A BODY MADE FOR BUTTERFLY & FREESTYLE
Becoming a swimmer wasn’t a conscious decision. I played a bunch of sports when I was younger, I loved the social aspect and got to experience a lot, but swimming was definitely the one I leaned towards the most. I didn’t choose butterfly or freestyle, they chose me. I have hyperextension in the back of my knees so I can flex my legs more than most other people. My body is naturally built for those strokes so I was always better at them.
THE BEST THING ABOUT SWIMMING IS THE PEOPLE
Swimming is such a great community. We travel all around the world and get to meet so many cool people. We might not always see each other very often or train together every day but we have friendships all over the world. It’s really cool. That’s definitely what keeps me going in the sport. Two of my favourite people are Elizabeth Baisel and Katie Meili. They’re both long-term veterans on Team USA and super funny.
‘Travelling, training camps in Croatia, exploring, snorkeling and learning about different cultures… swimming has given me so many cool adventures.
‘Not being able to say ‘No, I don’t have bombs in my carry-on’ nearly stopped me competing.’
AIRPORTS, BOMBS & GOGGLES
One really embarrassing memory happened at Frankfurt Airport. I was travelling with a big group to Russia. Seemingly simple, but problem: I’m not very good with deciphering accents in other languages – I’m really bad. As we were boarding the plane, one of the hostesses was asking every passenger a question. She asked me the same question, but I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I didn’t want to reply to something if I didn’t know what I was committing myself to. It turns out she was asking me if I had any bombs in my carry-on. I wouldn’t answer the question so they weren’t going to let me onto the plane. Luckily, finally someone strategically bumped me and whispered what they were saying. They were saying it in English but it didn’t sound like English. I couldn’t understand at all.
TARANTULA IN THE DIVING WELL
I had such a sore throat one session. I was so sick that they quarantined me. I had to swim by myself in the diving well. Naturally, I wasn’t in a very good mood… I was sick, I was swimming, I was tired… As I came up to the wall, I saw this big black thing sitting on my bag. Taking a double take, I stared at it for a split-second and it was this huge tarantula. Like huge. I started yelling (and I mean full-on yelling), pushing back, pushing back, trying to get away. Then I noticed that the coaches were laughing at me, but I was terrified. It turns out they’d put a fake tarantula on my swim bag, just to make me smile because I was so sad and miserable, I wasn’t feeing good at all. I was really embarrassed. I’ve never… my heart rate was so high and everybody was laughing at my reaction. To me it was real. But, actually, it was so nice of them, to care enough to try to get a smile out of me.
TIPS TO BECOME BETTER AT BUTTERFLY
CHRONIC TONSILLITIS NEVER STOPPED ME
I’ve had tonsillitis almost constantly for 4 years now. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have any throat infection whilst swimming so basically my body was always shut down; I just had to fight through it. It is difficult to train like that though. Last year, I had my tonsils removed, hopefully that will help and I won’t get ill anymore, and it should make my swimming even stronger too.
‘How do you breathe? At university, I was doing exams and living with my friends. I thought I had a cold and was being a hypochondriac so I just pushed through. After about 3 weeks, I went to the doctors and they looked down my throat and said it was one of the worst cases they’d seen, but that was when I was recovering!! It was even worse before that. I couldn’t even swallow water. I can’t imagine how bad it must be having it all the time.’ I took a lot of anti-inflammatory medication and usually turned to warm liquid to soothe it; I was constantly drinking hot soups. Honestly, I just pushed through it. It’s so sad, but it was the only option.
It’s really weird but the tonsillitis only ever affected me on land. When I was swimming, it never hurt as much. I was constantly breathing cold air through my throat so it would almost become numb. Great for training, but afterwards, I really paid for it. It hurt so badly. It’s like when you play a long tennis session. You become really resilient, never realising how much your wrist hurts while you’re having fun, then afterwards you’re like ‘Omg! I think I just broke my wrist.’
I WISH I’D KNOWN SOONER…
How important the mind is in winning. It effects your performance in so many ways, whether you're winning or not honing in those skills can only be beneficial, not just in your race game but in how much you enjoy it.
HIDE YOUR LINGERIE. When you’re changing at a swim meet, always put your underwear somewhere that it can’t fall out when you’re walking across the poolside. Somewhere secure like inside your pocket or the zipper part of your bag. The number of times someone has dropped their underwear on the poolside… haha.
KEEP YOUR EYEBROWS. USE VASELINE. Applying Vaseline on your eyebrows will protect them from the chlorine killing them. It sounds strange but it works.
... AND DON’T ALWAYS LISTEN TO EVERYTHING THE ‘DIET EXPERTS’ SAY. There are so many rules. People say ‘you have to eat this, you have to eat that… dessert is bad…’ In my (and my nutritionist’s) opinion, it’s not. Everybody is different. As a swimmer, dessert and treats are not bad for you, even if you’re at a swim meet. You burn so many calories that you’ll be just fine, so long as you’re eating a balanced diet. We have a local ice cream place called Handel’s in Pennsylvania and they have the best cotton candy ice cream that I’ve ever had. It’s a rainbow colour and you can’t find it anywhere else. It’s sooo good.
I’D LOVE TO COMPETE WITH ELIZABETH BAISEL & SERENA WILLIAMS
I have fun swimming against anybody, especially my teammates, but Elizabeth Baisel is my absolute all-time favourite. Outside of swimming, I’d love to play tennis with Serena Williams. I know she’d probably kill me with a tennis ball when she serves, but it would be really cool.