Monday, June 13, 2016



  Reddit Image Image StumbleUpon Image RSS Feed Image Mail Image Print Image

6/10/2016Maya DiRado (large)


This year’s Olympic Trials have special meaning for Maya DiRado for a couple of reasons. 

For one, she’s enjoying the best swimming times and results of her career – putting her in the pole position to earn a spot on her first Olympic Team. 

Secondly, despite having just celebrated her 23rd birthday a couple of months ago, the Stanford graduate and NCAA Champion is calling it a swimming career regardless of what happens in Omaha. 

Recently married to fellow former Cardinal swimmer Rob Andrews, DiRado is ready to embark upon the next phase of her life – and competitive swimming isn’t part of that.

“I will have a hard stop date after this summer; I will be moving to Atlanta to start as a business analyst for McKinsey, a management consulting firm,” she said. “No more training for me, so I’m really enjoying my last run through everything. 

“I never wanted to make swimming my career, so the switch is going to be refreshing. I’ll get to work my brain out a little more.”

In between training and competing full-time, DiRado said marrying her college sweetheart last September has been nothing but positive for her outlook – although it does make Olympic Training Center (OTC) visits more miserable for her because of the distance between them. 

“Rob is, well, pretty fantastic,” DiRado said. “We got married on September 19th of last year and it really was the best day of my life.

“He swam at Stanford as well, but we actually met in 2007 when we were both on the Junior National Team together. We started dating my sophomore year at Stanford, and now he works up in San Francisco as a software engineer.”

And while she said she’s been training strong and consistently since taking a two-week break to relax and get married after World Championships (she won silver in the 400 individual medley) last summer in Kazan, Russia, she’s had her best, most consistent year of training – especially the past 9 months – and is excited to see the results in a few weeks in Omaha.

“I don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel just because it’s an Olympic year, but it certainly brings an extra level of excitement and motivation to training every day which has been helpful,” she said.

DiRado admits despite all of her hard work to strengthen the four strokes involved with her events, being an Olympian was never high on her list of goals. 

Growing up as a competitive swimmer, she was a big fan but she never thought it was something she’d participate in nor was it her end goal in the sport.

That’s all changed now with the prospect of making this year’s team seemingly so close to coming true.

“Swimming in college and making Olympic Trials were things I wanted to do,” she said. “For this to now be a possibility right in front of me is so exciting and surreal. It speaks to all the amazing people who have been a part of my swimming career and also how far hard work and joy can take you.”

Four years ago at her second Olympic Trials in Omaha, DiRado (whose real name is Madeline but her older sister, Sarah, couldn’t pronounce Madeline and called her Maya) came about as close as she could to stamping her passport to London. She finished fourth in both the 200 and 400 IM events. 

That experience revealed a few things to her – namely that she wasn’t ready to make the Olympic team but that she was motivated and excited enough by the opportunity that she realized she wanted it more than she thought.

“My experience (in 2012) was mixed,” she said. “It was great to get the experience of making two finals, but in all honesty, I wasn’t that close to making the team. I’ve prepared so much better this time, which is calming because I know that no matter what happens, I’ve done everything in my power to put myself in a good spot. 

“(Four years earlier) in 2008 as a 15 year old, I was just so awestruck and amazed by the event. I didn’t make a second swim, but it was the biggest and most exciting meet I had ever participated in.”

With this being her final year of competition, in addition to her signature IM events, DiRado has mixed up her swims at various meets. 

For her, it was really more about having fun, and with her college career behind her, she decided it was the perfect time to swim different events when she felt like it. 

“Doing different events keeps things interesting, and the great part of being an IMer is that basically all events are relevant to my main events,” she said. “Getting better at the 200 free helps my closing speed in the 200 IM.”

With the start of Trials just a couple weeks away, DiRado said she will spend that time relaxing and fine tuning “all the little details.” 

For her, the hard work is done. Now comes the fun part.

And with her starting her post-swimming life this fall, DiRado said she is excited to make lots of memories at Trials – and hopefully the Olympics – to last her indefinitely. 

She said despite it being her last chance to make the Big Dance of her sport, she doesn’t feel any extra pressure to succeed. 

For her, this entire year has been a reminder that life goes on with and without swimming. 

“I can just go out there and give it my best,” she said. “I am entirely sure this is my last go-round. I’ve had a good run, and I’m very excited for the next chapter. I fully appreciate how fantastic my schedule and life are right now, but the new challenge sounds exciting in its own way. 

“I want to thank all the amazing people at USA Swimming whom I’ve known for about 9 years now – Jack Roach, Russell Mark, Katie Arnold and more. They’ve made me a better swimmer and helped me grow up and became very dear friends along the way.”

5 more to watch for...

