Katie Ledecky proved to be one of the biggest stars of the 2016 Rio Olympics with her dominance in the pool.
While that type of performance, most athletes would be preparing to cash in on their newfound popularity. But for Ledecky, she has chosen to pass up the millions for now. Instead, she will enroll at Stanford and continue to compete as an amateur.
Ledecky was a guest on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” and explained that she simply wants the college experience. She was also asked if it was a difficult decision.
“No it wasn’t,” said Ledecky. “I’ve always wanted to swim collegiately and have that experience. I think it is going to be a lot of fun to be on a team with some really great friends and great swimmers and also just go to class with them.”
Ledecky delayed her enrollment for a year in order to concentrate on the Olympics. She is also going to part of a pretty impressive swim team that will also include Olympic medalists Simone Manuel and Lia Neal.
“I know we have a really great team and I am excited to get to Stanford and see what we can do,” Ledecky said.
As for what Ledecky is passing up, it is a lot.
In an interview with Philip Hersh of ESPN.com prior to the Rio games, Olympic sports marketing expert Bob Dorfman estimated that Ledecky could make $5 million annually in endorsements with a strong performance in Rio.
“With a strong shot at four golds [she won 4 golds and 1 silver], Ledecky would be the aquatic darling of the Games and could command as much as $5 million annually in endorsement income by turning pro — especially given that at just age 19, she has the opportunity to win gold in two, or even three more Olympic games and could become the female Michael Phelps,” Dorfman told Hersh. “Obviously the challenge is maintaining high visibility during non-Olympic years, but with her personality and likability, combined with the ever-growing influence of social media, the potential for longer-term deals is there.”
There is still plenty of time for Ledecky. She will clearly be back in 2020 and will be ready to turn pro around the same time. Another strong performance there, as expected, and she will eventually cash in. But at 19, her earning potential may never be higher than it is right now, and still, she just wants to go be a college student.
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