Olympic swimming medalist Katie Hoff is changing coasts in an effort to jump-start her stagnant career.
The Towson resident said yesterday that her decision to leave Baltimore and train in Fullerton, Calif., for the 2012 London Olympics leaves her anxious, excited, sad and more than a little nervous. That swirl of emotions is not unlike those of a freshman heading off to college, she said.
For Hoff, though, the stakes are higher. The 20-year-old Towson resident heads west next month to try to regain her form. At the Beijing Olympics, Hoff won a silver and two bronze medals but has mostly struggled since.
"I think it's time for a fresh start," she said. "Most people, after they're done with high school, they go off to college and they get that kind of change, but I've never really gotten that. I'm looking forward to it."
In California, Hoff will train at Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team, which this week was named by the U.S. Olympic Committee as one of two new professional and postgraduate training sites for elite-level swimmers working toward the 2012 Games.
The other new Olympic training site? The North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where Hoff is a member. There, she has trained with Michael Phelps, the 14-gold-medal winner who became a co-owner of the club last year.
"I'm definitely going to be sad because the NBAC has kind of been my second family," she said. But the chance to swim alongside world-class swimmers on the West Coast was an opportunity Hoff said she couldn't pass up.
"For a long time, I've never been able to train with women my age who are on the national team - and I think that will create a really strong and competitive environment" in California, she said. "I can't wait to get in the water when I get there.
"I think this is what I need to renew my excitement for the sport, and I'm just super-motivated for the next three years."
She leaves her coach, Bob Bowman, who has worked with Hoff since 2003. Bowman also runs the NBAC, which hopes to lure more world-class swimmers with its designation as an Olympic training venue.
That distinction brings with it a six-figure grant from the USOC, money that will allow the NBAC to upgrade its coaching staff and hire a full-time trainer.
Eight elite swimmers are now training at the club, including Phelps, Elizabeth Pelton, Brennan Morris and Felicia Lee. Getting the USOC's blessing means that others will follow, Bowman said. Never mind that the two other sites - in California and North Carolina - are in warmer climes more conducive to swimming.
"We haven't had trouble attracting people to Baltimore," he said. "They aren't coming here to go on vacation, they're coming here to get faster. And if that's not their goal, then we don't want them anyway."