Katie Ledecky Announces She’s Forgoing Final 2 Years of Eligibility to Turn Pro

“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to train and swim collegiately for two years alongside some of the greatest women swimmers of this generation—swimmers who are not just great athletes, but great people as well,” Ledecky said. “I am equally excited about the opportunities and challenges ahead as I continue to compete internationally and further my education.”

Katie Ledecky has announced she is turning pro, forgoing her final two years of NCAA eligibility with Stanford. The Bethesda, Maryland native tore up the NCAA during her two years on The Farm, winning 8 national titles and leaving behind NCAA records in the 500 free, 1000 free, 1650 free, 400 free relay, and 800 free relay.  As a collegian, she broke American records 11 times, NCAA records 15 times and NCAA meet records six times.

Ledecky made the announcement while speaking at the National Press Club in an interview that was broadcast live on C-SPAN 2. She said she will continue to take classes at Stanford and train with her Cardinal teammates but that her collegiate swimming career was over.

“I’ve had two really great years of college swimming, have been on an incredible team that’s won back-to-back national championships” she said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I feel like now is the right time for me to be making this transition and starting this next chapter.”

Ledecky’s timing makes perfect sense. The five-time Olympic gold medalist and the holder of multiple world records will now be able to focus her attention on preparing for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. She will no longer be constrained by NCAA rules dictating how much time she can spend in the pool, nor when she can work with coaches. She will also be free to concentrate on long-course meters training. Finally, Ledecky will be able to devise a competition schedule that fully supports her quest for Olympic gold in 2020.

The Post reported that Ledecky’s coach at Stanford, the Paul A. Violich Director of Women’s Swimming Greg Meehan, said in a telephone interview that turning pro at the midpoint of the Olympic cycle will give her time to adjust to life as a professional athlete. Meehan told The Post, “I think it takes a little bit of time to learn how to be a professional athlete and I don’t think the Olympic year is the time to do that. She can make the transition now, use the 2018-19 year as a transitional year and figure out how to operate day-to-day and week to week. Then we’ll get to summer of ‘19 through summer of 2020 and things will be in place and she can just do what she needs to do.”

In Stanford’s official press release, he added, “We are really excited for Katie as she moves on to the next stage of her career as a professional athlete. This is the right time for this transition, and we are thrilled she will continue her training at Stanford. Over the past two years, Katie has achieved unprecedented levels of success in the pool, but it’s her impact on our program as a whole which we will remember most. Katie brought a new level of training to our team, and helped the distance group become the most formidable in the country. I am most proud of Katie for embracing what it means to be a great teammate and a true student-athlete.”

With this announcement, she’ll join Stanford teammate Simone Manuel in going professional prior to exhausting her NCAA eligibility, just as former Cal swimmer Missy Franklin did in 2015.

Ledecky also announced that she’s declaring her major as psychology with a minor in Political Science.

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Hellie
4 years ago

How would she “continue to further her education” while withdrawing from Stanford? I’m sorry, I don’t care how fast you are-I think it’s a foolish mistake. A degree from Stanford would have been so worth it.

Admin
Reply to  Hellie
4 years ago

…because she’s not withdrawing from Stanford. She’s just not swimming on their swim team anymore.

Distance Swimmer
4 years ago

Good for her 🙂

bobo gigi
4 years ago

Good decision. A good thing to prepare Tokyo. I’d like to see her break the 400, 800 and 1500 free in SCM just for fun at a world cup meet or at next SCM world championships. I thought she would be back with Bruce Gemmell but she wants to finish her degree and that’s very respectable. Best wishes for the future.

sscommenter
4 years ago

Sad that she announced it on CSPAN-2 and the 72nd ranked high school basketball prospect gets a half hour on ESPN 2

sscommenter
Reply to  sscommenter
4 years ago

Shout out to her tho, a great ambassador for the sport, potential to really make a splash (sorry for the pun, I’ll launch myself into the sun) when a lot of your PR/Marketing can be done easily through social media/endorsement

AWSI DOOGER
4 years ago

Boring. She’s been increasingly boring and predictable lately. This merely adds to it. It could not have been more obvious at the NCAAs that this decision had been made long ago.

I had similar hopes that Lydia Ko would be different, in golf. She likewise was from an academic family and said all the right things about following Michelle Wie’s lead and attending college. It was going to be Stanford. Then Ko skipped college completely. Now she’s doing not much of anything on the LPGA.

Such a waste.

Katie is probably scared of the Chinese. She should be. Objects much closer than they appear. Two years is tons of time for those mid teenage monotonous hand picked Chinese to… Read more »

Yabo
Reply to  AWSI DOOGER
4 years ago

Wow.

