despite her success, Ledecky said her swimming career had throw up plenty of challenges.

After completing a degree at the University of Stanford, Ledecky says she was able to learn about time management and life outside of the pool. Alongside the support team around her, the 10-time Olympic medalist tries to always remind herself of why she took up the sport in the first place.

“I started swimming just for the fun of it and that’s something that I never lose sight of even at the international stage.”

With the 2024 Olympic Games fast approaching, Ledecky knows the next 12 months are important, but acknowledges that the nerves that come with these big moments still shows she cares for the sport.

“I know at the end of the day I’m just going to smile and have a lot of fun while I’m doing it and that’ll take care of the nerves and I’ll give my best effort that’s for sure,” Ledecky concluded.

With Simone Biles making a triumphant return to gymnastics last weekend after a two-year hiatus, Ledecky was asked about how she deals with mental health and the pressure that comes with being a highly successful athlete.

“I’ve been competing on this stage since I was 15 years old. I’m 26 now and each year I think I’ve always strived to find my balance,” Ledecky said. “Find balance between school and swimming. I completed my degree a couple years ago at Stanford and through that all I think I really a lot. I learned a lot about time management. I learned a lot about doing things outside of the pool.”

“I have really great family and friends, teammates, coaches around me. I’ve had that my whole career and I feel very lucky to have that and to continue to be motivated every day, to continue to have fun as I said at practice every day. I started swimming just for the fun of it and that’s something that I never lose sight of even at the international stage.

On getting nervous even as she approaches her fourth career Olympics, Ledecky said that she prefers to get nervous because it means that she cares.

“I still get nervous. I’m not nervous right now because I just came off the big meet but I know that I have a big year ahead of me. A lot of hard work that I need to put in if I want to achieve the goals that I have for myself, so I know that I want to be nervous when I get behind the blocks in Paris because that means I care about what I’m doing.

“But I know at the end of the day I’m just going to smile and have a lot of fun while I’m doing it and that’ll take care of the nerves and I’ll give my best effort that’s for sure.”

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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