National Press Club

Swimmer Ledecky tells National Press Club Headliners Luncheon she's going pro

March 26, 2018 | By Bill McCloskey |

National Press Club President Andrea Edney, left, presents a Club mug to Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky at a Club Headliners Luncheon on March 26.

National Press Club President Andrea Edney, left, presents a Club mug to Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky at a Club Headliners Luncheon on March 26.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Olympic gold-medal swimmer Katie Ledecky is giving up her last two years of college-team eligibility to turn pro so she can enhance her focus on preparing for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, she told a National Press Club Headliners Luncheon on March 26.

A native of Bethesda, Maryland, Ledecky said turning pro will allow her to accept paid endorsements and sponsorships, and relieve her of competing in NCAA events.

Ledecky waited for her spring break from Stanford University to make the announcement so she could return home and do it at the Club, she said. She credited her parents, who were at the head table, and Stanford Swimming Coach Greg Meehan with helping her to make the decision to turn pro.

Stanford won the NCAA Division I Women’s national swimming championship both years that Ledecky was on the team. Ledecky's team was swimming in the championships on her 21st birthday.

Ledecky said she plans to continue her studies at Stanford and is close to declaring psychology as her major and pursuing a minor in political science.

Introduced as a woman who was "born with pool water" in her veins because her mother was also a highly-regarded collegiate swimmer, the 21-year-old summarized her swimming philosophy succinctly -- "It's fun to swim fast."

Asked her advice for summer-league swimmers, Ledecky was equally succinct -- "Keep pushing the boundaries" and "have fun." Several teen-aged swimmers on spring break were in attendance and crowded around the gold medalist to take endless selfies during the pre-lunch reception.

As for pushing boundaries, Ledecky said, "I always try to set goals that seem far fetched." She explained, "It is so satisfying and rewarding when you start chipping away at the list." She revealed she had a set of goals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, but she was not going to announce them.

As for keeping herself challenged she said she remembers "every time I get up on the blocks, I'm racing the current world-record holder," referring to herself.

Looking ahead, Ledecky said she'd recommend the same goal-setting process for business and school. "That lesson can be applied to so many different things."

Ledecky pronounced herself pleased that her Stanford classmates "engaged with me as a student," which allowed her to focus on her studies, but she said when she returns home from the Stanford "bubble," she realizes she misses the "busy-ness" of the D.C. area.

In answering questions, the two-time Olympian returned to saying "how cool" it was to be in the Olympic Village. And, returning to the Stanford connection she told of a Swiss Olympic golfer who approached her in the cafeteria in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 to tell her that he was going to go to Stanford.

Reflecting to how she became involved in community service during her high school days at Stone Ridge School in Bethesda, she mentioned visits to patients at Children's Hospital in Washington: "I'm always amazed at the power of a gold medal" as the kids touch it and try it on.

She now has the "coveted" National Press Club coffee mug to go with her swimming trophies.