Russian teenager Andrei Minakov is withdrawing the International Swimming League to preserve his NCAA eligibility, Swimming World Magazine reported Saturday.
Minakov, 17, was slated to swim for the star-studded Energy Standard team. ISL teams pay their athletes and the league features hefty prize payouts as one of its central tenets. NCAA athletes must be amateurs, meaning they cannot accept money for their performances (which the exception of Olympic medal money from their home nation).
“First of all, I would like to thank Energy Standard for this marvelous opportunity,” Minakov told Swimming World. “And good luck to the team during the meets! I cheer for you guys!”
“This decision was made by several reasons, but the main for them is that I want to save eligibility for my future NCAA career, he continued. “As I always say, life isn’t just about swimming.”
“I hope my withdraw won’t affect the team’s success.”
Minakov added that he intends to enroll at an American university after the 2020 Olympics. He spent stints in 2018 training with the Terrapins Swim Team in Concord, California. There, he trained with Maldovan Alexei Sancov, now a sophomore at USC, who did his last two years of high school in the States.
Minakov has spent most of 2019 training in Russia, according to Swimming World. He’ll continue to travel in the upcoming year, which he’ll take off from school, but hopes to spend “at least a month” in the U.S.
Minakov will be a huge addition to any NCAA program. He took second at the 2019 FINA World Championships over the summer in the 100 fly, going 50.83 to become the 14th-fastest performer in history. He also won six gold medals at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in the fall of 2018.