PHOENIX, Arizona, January 4. KATIE Hoff is transitioning into life away from the pool in 2013, having quietly retired from competitive swimming.
Hoff made the announcement in a very subtle way today on Facebook, mentioning that she was moving to Miami this weekend. Her former coach, Paul Yetter, confirmed that Hoff has retired from the sport, adding that Hoff will be enrolling at the University of Miami.
"Everyone at T2 Aquatics is excited for Katie to take the next step in her life, and we wish her the best," Yetter told Swimming World.
The public confirmation of Hoff's retirement comes six months after her final competition, the U.S. Olympic Trials. Hoff was struck with food poisoning the day before her first race in Omaha, and was unable to secure a spot on the Olympic team in the 200, 400 or 800 freestyles.
Despite her career not ending as she may have hoped, Hoff amassed an astonishing list of accomplishments in the pool. She first competed in the Olympics in 2004 as a 15-year-old, making the team in the individual medley events. Her first Olympic experience wasn't a good one, as she suffered in the heats of the 400 IM and collapsed on the deck after the race, citing heat exhaustion in the humid Athens sun. She rallied to make the final of the 200 IM and placed fifth.
Hoff's star continued to rise in 2005, when she won her first world championship titles in 2005, sweeping the individual medley events and also swimming on the winning 800 free relay.
Though she was briefly displaced at the top of the mountain in 2006 in the 200 IM when Whitney Myers triumphed in the event at the Pan Pacific championships, Hoff was back in winning form at the 2007 world championships, where she again swept the individual medley events. Though the wins were mostly expected, her world record performance in the 400 IM was not. Hoff swam a 4:32.89 clipped five tenths off Yana Klochkova's six-year-old record.
Video footage of Katie Hoff's 400 IM world record in 2007:
The following year, Hoff swam in the final of the 400 IM at the Olympic Trials determined to reclaim the world record Stephanie Rice had snatched from her at the Olympic Trials. Her time of 4:31.12 was deemed insurmountable, though Rice would reclaim the record at the Olympics.
Video footage of Katie Hoff's 400 IM world record in 2008:
The swimming public put the weight of the world on Hoff's shoulders at the Beijing Olympics. The media had dubbed her the "female Phelps," since she was taking on a large amount of swimming in the Water Cube: five individual events and a relay. Hoff was unable to keep up with the mano-a-mano between Rice and Kirsty Coventry in the 400 IM, winning a bronze medal. She would return the following day in the 400 free final, leading by a body length at 350 meters. But Rebecca Adlington got to the wall first, knocking Hoff down to silver by .07.
Her other medal from Beijing came in the 800 freestyle relay. Hoff was unable to get on the podium in the 200 freestyle, on a difficult day that also included the 200 IM final in which she placed fourth. Hoff struggled in her final event of the Olympics, placing eleventh.
Hoff was one of the few swimmers to become a professional swimmer before her collegiate years, so we'll never know how she would have fared in NCAA competition. After the 2008 Olympics, she uprooted from Baltimore to sunny southern California to train with the postgraduate group at FAST in Fullerton. She remained there until last summer, when she returned to Yetter, who was starting a new job as head coach at T2 Aquatics in Naples, Fla., after coaching for a year at Auburn.
In 2010, Hoff had a resurgence of sorts, winning national titles and participating in the Pan Pacific championships. She made the final of the 400 free and helped the United States win gold in the 800 free relay at the 2011 world championships, prompting discussion that Hoff would return to her glory days of 2008 in time for the 2012 Olympic Trials.
Hoff's presence is still felt in the sport. Her short course yards American records in the 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyles have become a benchmark for newly-minted distance queen Katie Ledecky, and her time of 4:31.12 in the 400 IM still stands as the American record.
Though Hoff had previously juggled responsibilities as a swimmer and student while training in Fullerton, she'll be able to fully focus on the classroom.
Perspective by Jeff Commings
Katie Hoff is one of those swimmers whose name will be forever remembered in the sport of swimming, and it's not just because of her accomplishments in the pool. She brought lots of life to pool decks, prompting young girls to want her autograph and pose for pictures with her.
I remember watching Hoff break the world record in the 400 IM at the 2008 Olympic Trials, and I was amazed. Like many people, I questioned her decision to tackle five challenging events, including a 200 free-200 IM double. But she pulled it off as best she could, and Hoff never deserved any bad press about her results in Beijing.
When I first heard of Hoff's retirement, I suppose I should have been a little less surprised, given that she hasn't competed in six months. But it's never easy to say goodbye to the sport's greats when they move on, and Katie Hoff is one of them.
People have lots of memories of Katie Hoff through the years. Feel free to share yours in the comments section below.