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Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky has new connection to Islanders

Katie Ledecky reacts after her finish in the

Katie Ledecky reacts after her finish in the women's 200-meter freestyle prelims during the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships at the Woollett Aquatic Center on Aug. 7, 2014 in Irvine, Calif. Credit: Getty Images / Harry How

It is said that Katie Ledecky has an iron will that fits perfectly atop her natural talent and tireless training. People on the international swimming circuit marvel at her mental strength, which, they say, has made her an Olympic gold-medal winner and a world record-holder.

Also, she has been such a devoted fan of the Washington Capitals that she reportedly is more fastidious about her collection of Adam Oates hockey cards than she is about her own vast collection of swimming trophies.

Little wonder that her uncle, Jon Ledecky, believed that he had his work cut out for him when he and former Harvard roommate Scott Malkin bought the Islanders.

"The big challenge for me is, can I convert Katie from a Capitals fan to an Islanders fan? I've already got the nephew, I've got her brother. He's got an Islanders player on his Facebook page. If I can get Katie to do the same, I know I've been successful," Ledecky said Wednesday after he and Malkin were formally introduced as current minority owners and future majority owners.

He did not have to worry. "He doesn't have to try so hard,'' Katie, 17, said on the phone from Bethesda, Maryland, after a day of her senior- year classes at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. "I love my Uncle Jon, so I'll definitely be an enthusiastic Islanders fan. When the Caps aren't playing the Islanders, I'll root for the Caps. But I'm really excited about the Islanders and my uncle's involvement with the team. I'll be a big supporter.

"Hockey has always been a family favorite,'' she added. "My dad and Jon loved hockey growing up. I grew up going to tons and tons of games. I'd go with my brother and we'd sit and keep score of the game.

"We love the NHL. I'm really excited. I think it's awesome. I'm older now and I know more about hockey, I know more about sports. I think it will be fun to go to some games with my uncle and follow him around."

In other words, she will be returning the favor. Jon was there at the 2012 London Games when his 15-year-old niece won gold in the 800-meter freestyle. While he was finishing the Islanders' sale this past summer, he followed her progress as she broke five world records in nine weeks.

"He's my dad's only sibling, so they're really close. He has been a huge part of my life, growing up," Katie said.

She was gracious in describing where she gets her steely resolve. "I've been asked that question pretty frequently over the past couple years, since the Olympics. I think a lot of it does have to do with my Uncle Jon," she said, referring to the years when Ledecky was a minority partner in the Capitals and Washington Wizards. "Just being around sports figures and watching the work they put in. I didn't play hockey, but I think there has to be something from there that translated over to my swimming success."

Her own skill and work ethic probably had more to do with it. Still, a zest for competition is in the DNA. In that way, the Ledecky-Malkin partnership is a throwback to the days of Roy Boe and John O. Pickett, when Islanders owners were sportsmen as well as businessmen.

Unlike at least some of the recent owners, who saw the Islanders as a channel to a Coliseum-area real estate bonanza, Ledecky and Malkin see it as a continuation of the dreams they had when they were skating up and down rinks.

"We both played, but Scott was better," Ledecky said.

Malkin, a center on club teams while he was earning diplomas from Harvard Business and Law Schools, said his hockey upbringing shaped his business career, rather than the other way around.

Katie has heard the stories about her dad, David, a lawyer, and Jon when they played roller hockey on the streets of Bayside, Queens, after their family moved from Brooklyn.

"My mom [Mary Gen, a former college swimmer] is from North Dakota, and hockey is pretty big out there, too. We've been following Brock Nelson, who went to the University of North Dakota," she said, referring to the Islanders forward.

The future Stanford student will be in New York next month for a Golden Goggles swimming award and will visit the Coliseum for a game against the Penguins -- a common nemesis for the Islanders and the Capitals. She will be proud of the man who will be hosting her.

"Jon is a great guy, he's a really hard worker,'' she said. "Speaking with him as he has gone through this deal, I know he really wants what's best for the fans. He's the kind of guy who would shake everybody's hand at the game if he could. He's a really enthusiastic and passionate person. And he loves hockey.

"I think the Islanders are in good hands with my uncle and Mr. Malkin."

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