Elizabeth Beisel: Swimming Toward the Gold!
Elizabeth Beisel is just like any other college student—with good grades, a healthy social life, and four international medals to represent her competitive swimming career! Okay, so maybe she isn’t your average Jo. At the age of 15, Rhode Island native Beisel traveled to Beijing, China to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics as the youngest member of the U.S. swim team. Four years later and still training hard to hone her skills as an athletic powerhouse, 19-year-old Beisel has moved from her home team of the Bluefish Swim Club in Attleboro, Massachusetts to the University of Florida Gators, and she’s looking to take London by storm in the 2012 Summer Olympics. With world championship titles and Olympic experience already under her belt, Beisel is a strong contender to go for the gold again this year. Beisel spoke with editorial intern Kate Szumita about time management, the upcoming June Olympic trials, and what keeps her focused in the pool.
Teen Voices (TV): How old were you when you learned to swim?
Elizabeth Beisel (EB): I was probably a year old, but I started swimming competitively when I was five.
TV: Would you please share your first or earliest memories of swimming and being in the water?
EB: I was such a water baby–we had a pool in our backyard that my mom could never get me out of, and living so close to the beach, all of my childhood memories include the beach or the water.
TV: How did you get involved with competitive swimming?
EB: I was actually a diver at first, but I was so terrible, I wanted to quit. While I had diving practice, the swim team was practicing at the same time. I asked my mom if I could join the swim team and she said “yes,” and I haven’t looked back since.
TV: What is on your mind when you compete in an event? What is your focus?
EB: There is so much on my mind–I try to focus on myself during a race, but it is hard not to be aware of where everyone else. I’m normally thinking about technique and what race strategy I want to use, and how I will most successfully execute my race.
TV: Do you have any pre-event or pre-race rituals?
EB: I’m not too superstitious, but I always clap three times before I get on the blocks. I also like to drink Gatorade and eat power bars before my race.
TV: When did you know that you wanted to become an Olympic athlete?
EB: I think when I was watching the 2000 Sydney Olympics on television was the first time that I really wanted to be an Olympian more than anything. It is such an honor to have represented my country in the Olympics and I still can’t believe that I made it. It really was a dream come true.
TV: Did anything surprise you about being at the Olympics?
EB: I think the most surprising thing about being in the Olympics was how much you are catered to as an athlete. I remember going through the outfitting process and getting dozens of Nike and Ralph Lauren shirts, shoes, pants, shorts, socks, hats—you name it, we got it. We also got as many free massages as we wanted, all food was paid for, and there was always an on-site doctor and psychologist. As an athlete it was incredible to see the amount of support staff there was and how we were treated as so important.
TV: Being an Olympic athlete must require a lot of training. What is the daily training regimen like?
EB: Training is definitely brutal. We practice six days a week, swimming for up to four hours a day, along with an hour and a half of weights and an hour of cardio.
EB: I competed in the 400 IM and 200 Backstroke in 2008. It was such an amazing experience! I met so many people, like LeBron James, Shawn Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and Yao Ming. And I was on the team with the most successful Olympic athlete ever–Michael Phelps. I was sort of a deer in headlights because I was so young and nervous, but I tried my best to take everything in. I took so much from that experience and I hope that I can return to the Olympics at least once more to compete. It truly is an honor.
TV: What motivates you to “go for the gold,” and who have been your most inspirational supporters?
EB: I think the biggest motivating factor for me is knowing how hard I have worked and how I don’t want all of those hours practicing to go to waste. As athletes, we sacrifice so much to be our best, and I try to commit 100 percent so I get the most out of what I do. My most inspirational supporters are definitely my parents. They are amazing and have always been there for me—whether I win or lose. They only care about whether I am having fun or not, and I think that is what has made me so happy within the sport of swimming. They never put any pressure on me and I can’t thank them enough for that.
TV: What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming London events during the 2012 Summer Olympics?
EB: I haven’t actually made the 2012 Olympics yet. I have to qualify by placing first or second at the Olympic trials, which are the end of June. Hopefully I’ll make it, and if I am competing in the Olympics, I really just want to represent my country to the best of my ability.
TV: I’m sure our readers will want to root for you. Which events do you think you are most likely to qualify for and compete in at the Olympics this year?
EB: Hopefully I will be able to qualify in the 200 back, 200 free, and 400 IM.
TV: How do you think the 2012 Olympics will compare to your 2008 experience?
EB: I think I will be much more mature and prepared for what to expect. I can focus more on trying to win a medal instead of being nervous and scared of swimming on international television.
TV: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment, or greatest personal victory, so far?
EB: I think my biggest accomplishment thus far is winning the 400 IM at the World Championships last summer. To be able to say I won a world championship is something that is almost as great as saying you are an Olympian, and it is something that I really think has given me a lot of confidence through this past year.
TV: How do you successfully balance your swimming career with your schoolwork and social life?
EB: I have always made sure I have time for school and friends. Those are two things that get me away from the pool and they are definitely important for me to be a normal college student. I try to get away from the pool as much as possible, physically and mentally. I think that is important for any athlete, because if they are too engulfed within their sport, they will slowly begin to get really worn out.
TV: Do you have any post-college plans yet? Will you continue swimming?
EB: As of now, I plan to swim through 2016. I graduate college in 2014, so I am hoping that I will be successful enough to keep competing past that.
TV: Do you have any advice for teen girls looking to become competitive athletes?
EB: My only advice is to make sure that you are doing it for yourself. Do not compete because someone forces you to. Enjoying what you do is one of the most important things in life, and if you surround yourself with things that you love, then you will be extremely successful and happy.
For more information on Elizabeth Beisel, read her full biography at USASwimming.org.
Photos provided by Elizabeth Beisel.
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