5 swimmers to watch





Every year, there are several swimmers who have the meets of their lives to make their first Olympic team. This summer in Omaha will most likely be no exception. 

Here are five more of the United States best swimming hopefuls to have their breakthrough meet at U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming this summer. 

Jacob Pebley (large)

Jacob Pebley
With just a few weeks remaining before the start of 2016 Olympic Trials, Jacob Pebley feels he has as a better chance at making this year’s Olympic team than ever before.
Even though his best event – the 200 backstroke – is comprised of one of the deepest pools of talent in the meet, he knows under the right circumstances and with a real belief that he can succeed, he’s right there with everyone else.

“I feel that once everyone gets into Omaha, we all have the same shot at making the team as the next person,” he said. “The past doesn’t seem to apply to the Olympic Trials.

“Being more of a spectator last time, I saw amazing upsets in multiple events, but I would guess if you asked those people that we thought were underdogs they would tell you they believed they could do it.”

Four years ago in Omaha, a young, relatively inexperienced Pebley made the finals of the 200 back (finishing seventh) but went into the competition with a different mindset than he will in a few weeks.

Because he had a couple of rough weeks leading up to 2012 Trials, as he looks behind him to those days, he said he realizes his health issues were most likely psychosomatic.

“For that meet I just wanted to place as high as I could,” he said. “Looking back, I think that (feeling sick) was all stress and pressure I was putting on myself to succeed. The overall experience was up and down.

“I swam no best times and was only able to swim the semi-finals of the 100 back because Ryan Lochte scratched. As for the 200 back, I managed to make the final, but I still did not go a best time through those three rounds.”

Having completed his final season as a Cal Bear this past spring, Pebley said he knows he has taken necessary steps to improve his game since Trials four years ago.

In order to better prepare for the Olympic Trials, he and his coaches added extra long course practices while training for the short course collegiate season.

Those goals have resulted in some fantastic results in the water. Last summer, he won the 200 backstroke at the 2015 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships.

Before that, he won gold in the 200 back and silver in the 400 medley relay at the 2015 World University Games in Korea – improving upon his bronze medals in the 100 and 200 backstrokes and 400 medley relay at 2013 WUGs.

Unlike four years ago when he saw himself as more of a spectator than competitor, this time at Olympic Trials, his view and goals are quite different.

“It would be nothing less than a dream come true (to make the Olympic team),” he said. “It’s hard to describe the feeling I get when I picture that dream as a reality and it is something I have imagined numerous times when this sport gets very tough.

“This goal has been the driving force for my career and is what makes me so passionate about the sport of swimming. To see a goal I have been holding onto for so long be accomplished would be very satisfying.

Leah Smith (large)

Leah Smith
Leah Smith has a good bit to live up to when it comes to her athletic genealogy.

Her dad, Dan, was a pole vaulter at the University of Virginia (where she is an All-American distance swimmer); older brother, Daniel, swam for Williams College (where he also played baseball); and sister, Aileen, swam all four years at Columbia University. Her younger brother, Neal, is a distance freestyler who just finished his freshman year at the U.S. Naval Academy.

On top of that, her great uncle, Bill Conn, was the World Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion, and her great-grandfather, Jimmy Smith, was an infielder on the 1919 World Series Champion Cincinnati Reds.

So with all of those athletic accomplishments, does Smith feel any extra pressure to be successful in her own sport?

Not really.

“I don’t think it causes me any stress or pressure,” she said. “I think it’s more of an inspirational feeling because all I want is to carry on the sports tradition that my family is so proud of.”

Based upon the past couple of years since she won bronze medals in the 200 and 400 freestyle events at the 2014 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships and qualified for the 2014 Pan Pacific and 2015 FINA World Championship teams, it’s pretty clear that Smith is doing just fine representing her family and especially herself.

At Pan Pacs, her first senior international meet, she came up short of medaling in her individual events, but she swam a pivotal leg on the 800 freestyle relay to win the gold medal. At Worlds, Smith won gold swimming a leg on the 800 freestyle relay.

Smith said having once-in-a-generation competitors and teammates like Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky consistently ahead of her at the wall as well as on the podium doesn’t discourage her.

If anything, seeing their names on the list at meets gives her additional incentive to push herself and strive for even more.

And she knows she’ll see both at Olympic Trials in a few weeks. Based upon her wins (200 and 400 freestyle events) last weekend at the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Indianapolis, she knows she’s more than prepared.

“It definitely motivates me (competing in the same events as Franklin and Ledecky) because they are constantly raising the bar,” she said. “I love racing them, though, because there is always someone fast to chase and people to learn from.

“Being able to learn from the best swimmers in the world and racing swimmers from the fastest swimming countries in the world – especially my own teammates – was such a valuable experience.”

