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Mariska Hargitay Is a Big Fan of Olympic Swimming Champ Katie Ledecky. Here's Why

Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay highlights the career of U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky, from her childhood days swimming with her family to achieving Olympic glory.

By Elisabeth Ford

Seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky has been a global inspiration for women in and out of the pool. One inspired fan, who just made her support known ahead of Ledecky’s return to the Olympics in the 2024 Paris Summer Games, is Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s own Mariska Hargitay.

In a video for NBC Sports, Hargitay — who plays Captain Oliva Benson in NBC's popular crime drama — offered a glimpse into Ledecky's heartwarming story, relaying how a fun, family activity became became the launching pad for legendary sports career.

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When did Katie Ledecky begin her swimming career?

Ledecky grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and took up swimming at a young age. In fact, the push toward swimming came from her mother Mary Gen's side of the family. While on a vacation to Glacier National Park in Montana, Mary Gen's older sister, who was 4 at the time, nearly drowned after falling from a lakeside dock. After that, Mary Gen's father Bud saw to it that all his seven kids would learn how to swim, according to a 2016 ESPN profile

Mary Gen would go on to swim competitively while attending University of New Mexico, where she qualified for nationals three times, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

Following in her father's footsteps, Mary Gen signed her children up for swim lessons. Ledecky decided to try her hand at swimming competitively after her brother was encouraged to take up the sport. “And what began as family bonding, quickly ignited into a deeper passion,” Hargitay said of the Olympian.

Katie Ledecky poses with her medal after winning the Women's 1500 Meter Freestyle Final

Ledecky's Motivational Focus

Ledecky’s dominance in the pool started with her childhood summer-league swim team, which the freestyle swimmer remembers fondly.

The reason behind her immense success in the 800-meter freestyle is all credited one motivating thought she keeps in her mind with every motion through the water: “Try to get your hand to the wall first,” Hargitay recounted.

That phrase has led Ledecky to break records in women's swimming since she was just 15 years old. She's won 10 Olympic medals, including seven gold, and a record 26 medals in world championship competitions. Not to mention, the superstar has 16 individual world titles, surpassing her male counterpart, Michael Phelps, who has 15, according to ESPN.

“So, this summer in Paris, if Katie keeps touching the wall first, she could end up with more Olympic medals than any other American woman ever,” Hargitay concluded.

Watch Katie Ledecky attempt to win her eighth gold medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics on Peacock and NBC beginning July 26.