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Katie Ledecky moving training base to University of Florida with eye on future Olympics

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At the recent Tokyo Olympics, 24-year-old American swimming star Katie Ledecky was adamant that she was not even considering retiring, but instead was moving full steam ahead for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, and perhaps even for Los Angeles in 2028.

She backed up those words in a major way Wednesday morning by announcing that she was leaving her Stanford training base to move to the University of Florida, where she will swim with highly regarded coach Anthony Nesty and his world-class stable of male distance and middle-distance swimmers, including double Olympic gold medalist Bobby Finke.

“I think I always benefit from training with the guys,” Ledecky said in a phone interview with USA TODAY Sports after making the announcement, “so I’ll be able to do that very consistently down in Florida with athletes who have similar goals that I do to compete on the international level in those events. They have a very deep group of male distance and mid-distance swimmers and I’m really excited about that.”

In addition to Finke, who was the surprising male long-distance swimming star of the Olympics, winning the same two events Ledecky did on the women’s side, Ledecky also will train with Kieran Smith, the men’s 400 freestyle bronze medalist.

“I had the opportunity to swim with them a little bit in the training camps between (the U.S. Olympic) trials and the Games and felt like that really helped me in many ways just having the opportunity to race in practice against those guys,” she said. “Hopefully we can continue to compete at that high level and push each other to get better in and out of the pool.”

She added with a laugh, “I hope that I can push them. I don’t know, I don’t take that for granted. At the very least, I hope I can add to the energy around that group and what we can do in practice together.”

Ledecky, the most decorated female swimmer of all time, said that while she loved her time at Stanford, where she earned her college degree, she wanted to be nearer to her family in the Washington, D.C., area.

“Being closer to home was the biggest thing,” she said. “I wanted to be closer to family, be a lot closer, so I was just looking at where I could do that on the East Coast and also have a really great training environment. I felt like this was a really great opportunity.”

Ledecky is coming off a very successful Olympic Games where she earned two gold medals and two silver medals. She won the 800-meter freestyle for the third consecutive Olympic Games as well as the inaugural women’s 1,500 freestyle. She won a silver medal in the highly anticipated 400 free against Australia’s Ariarne Titmus, who captured the gold, as well as anchoring the U.S. team to a silver medal in the 4x200 free relay.

With 10 total Olympic medals, Ledecky now is one of only seven female swimmers to have reached that mark in their Olympic careers, and her six individual gold medals is more than any other woman in Olympic swimming history.

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Yet when she was finished in Tokyo, she immediately faced questions about if she was retiring from the sport.

“I kind of laughed at the retirement thing today because I was surprised that that word even came up because I think I’ve been pretty clear that 2024 is in the picture for me,” she said in Tokyo in a post-competition press conference. “I’d bring 2028 up but I want to make it clear that I’m not promising anything.

“I want to go to Paris and I want to keep representing our country at this level. It would be an honor to go to a fourth Games and it would be an honor to go to a fifth Games and compete on home soil. I know how unique that is and how special that is to the people that get to do that. It’s out there. Maybe I’ll just be in the stands in L.A., who knows?”

Whatever the case, Ledecky believes she can get better and faster with the next Summer Olympics now less than three years away.

“I hope so,” she said Wednesday over the phone. “I don’t see why not. That’s always the goal. Coach Nesty believes I can and I believe I can.

“I’m not thinking about age or anything. I think I still have opportunities to grow and get better in the sport and I feel like I’m putting myself in the position to do that.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2024 Paris: Katie Ledecky moving to Florida with eye on next Olympics