And she anticipates things will be much different for her at Trials this time around.
“There was so much excitement surrounding Trials that I think the pressure really got to me,” Smith said. “I didn’t get any best times and I was really disappointed, but I came out of the meet with a new perspective on swimming.

“Though I have had ups and downs, all of my coaches have taught me to never lose sight of my overall goals, and to never compromise my attitude in swimming for something that is temporary. There is always someone who is better than you or is working to be better than you, and you always have a chance to change the outcome of your season with hard work and dedication.”

Zane Grothe (large)

Zane Grothe
In order to elevate his swim game to a new level in March 2015, Zane Grothe made a couple significant changes.

At the 2015 Phillips 66 National Championships this past summer, he reaped the benefits of those changes – winning his first National title in the 400 freestyle and making his second U.S National team in both the 200 and 400 freestyles.

He also served notice to his fellow U.S. competitors that he’ll be a factor next summer at Trials – and if he continues progressing as he did this year, the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. 

“First, I moved to Bloomington to train at Indiana University, and the way they train is drastically different from anything I've ever done,” said Grothe, pronounced Gro-thee 

“And I've made a slight technical adjustment to the way I train my freestyle in practice specifically. Seeing a 1 next to my name (at Nationals) was not the ultimate goal of the summer. It was to hit my goal times.”

And Grothe did just that. His winning time of 3:45.98 in the 400 would have been fast enough for him to finish 5th at World Championships – quite an accomplishment for someone who finished 16th and was almost 10 seconds slower at Nationals in 2014. 

Grothe said his times at Phillips 66 Nationals in 2014 were right on with his best, but having focused solely on going his best time in the mile at that meet, he missed re-qualifying for the National team and all international teams. 

But based on last summer’s results, Grothe admits 2015 was his breakout year on the National level after some pretty successful years at NCAAs “but nothing compared to what I had this summer.”

“I wouldn't say I've ‘arrived,’ but I do feel like I'm beginning to finally prove myself,” he said. “After my graduation in May (2014), I tapered for meets in August, December and March in 2015 and swam considerably slower than I thought possible at each met. 

“After the third meet, I seriously considered ending my career right then and there. I graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, and any job utilizing that would obviously pay off. But I ultimately decided that I was better than those performances, and that I needed to pursue the option of a new coach and a new program.”

Having competed at the last two Olympic Trials in Omaha, Grothe said he is expecting a much different experience – and much different results – next summer at his third Trials. 

“I definitely feel like I am already a strong contender for the Olympic team this year,” he said. “I am very glad that it will be in Omaha again because I will know what to expect as far as meet environment. 

“I already know that I will be walking onto that deck holding a grudge because I am ready to once and for all prove that I am one of the best and not just a good college swimmer or a has been.”

Stephanie Peacock (large)

Stephanie Peacock 
When Stephanie Peacock graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2014, she faced the question many top-level college athletes ask themselves. 

What do I do now?

After some soul-searching, Peacock decided if she wanted to give professional swimming a real go, she needed to mix things up a bit – including uprooting her life and moving cross country to train with a new coach and team.
Almost a year into this experiment, Peacock said she wishes she’d done it sooner. 

“When I was at UNC, my days and time were very structured between swimming, classes and studying; after I graduated, there was no one there telling me what to do or where to be,” she said.

“If I was going to give making the Olympic team one more shot, I had to find my own motivation, and that came with a new environment altogether.”

That new environment is Mission Viejo, Calif., where Peacock moved to train with the Nadadores and one of the top groups of post-graduate swimmer programs around. 

She left her family home near Fort Myers, Fla., in September where she was training with Swim Florida and made the 2,600-mile trek. It took her five days, but she said she knew it was the right decision right away. 

“I knew I needed a change under someone new because I was just going through the motions back home,”

Peacock said. “I had taken a few trips out here and stayed with a host family, and I knew it was the right place for me to give me the best chance of doing something at Trials this summer.

“Working with someone like Coach (Bill) Rose has renewed my love for swimming. I think this is the most I’ve ever enjoyed swimming, and I hope that shows in my swimming and my results this year.”

Regardless of what happens in Omaha this June and July, Peacock has decided it will be her final meet – her final races. 

She plans to hang up her goggles and focus on the next phase of her life, which includes returning to graduate school and preparing to be an elementary school teacher. 

Still, she said she knows when the time comes to stop swimming, it won’t be an easy transition. 

After all, she’s enjoyed a very successful career that’s included winning the bronze last summer in the 10K open water competition at World University Games as well as gold (1500 freestyle) and silver (800 free) medals at 2013 WUGs and bronze (400 free) at 2011 WUGs. 

