After winning a second straight NCAA championship swimming for Stanford earlier this month, Maryland native Katie Ledecky is turning pro.
The five-time Olympic gold medalist from Bethesda said she will continue taking classes at Stanford, where she’s majoring in psychology.
“I am foregoing the remaining two years of collegiate eligibility and will be focusing on my training and accepting professional endorsements and sponsorships,” Ledecky said.
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The decision frees her from the NCAA restrictions on practice time, allowing her to train hard for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I'm really looking forward to these next couple of years leading up to 2020, and hopefully putting myself in the best position to compete well in 2020," she said.
Ledecky, 21, made the announcement at a luncheon at the National Press Club Monday afternoon.
“I wanted to do this here in my home town because there are so many people here that I really care about and how have helped me get to this point,” she said.
Ledecky won the only event she swam at the 2012 Olympics — the 800m freestyle.
After graduating from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in 2015, she took a gap year leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she won gold in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 4x200m freestyles. She earned a silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
Ledecky was named the AP Female Athlete of the Year in December after winning five golds and a silver at the World Championships last summer. That brought her career total to 14 World Championships golds.
She's also broken 13 world records.
“I never would have thought when I started swimming when I was 6 that I would become a professional swimmer, but the truth of the matter is nothing’s changed, really, in my approach to the sport,” she said. “I do it because I love it and I encourage all young kids to pursue what they love.”
Ledecky attributes her success to her “want times.”
“When I was 6 years old and throughout my swimming career I’ve always set goals for myself and I used to call them want times — the times I wanted to achieve in a different meet or in a certain race, and that’s what I’ve continued to do,” Ledecky said.