By Julia Matteson
Three Olympic athletes from Bethesda were celebrated August 24th at Bethesda Metro with speeches from local leaders. They include gold medal swimmer Katie Ledecky, three-time Olympian Slalom kayaker Scott Parsons, and Julie Zetlin, the only American to represent the U.S. in rhythmic gymnastics.
A large crowd of friends, family and admirers came together to hear Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Montgomery County Council President, Roger Berliner honor the three athletes as well as get autographs signed and hear the Olympians thank the community of Bethesda for their support.
“There is something magical about sports that pull the community together. This doesn’t happen by accident. It happens from hard work year after year after year,” said Berliner.
Katie Ledecky has lived in Bethesda her whole life, swimming for her summer pool the Palisades, training with CUBU Swim Club, and swimming for her high school team Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart.
In London, Ledecky swam a 8:14:36 in the 800 free, just shy of the world record by 0.53 seconds, but beat Rebecca Adlington, defending Olympic and world champion and gold medal favorite. Katie Ledecky, the youngest American swimmer at just 15, took home her first gold medal and inspired many young athletes.
“She inspires me to do more, I feel like since she did it is possible for me and other around me. She shows dedication and it is something I really envy,” said Graham Baird, teammate and friend of Katie Ledecky.
Scott Parsons is a three-time Olympic slalom kayaker who moved to Bethesda after high school to dedicate himself to his Olympic career, practicing on the Potomac River and training at Dickerson Whitewater course just outside of Washington, DC day in and day out. Parsons came in first at the 2012 Olympic team trials but finished 16th in London; he is undecided on whether he will participate in the 2016 games in Brazil.
“I’m not sure where the future is going to take me but I will always consider Bethesda my home and a very special place,” said Parsons in his speech at the ceremony.
Julie Zetlin, Bethesda native and Walt Whitman High School alum, was the only Rhythmic Gymnast to represent the U.S. in London. Zetlin has been doing rhythmic gymnastics since she was four, training at Capital Rhythmics in Darnestown, Maryland. In London, her first Olympics, she came in 21st in the all round competition.
“We need another Bethesda Olympian so work hard and don’t ever let anyone tell you can’t accomplish something, just got for it,” said Zetlin during the ceremony
Bethesda eyes were glued to the TV for an incredible two weeks watching their hometown athletes compete and succeed. Their success has inspired many young local athletes to work hard and accomplish their goals.
“They have demonstrated to us all what it means to be totally dedicated to big dreams and to achieve them. We are all very, very proud of our hometown Olympians,” said Berliner.