Katie Grimes, a two-time Olympian at 17, is U.S. swimming’s emerging new megastar

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — With their 12-year-old daughter, Katie, swimming within sight, Shari and Christian Grimes stood at the pool deck chatting with Sandpipers of Nevada trainer Chris Barber. Christian had simply been introduced the deputy fireplace leader process in Logan, Utah, and the circle of relatives was once taking into account shifting there from their house in Las Vegas.

Barber is a superb listener with a peaceful head, Shari says, and the Grimes circle of relatives trusts him. So she didn’t take his phrases that day calmly. Barber began by means of announcing that Katie may transfer any place and earn a faculty swimming scholarship.

“However I’m telling you at this time,” he persevered, “there’s something other about her. And in case you depart her right here, she shall be an Olympian.”

In a while after, Ron Aitken, the Sandpipers CEO who coaches the crew’s most sensible swimmers, heard what the circle of relatives was once taking into account. He reached out to make a pact: In the event that they stayed in Nevada, he promised he’d stay with Sandpipers no less than till Katie graduated highschool.

The coaches’ responses have been telling. Katie was once a unique ability with extra doable than her folks had learned as much as that time. So Shari and Christian listened. The circle of relatives stayed put.

5 years later, Grimes is likely one of the maximum promising swimmers within the U.S. She already made Barber glance prophetic, making the Olympics as a 15-year-old in 2021, and has since gained 3 silver medals in pool occasions on the International Aquatics Championships. She’s additionally a world-class open-water swimmer and has already certified for the 2024 Paris Olympics within the 10-kilometer race after taking bronze on the 2023 international championships, making her the primary American athlete to protected a place in France.

“Understanding that I’m already going to Paris is a bit bit comforting, however I nonetheless truly wish to make it within the pool,” mentioned Grimes, now 17. “… I believe like I nonetheless have so much to do.”

Grimes isn’t happy, her mother says. Shari believes there are occasions Katie must have a good time her accomplishments greater than she does. However that unrelenting starvation is in all probability what frequently propels {the teenager} to new heights.

Katie, who’s homeschooled and the youngest of 7 children, spent a bit over 3 weeks this autumn on the Olympic Coaching Heart in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Shari chaperoned for a part of the travel, and she or he stopped by means of the pool each every so often all through practices. She discovered herself getting emotional seeing how arduous her daughter and the opposite swimmers paintings and what sort of they sacrifice for a shot at their targets.

“However I additionally do consider that there’s even larger greatness within her that hasn’t damaged out but, and I’m excited for that,” Shari mentioned. “As a result of each time we display up someplace, that lady actually amazes us with one thing completely instantly that we weren’t anticipating.”


When Katie was once round 3, a Sandpipers trainer spotted her older brother Carter on the YMCA pool. Carter were a gymnast till he grew too tall, and he seemed excellent within the water, so the trainer approached Shari to invite if the circle of relatives can be fascinated with becoming a member of the swim membership. Carter attempted it and excelled, in the end swimming on the College of Missouri.

From that second on, “Katie just about grew up at the pool deck,” mentioned Shari, who had a 12-passenger van as a result of her giant circle of relatives and steadily drove Sandpipers swimmers to and from apply. The younger Katie was once her carpool good friend, sitting in her automobile seat within the again.

“She beloved being across the swimmers,” Shari mentioned. “It was once simply roughly a herbal development for her to begin swimming when she were given to that age.”

As she emerged as an elite swimmer, Grimes made it her function to make the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She do not have been a contender to make the Tokyo Olympics as a 14-year-old had they been held in 2020, as in the beginning scheduled. But if the ones Video games were given behind schedule a yr as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it modified Grimes’ outlook. Her self belief was once top, and part of her questioned if she may make the crew.

She felt highest about her 400-meter particular person medley. But if she dove in for the race the primary morning of the ones U.S. Olympic Trials, the entirety went unsuitable.

“I simply totally ate it,” she mentioned.

Her nerves were given the most productive of her. She had a imaginative and prescient of ways the race would cross, and had she swam her seed time, she would have made the overall. As an alternative, she added just about 5 seconds.

Katie Ledecky and Katie Grimes


Katie Ledecky and Grimes pose after qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics within the 800-meter freestyle on the U.S. Trials in June 2021. “She’s the now!” Ledecky mentioned of Grimes, then simply 15 years previous. (Al Bello / Getty Pictures)

After the race, Grimes lay in her Omaha resort room, sobbing. Inconsolable. All Shari may do was once take a seat at the mattress together with her daughter and let her cry.

“It was once probably the most devastated we’ve observed her,” Shari mentioned.

Katie was once sharing a room together with her older brother Sawyer, who swam on the College of Minnesota and in addition made the Olympic Trials. He gave her a pep communicate with “now not the nicest phrases,” Katie mentioned, guffawing.

“Simply roughly pulled me again up,” she mentioned.

It was once precisely what she wanted. Over the approaching days, she demolished her highest time within the 1,500-meter freestyle, completing 3rd and narrowly lacking the Olympic crew. Katie Ledecky, whom Grimes had photos of on her wall as a child, advised the younger swimmer she was once the longer term. Then, in Grimes’ final match, she eked into the overall of the 800-meter freestyle, putting in place one of the most storybook swims of the meet. Within the ultimate, she out-touched Olympic medalist Haley Anderson for 2nd position, qualifying for the Olympics.