Yozhik
Reply to  AWSI DOOGER
4 years ago

What would be the record in 800 that you consider much of something?
If you go just 4 years back in time you will find that whoever suggested the record of 8:04 was treated like an idiot in public opinion.
At what point do you predict Chinese teenagers will surpass Katie Ledecky? 8:11 – 8:13 is the cruise control pace for Ledecky. To beat her someone has to be under 8:10. To swim that fast the swimmer has to be able to swim under 4min 400 and under 1:55 200. By far there is no swimmer with such abilities on horizon.
As much as Sarah Sjostrom made 52 sec in 100free must swim time to be called… Read more »

Mike
Reply to  AWSI DOOGER
4 years ago

Katie isn’t afraid of anything. She is the best female freestyle distance swimmer of all time. As long as the competition at the 2020 olympics is on an equal playing field. (no peds for the chinese or Russians) and she stays healthy Katie will dominate again.

Yozhik
Reply to  Mike
4 years ago

You know MIKE, there is actually something in what AWSI DOOGER wrote. If to compare personal bests of Ledecky and any other swimmer then Katie is hugely superior. The point is that Ledecky has
20 of 25 best performances in 800, but only 3 of them under 8:10
16 of 25 best performances in 400, but only 1 of them under 3:58
8:10 and 3:58 doesn’t look astronomically far away to those who has their bests at 8:15 and 4:01 and are very young.

Baker-King-Worrell-Manuel
Reply to  Yozhik
4 years ago

Is there an European website you can troll? Your shtick has gotten old.

Yozhik
Reply to  Baker-King-Worrell-Manuel
4 years ago

How can i leave you – my most dedicated reader. Who else can inspire the best of you to create such a masterpiece 😀

Michael
4 years ago

Would love to hear some comments on this other article and the perspective they took:

https://www.yahoo.com/sports/katie-ledecky-turning-pro-shows-folly-ncaas-white-knuckle-grip-amateurism-170535023.html

Admin
Reply to  Michael
4 years ago

I think people are focusing too much on the money. I think this is as much about getting away from the distraction that is the NCAA as it is about the money. Taking classes on her schedule, studying on her schedule, training on her schedule, racing on her schedule, in long course…I think that’s what the real focus here is. 2 years of focused training for Tokyo.

Years of Plain Suck
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

Good decision, not surprised at all.

For what it’s worth: although Katie is not yet a Stanford graduate, she is already a Stanford ALUMNA. (Though it varies from college to college, at Stanford all it takes to be an alumnus is to have successfully completed three quarters of coursework.)

Anon
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

Completely agree. Katie isn’t turning pro for the money; it’s for the freedom to train as much as she wants and with whoever she wants. (I think there are restrictions to training with the men’s team since they have different coaches but Katie needs guys fast enough to beat her. Also, this allows her to take fewer classes. She’s a perfectionist (4.0!!) and would be too distracted with a full course load. Go katie!!!

OldCard
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

I agree. I think one of the factors with her decision to turn pro that’s not getting almost any attention is the NCAA limit of 20 hours per week on her training and “athletic related activities.”

In the distance events in which she excels, her up-and-coming competitors for the Tokyo Olympics are absolutely training more than that. And, Katie was almost certainly putting much more than 20 hours per week into her preparation leading up to London and Rio, too.

Baker-King-Worrell-Manuel
4 years ago

Yuri Suguiyama (USA) presentation on Katie Ledecky (800m free)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8CnERV-CpE

The Training of Katie Ledecky

mikeh
4 years ago

Good for her! My humble prediction: she will return to Nations Capitol, her club team, and former coach Bruce Gemmel, within a year. The Stanford coaches have not really proven they can help her get faster.

Yozhik
Reply to  mikeh
4 years ago

When she trained with boys she was much better. I’m not sure that coach Meehan can provide such an environment.
I remember when she first broke 4min in 400 in Barcelona her first reaction was an excitement that she’s beaten those boys back home.

mikeh
Reply to  Yozhik
4 years ago

I don’t know gat it’s a lack of good training partners. If I had to hazard a guess, it’s the stress of a full academic course load, significant dry land training, and challenging workouts every day. I would bet she is simply overloaded.

swimcoach
Reply to  mikeh
4 years ago

i think this hits it on the head. Meehan has proven that he is one of the best. Simone and Maya – both had incredible Olympics that he helped orchestrate. The only thing different is Katie is THE FRONTRUNNER.

Yozhik
Reply to  mikeh
4 years ago

Bruce Gemmell said that he would give a lot for the opportunity to train Katie Ledecky again. It isn’t unusual when an athlete breaks into tears after a great achievement in Olympic Games. But when it happens to the coach as well it is very touching and says a lot of how much heart and skills was put into his pupil’s success. Rio was their mutual masterpiece.
But Katie Ledecky isn’t a 16 years old girl any more that he started working with. She may need something different now. As she mentioned a year ago her training is more like a science now than just hard working for tough goals.
At least Missy Franklin’s return to her previous… Read more »

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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