Katie Ledecky made history at the Tokyo Olympics as the first woman to win six individual gold medals in swimming.
And what's sweeter than celebrating her victories with her loved ones upon returning to the States? Being greeted at the airport by her mom who had a cookie in hand.
Now back home, the 24-year-old three-time Olympian tells PEOPLE about her latest Olympic accomplishments and explains why she has yet to reflect on her history-making feat after a "really great experience" in Japan.
Looking back at her five weeks in Tokyo, which included training camp and competitions, Ledecky says she not only enjoyed the races and winning medals "but also being with my teammates and being a part of a really special swim team."
Elaborating on the pandemic-delayed Games, Ledecky, who made her Olympic debut at age 15, shares: "We really got to know each other very well and had a lot of fun together experiencing it. We had a lot of rookies on our team, and so to see them experience the Olympics for the first time was a lot of fun. And the third Olympics for me was just as much fun as the first. I tried to just soak it all in and enjoy each day of the competition and the time in the village."
This year, Ledecky, a specialist at distance freestyle events, won gold in the women's 800m and 1500m freestyle races as well as a silver in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay and women's 400m freestyle — bringing her grand total to 10 medals (seven golds and three silvers) across three Olympics (Tokyo, Rio and London).
"I don't think any of it will really sink in until I'm removed from my competitive swimming career and can really look back on all of it," Ledecky says of her legacy and considering herself a GOAT (greatest of all time) in swimming and women's sports.
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Katie Ledecky
"I don't know if the very first gold medal I won in London has even sunk in yet. I'm trying to let it sink in," she says. "I'm trying to just enjoy it with my family, friends and everyone. I think as time goes by, it'll start to sink in more."
And Ledecky says winning silver can be just as sweet as getting gold. "It really is a great accomplishment to win any medal at the Olympics, let alone just to be at the Olympics is an accomplishment. I was very proud of both of my silver medals, and my performances in those races," she explains, adding, "It's something that we should all celebrate."
After winning her last Tokyo race, the 800m freestyle, reporters immediately asked Ledecky about whether or not she would compete in the next Olympics.
"Everyone wants to know about the next one, and so I can say with confidence that I'm definitely targeting Paris in 2024," she shares with PEOPLE. "And we'll go from there. You can ask me about 2028 in 2024, but I can say with pretty good confidence that I'm going through 2024. It's exciting."
For now, Ledecky says she will take a "little bit of a break in the short term" to relish her impressive achievements. But being a world-renowned swimmer, the pool is never far from her mind.
"After a little bit of time out of the water, I'm going to start getting eager to get back in. And in the coming weeks, I'll start getting that itch to set some new goals and to get back into the hard training," she says. "But for right now, I'm just going to let it sit, not set any goals for myself. Just take a bit of a breather, be able to go in fresh and ready to get back to work."
So what does a short break look like for Ledecky? It again involves the water.
"I always find myself back around the pool," she explains with a laugh. "I'll probably hang out at the pool and enjoy just some time around the pool without hard training, and just enjoy some of that. I love being around the water and I know that once it's time to get back into training, I'll be ready."
When she's not in or near a pool, Ledecky, who is a Visa ambassador and touts her Wells Fargo Active Cash Card partnership, has been watching other athletes compete in the Games.
"I watched my Team Visa teammate, Noah Lyles compete in the 100m and win bronze. He's become a good friend of mine. So that was a lot of fun," she says of the recent event she watched on TV.
As for what her next purchase might be, Ledecky says it will center around thanking her loved ones.
"I'm excited to be with family and friends over these next couple of weeks since we'll be taking a little bit of a break. I'm excited to treat my family to a good dinner somewhere," she shares. "I love some good pizza so maybe at our favorite pizza spots in the D.C., Maryland area. Just going to enjoy these next couple of weeks, use my Wells Fargo card and just enjoy being with my family."
Ledecky, who has been turning her golden career and well-deserved medals into money through sponsorships, adds, "I try to be really smart with my money and they make it simple."
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.