“After 2014, I actually thought about retiring and two more years (to Olympic Trials) felt like a long ways away,” said Peacock, the 2012 NCAA Champion in the 1650 freestyle. “But something in me felt like I needed to keep going. I guess I wasn’t ready to leave yet.

“I hate to think that we’re all just racing for second place because Katie (Ledecky) is such a great swimmer, but in the case of Olympic Trials (top 2 in each individual event usually make the team), getting second behind her wouldn’t be bad at all. I’m excited to see how I swim because of all the changes I’ve made over the past several months and because I’m feeling so great about where I am with my swimming.”

Brendan McHugh (large)

Brendan McHugh
Having the same first name and swimming the same events as one of the world’s greatest swimmers to ever don a Speedo comes with both perks and challenges.

Just ask Brendan McHugh. 

Through high school and college, McHugh was often compared to former world record holder and Olympic champion Brendan Hansen not only because they have the same name but also because they swim the breaststroke events.

And while that could have been detrimental to some because of the expectations that come with those similarities, McHugh capitalized on the comparison.

“It actually became a running joke among my friends and teammates that I was the ‘other’ Brendan,” McHugh said. “I only competed against him once or twice before he retired, but I think I was in the lane next to him at (2012) Trials. He’s not only a great swimmer but he’s also a really nice guy.”

Now one of the top breaststroke sprinters in the United States, McHugh is energized and excited to differentiate himself from swimmers past and future named Brendan or otherwise. 

The past few years, he’s taken the necessary steps to make this happen. At the 2014 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships, he edged Kevin Cordes to win the 50 breaststroke. He also made the finals of the 100 breast, finishing seventh overall.

The 50 breast win set him up to compete last summer in Kazan, Russia, as a member of the U.S. contingent at the FINA World Championships. 

And although he didn’t swim as well as he hoped (he finished 18th), the experience gave McHugh a tremendous boost in confidence as he continues to think ahead and prepare for the 2016 Olympic Trials in Omaha.

“I look at it like this, being at Worlds sets me up well if I make the Olympic team,” McHugh said. “A meet that size with that many athletes is a real eye-opener, and the opportunity to train with a bunch of other top athletes taught me a lot about the habits that make them great. 

“The opportunity to observe them was great. I always wondered what other swimmers were doing to get where they are, and everyone has their own way. It’s a special formula.”

Having competed at Worlds and been through a Trials experience before, he said he feels like he will be much better prepared in Omaha and is expecting some great things from himself. 

“If you’ve never been in an environment like that (Worlds and Trials) with so many fans and so much excitement in the air, it can overwhelm you if you let it,” he said. “I feel so much more prepared now. I have definitely learned how to walk out on deck for my events and not get lost in the crowd and the moment.”

Friday, May 13, 2016

5 to watch in Omaha


 Digg Image Reddit Image Image StumbleUpon Image RSS Feed Image Mail Image Print Image



Every year, there are several U.S. swimmers who have the meets of their lives to make their first Olympic team. This summer in Omaha will most likely be no exception. 

Here are five of the United States’ best swimming hopefuls to have their breakthrough meet at U.S. Olympic Trials – Swimming this summer. 

Will Licon celebrates his win in the 200 breast at NCAAs. (Large)
Will Licon

Athletes realize their potential at various ages and stages of their lives.

For University of Texas All-American Will Licon, his came as a 10-year-old. 

“It felt like already a really long process getting there, but that was when I realized I truly had talent for the sport,” said Licon, who hails from the El Paso, Texas, area. “My family also saw potential in me and made many sacrifices to make sure I had every opportunity to reach it.”

Licon’s journey to his current status – five-time NCAA Champion, U.S. National Team member and 2016 Olympic hopeful – began when he was 7. 

His dad being a former competitive swimmer at Texas A&M, Licon started summer league and within a few months joined a local club. Shortly thereafter, he took a serious interest in the sport. 

That interest and subsequent hard work paid dividends last summer at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships where he took home the silver medal in both the 200 individual medley and 200 breaststroke events. 

“I kind of think of myself as a late bloomer, so it’s great that things are coming together for me now,” Licon said. “I didn’t have a weight training regimen in high school, so doing that at Texas has made a tremendous difference in my strength and endurance. Eddie and Kris are two of the best at teaching and pushing us to strive for more.”
He’s confident everything will work itself out as it’s supposed to now that NCAA Championships are finished and he’s able to focus on final preparations for Olympic Trials next month in Omaha. 

Four years ago, he finished 19th in the 200 breaststroke as a 17-year-old. Now, he’s a definite Olympic contender. “I’m excited about the possibility of representing the United States at an international meet,” he said. “I didn’t qualify (in 2014) for the teams that competed internationally last summer, so I’m more eager than ever to experience that.”

