Katie Ledecky on Her Future Plans: “I’m Trying to Stay in the Present”

The question of turning pro is a natural one to ask of Katie Ledecky, given her international accolades and endemic celebrity.

Ledecky, whose collegiate stardom and professional prospects might best be compared to at least that of former Cal Golden Bear Missy Franklin‘s, has not implied that she will be going pro after her sophomore year as Franklin did. In her interview after Stanford won the 2018 NCAA D1 National Championship Saturday night, Ledecky emphasized that she’s focused on school for the time being and hasn’t given much thought to what the future might hold beyond this semester (or quarter, rather).

“I have a final exam on Monday — that’s about as far into the future as I’m looking,” she said. “I’m trying to stay in the present, and right now the present is that we just won a national championship. And I’m going to enjoy that.”

The move to turn professional is a hotly- and oft-debated subject on our site. Though many factors are surely in-play, it’s notable that Ledecky’s family has a history of Ivy League-level education, and her academic aspirations and success are no secret.

If this was Ledecky’s final meet in the NCAA, she’d end her career as an 8-time NCAA champion, 10-time All-American, seven-time Pac-12 champion, was the 2017 Honda Cup Award Winner, earned 2017 CSCAA Scholar All-America honors, and was the 2017 Pac-12 Swimming Newcomer of the Year. She was the first NCAA swimmer in 29 years to capture individual event titles in the 200, 500 and 1650 freestyles at a single NCAA Championships (2017), and has broken American records 10 times, NCAA records 13 times and NCAA meet records four times since she began in at Stanford in 2016.

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Ella
4 years ago

Of the money that Katie could make between now and the end of 2020 if she were to go pro today, well over 90% of that would come AFTER NCAAs her senior year… assuming she swims well at the 2020 Games.

She should do what she wants, but I certainly do not think the decision should be about money. If it is that is not very logical. If she is worried about injury or some sudden other situation, NCAA athletes are allowed to get insurance for that.

Jim C
Reply to  Ella
4 years ago

Ledecky skipped a year to prepare for the 2016 games. She will almost certainly not be able to perform her best in 2020 unless she does the same. My guess is that she comes back for her Junior year, and then goes pro since she is not going to swim for Stanford in 2019-2020 in any case.

MASTERSWIM
4 years ago

I’d like to add that Ledecky is probably the most poised and unique young lady that I’ve ever heard speak and seen act. She has to be one of the most internally driven people in sport to succeed, yet she has the ability to filter that drive out when the public sees and listens to her.

Mature beyond her years and a very unique individual.

So impressed.

ADSF
4 years ago

bShe has always given great interviews with praises to others and is very humble…yet set high expectations for herself.

I guess her goals would be to break 15-barrier in 1650, 4.20 barrier in 500, Missy’s record in 200 and now Ella’s record in 400IM before turning pro.

iLikePsych
Reply to  ADSF
4 years ago

Surprised at the number of downvotes but I’d think people are disagreeing with the goals you set. I’m sure 15 minutes is up there, but 4:20 is near impossible especially with her improvement rate now (dropping 4 seconds in a 500 would be like her going 14:50 in the mile). The 200 and 400 IM records might be possible, but probably not both

Yozhik
Reply to  ADSF
4 years ago

@ADSF:
That is how her goals looked like when she came to the Stanford campus in 2016 with the fresh memories of huge success with 1:53.7, 3:56 and 8:04
Three in a row unsuccessful taperings bring us the question: what the Hell are we witnessing. Is it something uncontrollable going on within Katie’s body making her not susceptible to the standard coaching technique to bust temporary her performance or is it inappropriate to her training environment or it is a coaching style that doesn’t fit her swimming phenomenon.
The answer on this question may determine her next step.
She may not for the records any more. She is strong enough to the level that even half… Read more »

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

Hogwash!

Katie Ledecky reset the record in the women’s 1650 freestyle (SCY) on 18 Nov 2017.

Katinka Hosszu was a flop at the 2012 London Olympics unlike Katie Ledecky. Katinka Hosszu did not set the world record in the 200 metres individual medley (LCM) until the age of 26 (03 Aug 2015). Katinka Hosszu did not set the world record in the 400 metres individual medley (LCM) until the age of 27 (06 Aug 2016). Katinka Hosszu has two LCM world records and only two LCM world records to her name.

Please enlighten us all how many LCM world records has Katie Ledecky set?

Katie Ledecky deferred a year entry to Stanford to specifically train LCM for the 2016 Rio… Read more »

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

BAKER-KING-WORRELL-MANUEL, it is either I cannot explain my point clearly in English or you just have no desire to understand someone else’s point. If later is true then no enlightenment will help. If Katie Ledecky follows Hosszu’s business model visiting any possible meet that pays money she will have no problem to earn $1 million prize money in 2-3 years. And no extra efforts would be need to win at any freestyle events excluding 50, im events, and, depending on the field strength, fly. It won’t be even considered a practice like exercise. The only issue would be minimizing travel and supporting team expenses. I don’t think anybody wants to see Katie in this role.

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

Katinka Hosszú? Katinka Hosszú was a flop at the 2012 London Olympics unlike Katie Ledecky (8:14.63 was the second fastest all time performance in the women’s 800 m freestyle dated July 28, 2012).

Katinka Hosszú did not post the world record in the women’s 200 m individual medley until the age of 26 (August 3, 2015). Katinka Hosszú did not post the world record in the women’s 400 m individual medley until the age of 27 (August 6, 2016). Katinka Hosszú has posted two and only two LCM world records. How many LCM world records has Katie Ledecky posted?

Katie Ledecky posted the second fastest all time performance in the women’s 400 m freestyle at the 2017 FINA World Championships.… Read more »

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

How about some perspective?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pivXUhLwfbo

AWSI DOOGER
4 years ago

Voice cracking several times = good as gone.

