Minnesota teen wants to attend Stanford University after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but there is a great price to pay. After winning her first race at the Phillips 66 U.S. championships, Regan Smith slipped into pink Crocs, looking like almost every other swimmer competing in the meet at Stanford University this week.
But Smith is not a usual swimmer. She is the latest sensation in U.S. swimming, America’s queen of the backstroke, and she also is the incarnation of a growing impasse facing teenage superstar swimmers. Smith is 17. Fans who want to watch the live-action of Olympic Swimming can get Olympic Swimming Tickets online.
Freshly completed World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Smith won two gold medals and set three world records and was forced to turn down the bonus money for the records. To do otherwise would be to sacrifice her incompetent status and her option to attend college on a scholarship.
For now, Smith plans to attend Stanford in 2020. However, she hopes to represent the United State in Tokyo 2020 Olympic next summer. And within lies the root of the issue.
A year before the Olympics is when sponsors come calling. With swimming has become one of the premier Olympic sports in America, promising athletes such as Smith face increasing pressure to choose a big income over education.
Smith said she had desired to attend Stanford since she was 10 years old. She was born in the Bay Area, where Paul Smith worked for Hewlett-Packard. His wife Kristi Smith was a financial officer for a San Francisco firm. Paul Smith remembered telling Regan that she had to decide how important it was to get accepted at Stanford, one of the country’s top academic schools.
Katie Ledecky, the biggest name in women’s swimming, made the disadvantage in 2016. She accepted a scholarship to Stanford, managed the Fundamental to NCAA championships in her freshman and sophomore years, and then turned pro in 2018. She has continued her education, taking classes at Stanford and training with the college team in a system permitted by NCAA officials.
Some opponents say it is not fair that a music student can get paid to perform outside of school while athletes are held to a different standard. To address such concerns, NCAA officials have made grants for Olympians. According to the NCAA website, college athletes now can accept prize money for medals from their country’s Olympics governing body without any limit.
Ledecky was able to keep the $355,000 in medal awards she won at the Rio Games while remaining eligible to compete for Stanford, according to USA Today. The five-time gold medal winner turned pro last year to take advantage of lucrative endorsement deals before the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Other Bay Area collegians also kept their earnings for winning gold medals in Rio, according to USA Today: Cal’s Ryan Murphy came away with $234,375; Stanford’s Simone Manuel almost $200,000. Overall, 17 American collegiate swimmers were allowed to keep about $1.5 million in prize money, the paper reported.
NCAA president Mark Emmert sounded an alarm in 2016 after it was reported that a University of Texas swimmer was given $740,000 from Singapore for winning a gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly.
“To be impeccably honest, it’s triggered everybody to say, well that’s not really what we were thinking about, Emmert said during a discussion about college sports at The Aspen Institute. So I don’t know where the members will go on that. That’s a little different than 15 grand for the silver medal for swimming for the US of A.”
Smith would keep any prize money for medals won at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. But she cannot accept the money she earned by setting world records in South Korea last month, more than a year before she would be a college student. It is an example of how complicated the rules are.
Smith became the swimmer of the instant last month after marvelous Franklin’s seven-year-old world record in the 200 backstrokes with a time of 2 minutes 3.35 seconds. She also devastated the 100 backstroke world record last Sunday with a time of 57.57 seconds in the leadoff leg of the women’s 400 medley relay to help the Americans win the race and set a relay world record.
The results could be surprising but not totally surprising, said her coach Mike Parratto, known for developing former Stanford star Jenny Thompson, who won 12 Olympic medals. Two years back, Smith finished eighth in the 200 backstrokes at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest. She arrived in South Korea expecting to do better.
“I just remember thinking if I can place higher and maybe squeeze in there for a medal for the USA, that would be unbelievable, Smith said this week after winning the 200 butterfly, her first senior national title, it still doesn’t feel like I’m at the level where I’m at, which is really crazy. But also, I really like where I’m at and I don’t want to lose the mindset … because I just feel like things could maybe go effortless if I lose that strong head on my shoulders.”
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