Grimes punched the water with pleasure when she noticed her time and site. Ledecky, who were given first, swam over to congratulate her, lifting her competitor’s hand into the air so the group may cheer.

“She’s the now!” Ledecky mentioned in her post-race interview with NBC, amending her observation from previous within the meet.

It was once a career-altering second for Grimes, whose early life was once obvious as she stood subsequent to the then-24-year-old Ledecky. Sponsorship offers would apply, and she or he was once set to move midway all over the world to race on the international’s greatest swim meet. Swimming, in her phrases, was once “by no means going to be a foolish little factor anymore.”

“This simply were given critical,” she idea to herself.


Making the Olympics at 15 was once a momentous accomplishment in itself. Grimes, who was once the youngest member of Group USA in Tokyo, adopted her qualification up by means of losing much more time in her initial 800-meter freestyle swim. However she was once a tad slower within the ultimate — although nonetheless quicker than her breakout swim at trials — and neglected the rostrum by means of a 2nd. Had she swam her prelims time, she would have got bronze.

Was once she satisfied together with her swims, taking into account how giant of an accomplishment a fourth-in-the-world end is?

“Um …” she mentioned, pausing for a second. “No longer truly.”

Grimes rode by means of herself at the travel to the Olympic village, then sat below a tree to name her folks, who have been looking at from the U.S. She cried as they emphasised how proud they have been of her.

“I simply felt like the sort of loser,” she mentioned.

Her fellow Group USA swimmers have been supportive, although, and Grimes in the end got here to the belief that she had put in combination an outstanding summer season.

Narrowly lacking out at the podium additionally gave her a carrot to chase in 2024. She mentioned it’s helped stay her motivated, although she estimates she nonetheless would have had various power had she come away with a medal.

Regardless that trials and the Olympics was once Grimes’ highest-profile meet of 2021, they weren’t her final formative one. When she’s coping with tricky instances, her mother reminds her of ways she treated that wintry weather’s Quick Route International Championships in Abu Dhabi. Grimes shriveled COVID-19 all through the meet, forcing her to withdraw from festival. She then needed to isolate out of the country. When her circle of relatives celebrated Christmas again within the U.S., the 15-year-old was once on my own in quarantine.

Fellow U.S. Olympian Regan Smith recollects being touched by means of Grimes the use of her time beyond regulation to ship Merry Christmas texts to her teammates.

“That’s one thing I’ll by no means put out of your mind,” Smith mentioned. “A easy tale like that, it tells so much about who she is.”


The 2-plus-hour race got here right down to a 10th of a 2nd. It was once the 2023 international championships, and Grimes reached for the end within the 10-kilometer open water match. Her hand, it was once made up our minds after a photograph end evaluation, touched forward of Sharon van Rouwendaal and Ana Marcela Cunha, the previous two Olympic gold medalists. She had gained bronze, making her the primary respectable U.S. Olympian for Paris and a two-time Olympian at age 17.

That, Shari Grimes mentioned, was once now not at the circle of relatives’s radar. Their daughter had amazed them as soon as once more.

The swim earned Grimes the US Swimming Golden Goggle award for Feminine Race of the 12 months. If she will qualify for the Olympics in a pool match at U.S. Trials in June, she’ll be the primary U.S. girl to compete in pool and open water occasions on the identical Olympics.

However even with out her world-class swimmer resume — which might develop considerably within the coming months — Grimes would now not be an ordinary 17-year-old. On occasion she jokes together with her folks that she was once born within the unsuitable decade, that she will have to’ve been born within the Eighties.

“She’s such an previous soul,” Shari mentioned.

Get started together with her track style. She’s lately into Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and particularly the Foo Combatants. She additionally loves vintage vehicles. She’s now not rather positive how she were given into them, although her dad most likely has one thing to do with it. He owns a 1977 Ford Bronco, and so they bond over their vintage automobile itch. Grimes fell in love with the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40, and she or he and her dad scoured web sites searching for the car. Her dad in the end discovered one, and Katie discovered how you can power stick shift and helped exchange the automobile’s timing belt.

“I really like studying about them and the way to sort things, and I feel they’re simply cool,” she mentioned.

Heading into the 2024 Olympic cycle, Grimes — who plans to swim collegiately however has now not but picked a college — feels extra apprehensive than she did heading into 2021. She’s now not going to catch somebody by means of marvel this time. She’s a recognized contender, and she or he’s set expectancies for herself.

“It’s like, ‘Neatly, I did it when I used to be 15, why can’t I do it when I used to be 18?’” she mentioned. “However in truth that’s simply the intrusive ideas that you’ll be able to totally block out. … I’ve long past quicker and I’ve gotten higher in apply and am operating truly arduous, so there’s no reason why for me to be apprehensive. Simply believe on your coaching and believe that I’ve stepped forward and I’m smarter and am in a position to maintain issues higher.”

The revel in of the final Olympic cycle, in addition to her pool and open water meets since, will have to lend a hand her navigate all of it.

“I feel she assists in keeping studying how resilient she truly is,” her mother mentioned. “I feel she feels she has so a lot more within her that she desires to turn the sector.”

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(Best picture of Grimes and her bronze medal from the 10-kilometer open water swim on the 2023 international championships in July: DBM / Insidefoto / Mondadori Portfolio by the use of Getty Pictures)

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