WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Nation’s Capital Swim Club can now boast two more Olympic gold medalists in its ranks.
Nation’s Capital Swim Club alums Katie Ledecky and Jack Conger both earned medals in Rio, four golds and a silver for Ledecky and one gold for Conger.
The Swim Club has earned many accolades in its 38-year existence, including being named first in the nation in USA Swimming’s Club Excellence Program.
Ledecky, who started her swimming career on the Palisades team of the Montgomery County Swim League, shattered her own 2012 world record in the women’s 800-meter freestyle by almost two seconds. The Stanford student athlete outpaced the rest of her competitors to such a degree that silver medalist Jazmin Carlin reached the pool wall eleven seconds after Ledecky did.
Swim Club coach Dory Halbe has known Ledecky for six years. Halbe says she’s not surprised Ledecky took the pool by storm in Rio.
“She’s extremely competitive. She hates to lose,” said Halbe. “She sets really high goals and she puts enough work in to get the job done.”
Ledecky’s work ethic led her to a spot in the history books as the second female swimmer to win gold in three individual competitions in the same Olympic Games. This feat hasn’t been achieved in nearly fifty years.
In addition to her four individual medals, Ledecky helped Team USA earn another gold when she anchored the women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay.
Ledecky’s approach to distance swimming sets a good example for younger swimmers at NCSC.
“She is rewriting what it means to be a distance swimmer,” said Halbe. “She’s a really big testament to not only what a distance swimmer can do, but what a female swimmer in the sport can do. [Katie] shows that being a distance swimmer isn’t boring.”
According to Halbe, the Montgomery County Swim League provided a solid foundation for Ledecky as she started her career.
“Katie is a great example of someone who loved the sport from a young age,” she said. “I think Montgomery County is very fortunate to have a summer league like MCSL with a large number of teams and great coaches and camaraderie. It fosters a really great environment for young swimmers like Katie.”
Like Ledecky, first-time Olympian Conger got his start in Montgomery County at the Flower Valley Swim Club in Rockville. He graduated from Good Counsel High School in 2013, where he was a three-time All-Met Swimmer of the Year. He now swims for the University of Texas.
Conger trains in Texas during the school year. However, he worked with his coach Sue Chen for a few months at the Nation’s Capital Swim Club.
The rising senior earned his first Olympic medal when he achieved a 1:45.73 in the preliminary round of the men’s 200-meter freestyle relay.
Conger’s mother Bridget said that Jack’s introduction to swimming was similar to many other children; his parents wanted him to learn how to swim for safety purposes.
“He enjoyed swimming at our local pool at Flower Valley and it just kind of evolved from there,” said Bridget Conger. “He enjoyed it so much that he started swimming year-round at age nine.”
Jack Conger broke his first national swimming record at age fourteen, when he surpassed the age group record for 200-meter backstroke. He would later break the national age group record for 100-meter backstroke in the 17-18 group.
“All of his accomplishments have been an important part of the journey,” said Bridget Conger. “I foresee that [his Olympic medal] is only the beginning of a long journey for him. He’s very driven.”
Like Halbe, Conger credits her son’s first swimming experiences in Montgomery County that helped him become the competitor he is today.
“He is a hard-working, goal-driven athlete and person, and that all began for him in Montgomery County,” she said. “He certainly blossomed on the international stage but this is where he started. This is where his family is and much of his original roots and support base.”
When the Rio Games hit the books, it will be noted that Maryland swimmers were particularly successful, grabbing more than ten medals combined.
“The swimming culture and community around Maryland is very strong,” said Halbe. “I think that’s why Maryland swimming is doing so well.”