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Who is U.S. Swimmer Katie Grimes, Who's Qualified for 2 Olympics and Is Only 18?

The young superstar is poised to shine at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games after competing as the youngest member of Team USA at age 15 in Tokyo. 

By Caitlin Schunn
Kelly Clarkson, Peyton Manning & Mike Tirico Preview Paris Olympics Opening Ceremony

Swimmer Katie Grimes made headlines when, at just 15, she became the youngest member of Team USA at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Now at the ripe old age of 18, she's set to further burnish her athletic credentials at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

And to hear her tell it, she's much more confident going into the 2024 Games.

“Being 18 rather than 15 is a big difference in terms of just maturity,” Grimes told Olympics.com. “When I was 15, I was starstruck by everything, but this time I have a little bit of a grasp of the scale of the Olympics, and I think that’s going to help a lot. I feel I’m much stronger and faster now, and I’m excited to see what we can do, for sure.”

Katie Grimes at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials

What swimming events is Katie Grimes competing for in Paris?

Grimes specializes in long-distance swimming, and by placing third in the 10-kilometer open-water swimming event at the World Aquatics Championships, she was the first American athlete to punch her ticket to Paris. It was a literal photo finish to give her the bronze medal as she out touched her competitors.

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She locked in her pool spot at the Olympic swimming trials in Indianapolis by winning the 400-meter individual medley in a thriller. Grimes was in the lead through breaststroke, but by the freestyle portion she was in a dead heat with two other competitors. The women were separated by less than two tenths of second on the final lap, when Grimes pulled it out to win the race with a time of 4:35.00.

“I knew that my backstroke was fine, and I turned the wall for the breaststroke and I just said, ‘Don’t look back. Don’t look to the side,’” she told NBC Sports. “Just tried to keep my head down. And I knew as long as I touched the wall at the same time as Emma [Weyant] like I would be able to stick in there with her so I was just trying to finish.”

Grimes’ endurance will be tested in Paris. Swimming the 400-meter IM and open-water 10-kilometer is a distance combination that’s never been done at the Olympic level, according to Sports Illustrated.

Grimes also competed in the 200-meter freestyle final at the trials, but finished out of the top four, and missed clinching a relay spot. Seven-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky won the race.

But Grimes clinched a third event in Paris by coming in second to Ledecky in the 1500-meter freestyle. 

Katie Grimes celebrates winning after the 2021 US Olympic Team Swimming Trials

How did Katie Grimes get into swimming?

Swimming is in Katie Grimes’ blood. She grew up around pools with her two older brothers, according to her website, to try and beat the heat in her hometown of Las Vegas. That turned into a competitive swimming career, which was supercharged after watching her brothers compete at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials. She competed in her first trials in 2021, and qualified for the 800-meter freestyle by coming in second place behind Ledecky.

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She admitted to Forbes she wasn’t well-prepared heading to the Tokyo games.

“I’m definitely heading into it with a bit more notice, just because for Tokyo I qualified, then I left for training camp in Hawaii within the next like five days, so I really had zero preparation, and you know, like pre-knowledge of what I was going to be doing versus this time, I’ve known for the past year that I’ve already qualified for the Paris Olympics in open water,” she said.

Katie Grimes swims during the Women's 400 Meter IM Final in 2021

She’s also flipped the script after she missed qualifying for the 400-meter individual medley by seconds in the 2021 trials, and will get a chance to compete in it in Paris. Her impressive performance at the 2021 trials prompted Ledecky to name Grimes her successor, even going so far to tell her “you’re the future.”

“I told her after that one, ‘You’re the now,’” Ledecky said to Olympics.com.

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Grimes was just 6 years old when a 15-year-old Ledecky won her first gold medal in London in 2012, and grew up admiring superstar swimmers like Ledecky and Michael Phelps.

“Fifteen years old—that’s nuts,” Grimes said to Olympics.com. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be like her nine years from now and there’ll be another 15-year-old, you know?”

Don't Miss

Watch live coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 26, on NBC and Peacock beginning at 12 p.m. ET. Telemundo will provide Spanish-language coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Primetime coverage starts at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Peacock.

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