Josh Prenot (large)
Photo courtesy: Tim Binning - The

Josh Prenot

Even though he went just under 2:09 (2:08.90) in the final of the 200 breaststroke last summer at World University Games, Josh Prenot expected better.

Just a few weeks before at the 2015 Arena Pro Swim Series at Charlotte, he went under 2:09 for the first time and felt that was a harbinger of things to come.

Still, despite what he considers a “slow”  swim (he shaved almost 4 seconds between prelims and finals) proved more than fast enough in the end to earn his first senior-level gold medal and place his name among the top swimmers in the world heading into Olympic Trials next month.

“I genuinely expected to be faster in the final, but it was still great to win,” said Prenot, who completed his senior season this spring at Cal, winning the 400 IM at NCAA Championships.

“Overall, WUGs was a great learning and practice experience for me – particularly training my mind and body to compete in several events on the same day – something I will no doubt be doing at Trials in Omaha.”

Prenot ended WUGs with a second gold medal in the 200 individual medley (tied with Australia’s Justin James) and a silver in the 400 IM – an event he calls “hit and miss” for him as far as strategy and outcomes are concerned.

He has also added victories this season in the 200 breast at the Arena Pro Series Swim meets in Austin and Orlando, and last December at the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool, he won the 200 IM – displaying a versatility that gives him many options at Trials next month. 

At WUGs last summer, he was part of the team that set a new swimming record for gold medals (15) and overall medals (34) at a World University Games. Swimming also accounted for more than half of all the medals won by the United States at the games (54) and a huge majority of gold medals (20) overall.

“It was so great to look into the stands and see everyone cheering for one another and compete at a super-high level,” he said. “It was a great test for myself and for everyone.”

He considered taking this past season off to train exclusively for Trials, but Prenot said he knew that Dave Durden and his staff would put him in the best possible shape for Trials. 

“We trained long course four mornings a week (in addition to short course) this season, and Dave puts together plans to get the most out of our training every day,” said Prenot, who admits he was a bit overwhelmed at his first Olympic Trials in 2012. “I have no doubt I’ll be ready this summer.”

Molly Hannis (large)
Molly Hannis

Swimmers grow up imagining – dreaming, if you will – of what it would feel like to experience a gold-medal swim. 

For those select few who do get to realize the feeling, it’s often far beyond anything they imagined.

For Molly Hannis, hers came on a relay with her University of Tennessee teammates at NCAA Championships three years ago. 

It proved to be an experience she was able to share with her closest friends while getting the thrill of racing….and winning.

“I’ve always loved racing on relays as much, if not more than individual events, so I guess it’s no surprise that my favorite ‘gold medal’ swim was the 400 medley relay at NCAAs in 2013,” she said. 

“After prelims, I remember we all felt confident we had room to improve our splits. Going into finals I recall a high level of confidence in both myself and my teammates.”

Now, with Olympic Trials just over a month away, she’s ready to experience some individual success and make her first Olympic team.

While she didn’t win any medals (she finished sixth in the 200 breaststroke, swimming almost a second slower in the final than she had in prelims and semis) last summer at World University Games, Hannis said she learned a lot about herself as a swimmer and competitor. 

She used those lessons last August at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships where she finished as the silver medalist in the 200 breaststroke. She also made the semifinals of the 100 breast.

Hannis spent the past year living and training with a group of post-grad/professional swimmers in the University of Tennessee’s Pilot Aquatics (TNAQ) to prepare for next month’s Olympic Trials in Omaha.

With so much experience over the past few years, Hannis said she is expecting quite a bit from herself at Trials.
“Over the past couple years, I’ve seen my chances of making the Olympics continue to steadily improve,” she said. “I feel very blessed and very excited to know that I have a legitimate shot at making an Olympic Team.”

Josh Schneider (large)
Josh Schneider

With the build of an outside linebacker, at first glance Josh Schneider looks much more like a football player than freestyle sprinter.

But as we all know, looks can be deceiving, and while he may compete with the rough-and-tumble mentality of a gridiron gladiator (he did play linebacker and wide receiver in high school), Schneider is every bit the consummate swimmer. 

And he makes no apologies for it.

“I’m a very physical swimmer, but I haven’t always been,” he said. “When I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, I was still 6-4 but I weighed around 190 pounds. Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard in the weight room to get stronger, and that’s resulted in faster times.”

But that’s not where it begins and ends for Schneider, one of the top freestyle swimmers in the world over the past few years despite missing making several of the top-level teams.

Since he finished fourth in the 50 freestyle and missed making the 2012 Olympic Team – a harsh disappointment that stuck with him for quite a while – the University of Cincinnati All-American and NCAA Champion has recommitted himself to the sport. 

