Global swimming icon, sophomore Katie Ledecky has elected to forego two years of NCAA eligibility and become a professional athlete, the five-time Olympic gold medalist announced at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Her departure from the collegiate swimming world follows the women’s swimming and diving team’s second national championship, which the team secured earlier this month.
“I’ve had two really great years of college swimming, have been on an incredible team that’s won back-to-back national championships,” Ledecky told The Washington Post. “I feel like now is the right time for me to be making this transition and starting this next chapter.”
Ledecky will remain on campus to train for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with Greg Meehan, director of women’s swimming, and to finish her psychology degree.
As a professional athlete, Ledecky will be able to profit from corporate endorsement deals and make money both in competition and from a monthly USA Swimming training stipend.
In an email to the New York Times, Ledecky wrote that she had considered the decision since last summer and decided with Meehan that this year was the optimal time to move to professional swimming in anticipation of the 2020 Olympic Trials.
“I feel like having two years in this stage will prepare me in the best way for 2020,” she said.
In her two years on the Stanford team, Ledecky shattered NCAA and American records alike. At this month’s NCAA championships in Columbus, Ohio, she won the 500 freestyle by an unprecedented eight seconds. The team’s 2017 championship was its first national title in 19 years.
Despite her titles, Meehan said that Ledecky’s contributions to the team transcended the quantifiable.
“Katie brought a new level of training to our team and helped the distance group become the most formidable in the country,” he told The Times. “I am most proud of Katie for embracing what it means to be a great teammate and a true student-athlete.”
Contact Courtney Douglas at ccd4 ‘at’ stanford.edu.