Janet Evans, who won three gold medals in the 1988 Olympics, announced Wednesday that she will forfeit her remaining eligibility at Stanford University.
Evans, 19, of Placentia said the main reason for leaving school was so she could train for the 1992 Olympics. However, she also said that her decision stemmed in part from new NCAA legislation.
The NCAA recently adopted a new policy that would allow swimmers to train 20 hours per week during the collegiate season and only eight hours per week during the off-season.
Evans said she trains up to 35 hours per week.
"I've heard that there were ways to get around it, but I just don't want to deal with that," Evans said. "I really don't know why the NCAA did it. It's very restrictive. I didn't want to spend the rest of my career worrying whether I trained one hour too much."
Evans made her announcement after an easy victory in the 800-meter freestyle at the U.S. Spring Nationals in Federal Way, Wash. It was the first day of the five-day meet.
She informed Stanford Coach Richard Quick of her decision after the NCAA championships last month. Evans, a communications major, said she planned to return to Stanford in the future to finish her education.
"I've been thinking about this for a while and made my decision last week," she said. "It was tough. Every decision I seem to make is a tough one. I'm going to miss all my friends and teammates at Stanford. But it came down to either staying in school and having fun or doing some serious training. I decided to train."
Considered the top distance swimmer in the world, Evans was overshadowed in the NCAA championships by Stanford teammate Summer Sanders.
Sanders, a freshman, won three events. Evans won two events, but finished second to Sanders in the 400 individual medley.
"I thought Janet might come to this decision," Quick said. "I don't think she was real pleased with the way she swam in the NCAAs. She also wasn't happy with her performance in the world championships, even though she won two gold medals. She didn't feel she was swimming as fast as she hoped."
Quick also said he was disappointed that Evans decided to leave school.
"I felt that she could stay at Stanford to continue education and prepare for the Olympics," Quick said. "But Janet feels it's real important to focus on her Olympic game effort."
After finishing her competition at the senior nationals, Evans said she will decide on a training site. She is now eligible to receive money from the U.S. Swimming Federation and the United States Olympic Committee.
Evans said she planned to accept money, which would make her ineligible for NCAA competition.
A graduate of El Dorado High School, Evans burst onto the international swim scene after her performance in the Goodwill Games in 1986. She won gold medals in the 800 freestyle, the 400 individual medley and the freestyle relay.
"I need to pick up my training and I wanted to get started in distance training," she said. "I need to work hard for the next year to get ready for the Olympics."