That dedication includes paying strict attention to his nutrition, giving up drinking alcohol, sleeping and resting his body more and just taking the requirements and responsibilities of being a professional athlete more seriously.
In many ways and for the first time in many years – possibly in his career – Schneider is fully invested in doing everything he can to swim his best and make his first Olympic team this summer. 

“I honestly thought I was doing enough to make the Olympic team in 2012, but I didn’t and that was an eye-opening experience for me,” he said. “It truly showed me that I didn’t give enough last time, but that’s not the case this time around. 

“After that race, I spent a lot of time analyzing what I could have done differently – technique, body position, stroke pacing, breathing, even facial tension – and I made changes that have made a positive impact. I’m more focused, and I’m really seeing how special it can be when you see how far you can go when you fully invest in something. It gives you a different perspective.” 

Testament to this came last summer when Schneider swam to gold – his first international medal – in the 50 freestyle at the Pan American Games. 

And what if he comes up short again next month in Omaha at the “old age” of 28? 

“Right now, I don’t even want to think about it (the possibility of not making the team),” said Schneider, who believes this year his best shot to make the U.S. Olympic team will be in the 100 freestyle rather than the 50.

“You can’t leave things up to chance – you have to take the necessary steps and preparations to make sure you’re ready to make it happen.”

Hali Flickinger (large)
Hali Flickinger

Hali Flickinger proudly describes herself as an introvert – and as such, she craves an introvert’s career.

Not as a public speaker. Not as someone who interacts regularly with people. Not as someone who draws much or any attention to herself. 

A numbers person, she prefers working more in her head and less with other people – unless, of course, she’s working with her University of Georgia or U.S. National teammates.

That’s a different story all together. 

“But when it comes to swimming, I am all about my teammates,” she said. “It’s the one area where I’m happy to put aside my shy nature for the benefit of being with others. I just hold myself to very high standards, so I do what I need to do to accomplish my goals.”

For the past couple of years, Flickinger has made the most of those opportunities by swimming fast. 

Her third-place performance in the 200 butterfly at the 2014 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships earned her a spot on the 2014 Pan Pacific Championship team, as well as last summer’s World University Games. 

In Korea, she contributed a leg to the United States’ gold medal-winning 800 freestyle relay and also won individual bronze medals in the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley events. 

A few weeks later at the Phillips 66 Nationals in San Antonio, Flickinger won her first National title in the 200 fly, and also finished in the top 3 in the 200 and 400 freestyle and 200 backstroke events – displaying her versatility. 

Having completed her senior season at Georgia this past spring with multiple All-America honors, Flickinger believed in her growth at Georgia so much that, rather than redshirt to focus on training exclusively for Trials, she put her faith in Jack Bauerle and the rest of the Bulldog coaching staff to achieve her Olympic dreams.

Four years ago at Trials, she was a recent high school graduate taking in the entire experience.
This time, she knows she’s a strong contender, and she intends to make sure she’s in the thick of the race – literally and figuratively. 

“Olympic Trials (in 2012) wasn’t the greatest experience for me, but it proved to be a great learning experience; all the big meets I’ve been part of lately have taught me some valuable things,” Flickinger said. “This time, because of Pan Pacs and WUGs and NCAAs, etc., I feel so much more prepared. 

“I have learned to move on from each race and not allow the last one to linger, and that helps me keep focused on what’s next. I’ve always worked a ton on my race strategy, post-race recovery, time management between events, etc. Overall, I just know this summer will be better and different for me.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Danielle Galyer


 Digg Image Reddit Image Image StumbleUpon Image RSS Feed Image Mail Image Print Image


Danielle Galyer (large)


The University of Kentucky has two women on the U.S. National Team. Danielle Galyer also won an NCAA title this year in the 200 back as a junior. As a team captain, Galyer likes to lead by example, so her cumulative 4.0 grade-point average sets the bar high as a role model. She talks about life in Lexington, and how her preparation for Olympic Trials is going, in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.

1. How is training going and did you ever think when you were younger you would be, in 2016, a college senior-to-be, the current NCAA champ in the 200, and on the National Team with Olympic Trials quickly approaching?
Danielle: Training feels good. I definitely never saw myself coming this far. So we’re just trying to take it day by day and enjoy what’s happening. If it ends up in Rio, that’s great. But if not, I am super excited for my senior year and to try to improve in the pool and in school. There’s a lot to be excited about, and just going to Trials is an incredible opportunity.

2. You have a Canadian mother, your father is from New Zealand, and you were born in Australia -- four countries you could represent, and I wonder if you thought about trying to represent New Zealand for the Olympics?
At one point earlier it was kind of a tough decision, but this is where I am -- who I am, is an American -- and I am proud to have represented the United States at Junior Pan Pacs (between her freshman year and sophomore year of college -- she has a late birthday and started college at 17). And once I did that -- once you represent a country at an international meet -- you have declared your representation; I think that is a rule. But at one point of course we considered the option of going for New Zealand, but I wanted to fight for a spot for one of the best teams in the world. So I am happy for having the decision behind me. 

