No Longer An Amateur, Ziegler Signs With Speedo

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Kate Ziegler has modeled her swimming career after Janet Evans , and yesterday the O'Connell High distance freestyler made two more moves in her idol's footsteps.

Ziegler, 17, signed with Evans's agent ( Evan Morgenstein ) and agreed to a long-term, professional contract with Speedo, the company Evans represents. Ziegler's deal with Speedo runs through the 2012 Olympics. Neither Speedo nor Morgenstein would reveal specific terms of the contract, but the swimmer had expected to sign an incentive-based deal with annual earnings that more than double the annual worth of a full college scholarship.

By giving up her amateur status, Ziegler made official a series of decisions she settled on months ago. She'll forfeit a college swimming career and instead remain close to her home in Great Falls and train for the 2008 Beijing Olympics with her club coach, Ray Benecki . Ziegler, a four-time All-Met swimmer, likely will enroll at George Mason as a full-time student next fall.

Ziegler launched her path to professionalism at the world championships in Montreal last summer, where she won gold medals in the 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle. She weighed contract offers from swimwear makers Speedo and Tyr, visiting both companies' showrooms during the winter. By choosing swimming's juggernaut company, Ziegler joined Speedo swimmers Michael Phelps , Natalie Coughlin and Amanda Beard .

"The next generation of swimming stars is emerging in time for Beijing," Speedo President Sheree Waterson said in a news release, "and Kate Ziegler is at the front of the class."

Ziegler's signing comes in the middle of an already-busy month for the high school senior. She spent the last week of March competing in Seattle at USA Swimming's Spring Championships. Then Ziegler flew directly to Shanghai, where she won three medals -- including gold in the 400-meter freestyle -- at the Short Course World Championships.

She'll spend next week at a Speedo promotional event in California before returning to O'Connell for the last two months of her senior year.

-- Eli Saslow

© 2006 The Washington Post Company