RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Kaleigh Gilchrist is all about water polo right now. When surfing joins the Olympics in 2020, well, check back with her closer to Tokyo.
The 24-year-old Gilchrist is a steady attacker for the U.S. women’s water polo team, favored to win a second straight gold medal in Rio de Janeiro. But she plans to try for a pro surfing career after the Olympics.
Surfing was among five sports approved by the IOC last Wednesday for the Tokyo Games, delighting Gilchrist even if she isn’t quite sure what it means for her just yet.
“I knew they were going to announce that day. I just didn’t know when, and my family texted me, ‘Did you hear the news? It’s happening. The surfing’s in the Olympics. 2020.'” Gilchrist said. “So I was kind of just overwhelmed with joy and you know it just made that long-term goal set and I am going to look for 2020.”
Asked if she was sure about the decision, Gilchrist left open the possibility of returning to the pool.
“It’s tough to say. I love water polo for sure,” she said after practice on Sunday. “It’s been a few years for me to admit it, but this is my passion. You know if things don’t go as planned you never know what’s going to happen. Just being a part of this Olympics is amazing, so we’ll see.”
Gilchrist’s father, Sandy, swam for the University of Southern California and competed for Canada in the Olympics.
Kaleigh Gilchrist grew up in the water, either in the pool for water polo or the beach for surfing. She starred in each sport, but began to think about surfing as a possible profession after she was selected for the USA Surf Team and then won the under-18 Surfing America USA Championship in 2009 and 2010.
She played college water polo for USC, helping the Trojans win the national championship in 2013.