3. How big was that Junior Pan Pacs meet considering where we are now in the quad?
Definitely, I learned so much from the coaching staff and the other swimmers. I hadn’t really gone to any other national events or had that kind of exposure at the international level. Coach Jack Roach and all the other swimmers were definitely an inspiration. You learn so much, from things in practice, drills, to seeing things from a different mentality. You just pick up so much being around these inspiring people.

4. You commit to Kentucky, and then end up with a new head coach in Lars Jorgensen -- how did that work out?
I mean, UK has been anything and everything I could have ever imagined. We didn’t know when I committed that we would get a whole new coaching staff and a whole new mentality -- a new approach. For me, it worked out. But I knew when I committed that I was committing to the school and my education -- this is a place I knew I wanted to be, and to spend four years here. I love the team, our coaches, and the academic and athlete support people. Lars has big dreams and big goals, and that is helping to push me to my full potential.
Kentucky women (large)

5. You have really transformed physically with the program in college -- how rewarding is that?
Well, I actually came to college pretty weak (laughs) -- I had never lifted weights. I am naturally small-boned and definitely have a longer stroke not really made for the power you’d want in the 100 or 50. I am also blessed with a great training partner, Bridget Alexander, who pushes me, and I push her back; we balanced each other out.

6. You were so young for 2012 Olympic Trials, what was that like?
I swam horribly but it was a good experience. It’ll definitely help me prepare for this time. I had not been on that big of a stage before. I was 15, it was very scary -- intimidating if you let it be -- but I know what to expect and I will focus on swimming more than the incredible environment.

7. How have you improved so much in college?
I think it started just from coming in freshman year, whether I am working with our weight staff or in the pool, I am definitely one to focus on giving my best every day. Maybe one thing doesn’t feel good today so you choose something else to work on, and you do the best you’ve ever done that particular thing -- so my goal is always to do something better. So that builds from my freshman year and I have seen results get better on other things -- growth in other areas. And then this past year in particular, the results started to reflect that.

8. That’s funny you mention weights. When I was 17 at the USAFA Prep School I worked out and didn’t put on a pound and actually lost weight -- then first fall semester at the Academy I worked out and added 15 pounds -- my body wasn’t ready, does that make sense?
I completely agree -- I don’t think my body was ready for real weights. In high school we did more dryland type conditioning work. But after getting here, and having such knowledgeable weight and conditioning staff, doing the Olympic lifts has really helped me. I could’ve been injured had I started sooner and gotten into it faster, which would have caused more struggle. So it was nice to come in fresh, learn to do everything properly and have our amazing staff put together the right plan for me, and stick to it.

9. You mention UK coaches and staff, the Junior National Team coach and teammates, so often -- you really appreciate these people, don’t you?
 I think it’s amazing that I am fortunate to have these people in my life and as a resource. And there is definitely no way I would be where I am without the weight staff and the swimming people, the people who prepare our food, the academic staff, and Chloe (Smith), who set this interview up today. The big thing is how well these people all work together to make sure our lives are balanced. The work we are doing today, our coaches know, is for swimming, but the reality is, it is setting us up to prepare for success in life. Swimming will end someday, but the lessons we learn from it won’t.

10. So the 4.0 -- how do you do that for three years?
Anyone who knows me knows academics are really important. Still having my 4.0 is (laughs) something which I really love. Getting (NCAA elite) awards for school is almost better than winning the NCAA Championship (in the 200 backstroke) this year. I take pride in my school work. Again though, I wouldn’t be able to succeed in the classroom without the academic resources. And even though our coach Lars loves swimming, he knows how important academics are, and that there are times we really need to focus more on school.

11. What’s your major and does it help with your swimming?
I am a double major, psychology and political science. The political science helps me understand the world, which is important. The psychology helps in all aspects. I am good at analyzing myself and understanding relationships with my friends, and building and maintaining those relationships. People are motivated by different things. It just helps having that as a resource to understand situations, not escalate something, or understand where people are coming from on different issues. I like being that teammate that anyone can come to about anything.

12. Double majoring and keeping a 4.0, makes the curve a bit steeper, doesn’t it?
Danielle: Honestly, it was (laughs) partially luck. Halfway through sophomore year I didn’t realize I still had a 4.0 -- my goal is to do my best in each class and learn the most I can and the grade takes care of itself no matter what it is -- and then I did realize I still had it so shouldn’t let it go almost halfway through. I just like to do my best at whatever I am doing. My Mom always told me, “Give whatever you are doing 100 percent, and it will work out fine.” The big thing for me is balancing my time. I like to sleep -- I don’t pull all-nighters. So if I have a half-hour during the day I’ll run through a lecture or do part of my homework. Those three or four half hours throughout the day add up, so I am able to get the sleep I need, which then keeps me more alert and able to focus.