Earlier hint, as I mentioned in the Day 4 Finals thread, was when Katie said after the 1650 that she was having the most fun of any meet ever. That means she’s soaking it in, knowing it’s the last of its kind.

I hope Katie changes her mind but it’s obvious where she’s trending right now. It sounds like a college football junior after a bowl game.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  AWSI DOOGER
4 years ago

My voice would be cracking, too, if I’d just swum a 1650 on the final day of NCAAs.

Togger
4 years ago

As someone who doesn’t live in the US, how well is KL known to the wider public?

I know over here swimming success alone doesn’t always mean fame, Adlington is still more well known than Peaty, which significantly reduces the pool of potential sponsors open to pros.

Sccoach
Reply to  Togger
4 years ago

Ledecky will for sure make money as a pro. Everyone knows who she is but non swim people don’t pay attention to swimming at all until Olympic time comes. People know Ledecky, Franklin, Phelps, and Lochte… people probably know Manuel but it’s close. I don’t think people know Dressell yet. He made some headlines after Worlds but I’m assuming most people outside of Florida don’t remember him.

For the less well known former olympians and post grads who are training for the Olympics, most can at least get swim brand sponsorships which is good enough but nothing that will make them rich.

Togger
Reply to  Sccoach
4 years ago

Thanks!

I thought she probably would be, US swimming seems well covered at Olympic time (here it tends to be overshadowed by rowing and cycling), but just wondered if she was in a position to get sponsors besides a big suit deal.

Gator
Reply to  Togger
4 years ago

She is a rockstar among the swim community on the street but most people would not recognize her on the street. Maybe swimming will get to wide range public recognition some day but not yet (except mr phelps)

Admin
Reply to  Togger
4 years ago

I usually have a pretty good gauge of this, because besides my work in the wet world, I have a day job at a Fortune 500 (oil and gas pipeline) company.

The people with kids who are USA Swimmers, even if they’re not serious USA Swimmers (never leave the city for meets), know basically who she is.
The serious sports nerds, even if they’re not swim nerds, know who she is in passing “that really fast distance swimmer.”
Most of the rest of the sports fans know her by reputation if not name.
The non sports fans haven’t usually heard of her.

She’s probably still a step below Missy in terms of ‘on the street’ recognition, after… Read more »

Sccoach
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

It does annoy me to the moon when the networks play in to the swim fame bs for ratings. Examples: Rowdy only talking about Ledecky and nobody else for an entire mile. Ella and Simone getting interviewed after the relay while Hu and Drabot stand out of the camera shot.

It makes sense when non swim people are in charge of the broadcast but Rowdy should know better at this point. I really think he is a good ambassador but he has a responsibility to do a better job promoting the sport as a whole and not just the usual swim stars.

James
Reply to  Sccoach
4 years ago

I think it was a waste for her not to have gone pro before Rio. Missy got by far the most name recognition at the games, but unfortunately didn’t have the performances to quite live up to the billing. Katie had a legendary performance, and could have used the heavy media exposure and the sponsorships right after the games

I get the college arguments, and the value of going to college. But take the money and run, it can only last so long as a swimmer.

mikeh
Reply to  James
4 years ago

I agree. She should go pro now. She is not getting faster at Stanford. In two more years he world may have begun to catch up with her.

Swimmingly
Reply to  mikeh
4 years ago

She was so fast ,on top of the world going into Stanford.

Tm71
Reply to  mikeh
4 years ago

Agree she should go pro and even more importantly return to train with Gemmell!

Walter
Reply to  Tm71
4 years ago

Because that move has worked out so well for others.

Sccoach
Reply to  James
4 years ago

I don’t know exactly how much the family is worth but its been pointed out many times that the Ledecky’s are wealthy. At this point I think Katie is going to make a decision that is good for her swimming career and brings her the most happiness, I don’t think leaving to make money will be a big factor into her decision

Her uncle is worth 350 mil

Togger
Reply to  Sccoach
4 years ago

Depends how close they are to him though.

David, her father, used to work at the same firm as I do and would have been earning approx. four to six hundred thousand dollars as a DC Litigation Of Counsel back in 2011. That was some time ago though and presumably the family’s been paying school fees, mortgage etc. ever since, so they might not be in a position that Katie can turn down lucrative sponsorship offers without a thought to the financial impact.

Sccoach
Reply to  Togger
4 years ago

There were articles that she turned down sponsorship opportunities after the Olympics in the 5-10mil range, I’d honestly surprised if the family wasn’t doing ok if she is turning deals like that down

Yozhik
Reply to  Sccoach
4 years ago

Does it goes all to her? Wow!

Togger
Reply to  Sccoach
4 years ago

I think this happens in all individual sports to an extent though, most of us who are also general sports fans are probably guilty of reading an article about track, tennis or golf because it mentions Bolt, Federer or Tiger.

Tougue in Cheek
Reply to  Sccoach
4 years ago

I agreed with you SCCOACH. It time for Rowdy to be replaced. I used to love him and his passion, but his commentaries have become “screaming and annoying” presentations. He needs to tone it down “several octaves” and broaden the sport and its personalities. Focusing on one or two swimmer on a telecast doesn’t grow the sport.NBC’s need to either rethink their approach using Rowdy or replace Rowdy with a new fresh face to present swimming to the next generation.

pvdh
4 years ago

ahh yes, the “I dont wanna answer that question truthfully” response lol

Sccoach
4 years ago

That’s a very lebronesque statement. She’s probably going pro

Lpman
4 years ago
Steve Nolan
Reply to  Lpman
4 years ago

Very disappointed this wasn’t https://youtu.be/-WCFUGCOLLU

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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