Former local swim coach Rick Curl, 63, center, leaves Montgomery County Circuit Court on Thursday after entering a guilty plea in a child sexual abuse case. (Astrid Riecken/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Local former swim coach Rick Curl, whose namesake club became internationally renowned for its elite competitors, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of child sexual abuse involving one of his former swimmers, Kelley Currin, in the 1980s.

Sentencing is set for May 23. Curl, 63, faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Currin, now 43, traveled from Texas to attend Thursday morning’s hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville. When she entered the courtroom, she walked to the front row, sat down and immediately stared to her left to face Curl. The former coach, now with graying hair, sat across the aisle flanked by his wife, Linda, and three attorneys.

Curl later answered a series of questions from judge Marielsa Bernard related to his plea. He told the judge that he had been considering pleading guilty since December.

Currin did not speak in court, but prosecutors said she plans to deliver a victim impact statement at the sentencing.

The professional and personal events that led to Rick Curl’s legal downfall.

“I’ve told her over and over again that she’s a hero. A true hero,” Assistant State’s Attorney Debbie Feinstein said after the court proceedings.

“This is not a happy day for her. This is a difficult day,” she added.

More than a quarter of a century has passed since Curl initiated sexual contact with Currin.

In 1983, Curl, then 34, began kissing and fondling the 13-year-old swimmer, according to charging documents.

When Currin, formerly Kelley Davies, turned 15, the two began having sexual intercourse. The sexual contact continued until 1987, when she left the Montgomery area to swim at the University of Texas.

In 1989, Currin and her parents entered into a $150,000 confidentiality deal with Curl, agreeing not to discuss the coach’s sexual abuse.

Last summer, Currin decided that she wanted to come forward with the allegations against Curl. He was subsequently banned from USA Swimming, the sport’s governing body, and criminally charged.

In the decades after his sexual contact with Currin, Curl went on to coach several Olympic champions and world-record holders.

In the mid-2000s, he spent several years coaching at a swim club near Sydney.

His namesake organization, the Curl-Burke Swim Club, has since been renamed the Nation’s Capital Swim Club.

Chris Trevino contributed to this report.