13. How much do you enjoy the diversity of your campus?
Yes, for sure, it’s something special. Even on our team we have people from Brazil, Zimbabwe, Australia -- there are people here from all over the world. It’s so cool to see their personalities, see how their family’s work and their culture. We also have a pretty close team, and several who are from Ohio, so those of us from further away are always invited to their homes, especially for holidays like Easter, so we’re able to have that more family-style holiday and atmosphere, which really helps the homesickness and makes our parents feel better that we have that kind of opportunity and aren’t here alone.

14. Your sister Ali has also committed to UK for this fall, won’t that be fun?
It’s a great opportunity to have more time with her since we have both obviously changed since I came here. I think she was able to make her decision so early and pretty confidently because she knows more from my stories than she could find on a weekend recruiting trip or just for a night. So she knows this is a good fit, but it was all her choice. I do think it will be a good place for her because of the coaches and support staff. She might struggle a little bit early and get tired (laughs) of hearing how she’s “Danielle’s sister,” but she’ll make a name for herself and find her way. We kind of like that we have a little bit of overlap on our paths -- that’s something special. I know she’ll make her own friends and develop her own path, but I’m thankful I get to spend more time with her.

15. What events will you do at Trials?
My focus is the 200 back. I have other cuts (including the 100 back). I really like the 200 free long course. So, I don’t know. I have a 200 IM cut and like that as well. But we’ll see about all of that -- that decision will come before Trials once we see where I am in the last month coming up now.

16. Training freestyle and IM, does that help you with training?
It definitely helps me stay interested. It is something I was interested in in college, training and competing in other events so I would not (laughs) spend all day, every day staring at the ceiling. The IM is a funny story: My last IM practice in high school (in Greenville, South Carolina) before taper, senior year, my coach said, “Congratulations, you never have to swim another IM in your life!” But when I came to school, we didn’t really have anyone to swim it in a meet, and it just kind of went from there to where the 400 IM became a big part of my freshman year. That was good because I didn’t have the speed for the 100 back, and I swam the 400 IM at SECs (as a freshman). And I think next year I might focus on the freestyle a little more than the IM. We’ll see how I feel after Trials -- the 200 IM didn’t go as well as I wanted this year (as a sophomore) at SECs. I might try the 500 free.

17. Did you feel like you were going to win the 200 back at NCAAs?
 I definitely knew I was close. Lars believed in me more than I believed in myself, which is (laughs) normal sometimes. I just try to stick to the race plan, trust the coaches and their taper plan, and not really worry about it a week or a few days out -- you don’t feel that good, but if you know you’ve done the training, you’ll be fine.

18. To get that first NCAA title ever for the UK women, what does that mean to you?
I mean, it’s really cool because I wouldn’t be here and could never have done it without so many other people, so it’s theirs as much as it is mine. But it’s also cool to know that I’ll come back to visit here someday and I’ll be the one who got that first one -- and hopefully by then there will be many more after me. I’ll always tell my family and my kids something -- maybe that (laughs) will make them think I am cool.

19. Being a team captain must be rewarding -- what does being a good leader mean to you?
Being a captain means a lot. But I also think that every person has their own influence and their own way of leading within the team. Being a captain doesn’t mean you are the only leader. There is something, an area, where everyone can lead. If you aren’t the fastest, maybe you can help someone with homework. Maybe it means driving someone to the grocery store who doesn’t have a car. Inviting someone home who is a long way from their parents. Being a liaison with the coaching staff. Suggesting, planning and organizing events. Everyone on our team does a really good job with this. Everyone has their thing.

20. This progression to National Team, NCAA Champion -- what was a catalyst in this incredible improvement in your swimming the past two years?
 I never thought I was going to be on the National Team. I didn’t even make Junior National Team until I was out of high school -- that’s very rare, I was just (laughs) blessed with a late birthday. To be able to go through my freshman year of college and then go to Junior Pan Pacs...those swims helped me find where I could improve, where I needed to get better, plus I had that year of lifting weights. So I think being that younger student, which wasn’t always great (laughs) growing up, was a blessing in disguise. Being on the Junior National team and around those people was so motivating. It was a chance to learn a lot, at a period when I needed to and was ready to learn a lot. One thing that I have learned in life is being open to a different perspective. You can -- and should -- learn from everyone you meet. Everyone is different, and whether or not you agree with their perspective, it can be something you utilize to become better at some important aspect in your life.