Posts Tagged ‘
Road to Rio ’
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
While the Road to Rio is a long journey counting down to Summer 2016, Olympic medalist Katie Ledecky has had tons of success in her (so far) short career. At the age of 15, she was the youngest swimmer on Team USA at the London 2012 Olympics, where she took home the gold in 800m freestyle (for which she also holds the world record). Katie and her mom, Mary Gen, sat down with Parents at a Winter Olympics viewing party sponsored by Swim Today to get her take on swimming, her family’s incredible support, and all things Olympics.
P: What makes swimming such a great sport for kids?
KL: I think the competitive atmosphere and the people that are involved in the sport. It’s a great outlet to meet friends and engage with them. That’s what I have always enjoyed.
MGL: When the kids first joined the summer pool we really didn’t know anybody there and that’s, I think, one of the reasons she and her brother decided to join the team. Right away they had like a hundred friends. The thing I think is interesting about swimming is that it’s not just one age that goes and practices together. It crosses a couple of ages and it’s co-ed. She’s working out with girls and guys and they have such great camaraderie and ability to support each other. You don’t see that with a lot of other sports.
P: Did you gravitate to swimming on your own or did your parents guide you?
KL: I think my mom taught me how to swim when I was probably 3 or 4. But then I joined summer swim team with my brother when I was 6. Then we joined a club swim team that fall. So I’ve been swimming on teams since I was 6, but up until about age 10 I played basketball and soccer, a few other sports. Once I got to about 9 or 10 I started to go to swim practice over basketball practice. I Gradually I just started to lean towards swimming.
P: What’s it like to raise an Olympian?
MGL: Well, it’s been great. We always say that she makes us look good—our kids make us look good. My husband and I feel that we’ve gotten a lot of support from our community, our club, our summer team. I’m very very proud of her. I’m proud of how she’s handled it.
P: Does it sometimes feel like a full time job to be the parent of an athlete at this level?
MGL: You know, I think no matter what she would have decided to do, it’s great to see one of your children finding and developing the passion. My feeling is is that it’s not really hard to support your child in whatever direction they want to go—whether it’s sports or music or academics. It’s been pretty easy to support her.
P: What does it mean to you to have your Mom and your family cheering you on? How does it help with some of the pressure of these moments?
KL: It’s the best. They’re at every meet. They take me to every practice. That support means a lot to me. At the Olympics I saw them in the stands and knew they were there. It was kind of a relaxing thing to know that. I was 15 years old and traveling with the team on my first international trip. My parents had prepared me well for it and I knew how to handle it all.
P: What is your message to young aspiring athletes?
KL: If you find a sport that you’re passionate about stick with it and be dedicated and mainly just have fun with it. That’s what success will come from. If you’re happy doing something and you have friends doing it that’s gonna be your best path to success.
P: What’s your message to the moms of aspiring athletes?
MGL: Mine would be the same. To really make sure your children are having fun. If they’re not having fun with it, find something else or support them looking for other outlets and make it fun. [Swimming] is great for building confidence in both my kids, making great friends, learning how to support goals, setting goals and reaching those goals and setting new goals, helping them to be organized. As long as they’re learning from it it’s good for them.
P: Looking ahead to Rio, what are you most excited about?
KL: There’s a lot in between, but yes it is coming up quickly. I just want to make the Olympic team again. That’s going to be the biggest challenge. I’m excited most about training over the next two years. I have my goals set and I’m excited to see what my limit is over the next two years.
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Photograph: Katie Ledecky/United States Olympic Committee
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Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Our journey to Brazil continues! This week: Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz and her mom Jeannine. The mother-daughter pair sat down with Parents at a Winter Olympic viewing party sponsored by Swim Today to talk about the personal rewards of swimming (it’s not all about medals), the importance of family, and why she’s focusing on the now.
P: What makes swimming such a great sport for kids and adults?
CL: I just learned so many things from it. I’ve had so much fun. I had to learn from a young age time management, how to get my homework done. I laugh because it was a threat if my mom wouldn’t let me go to practice. I had to get my homework done and learn how to manage other things in my life so I could still make it to practice because that was really what I wanted to do at night. It’s just been such a great platform for allowing me to talk about who I am and what I want to do in life and really learn about myself. In so many ways the personal growth is the bigger success than any medal I’ve won.
JL: I remember when she was in third grade she said she wanted to quit school and just swim and I told her she couldn’t be a dumb swimmer she had to be a smart swimmer. But, through most of grade school she was a very quiet little girl. I remember taking her to her first day at kindergarten and she was hiding in my skirts. The confidence as a person that she has built through her gifts of swimming has just been incredible. This little shy girl who hid behind me is now up on the world stage.
P: Tell me, Mom, what does it take to raise an Olympian?
JL: Oh gosh. Well you have to know that when she was 8 and doing really well just in her local level, my dad looked at me and said “Maybe she’ll go to the Olympics someday.” And I looked at him and I said, “I hope not.” And he said “Why?!” And I said, “Because you have to give up your entire life for it.” Little did I know what our road was going to be at that point. I think she’s given up a lot of her life but I think the gifts she has received through swimming and that our family has received has been immeasurable. It’s been worth every bit of it.
P: What does it mean to you to have such support from your mom and your family?
CL: It’s been tremendous. You know,during the Winter Olympics, when Noelle Pikus-Pace won her medal in skeleton she said: “We won a medal.” I just love that. When I won a bronze medal, it was a “We won the bronze medal.” I got to see [my family] right after I finished my race and have this we did this, we finished and we just did something amazing moment. There were so many things that parents and a family have to sacrifice. I don’t think any Olympian would be where they are without that good foundation of a family and support behind them.
P: What is your advice to moms of aspiring athletes at any level, but especially at this high level?
JL: Make sure they’re having fun and let it be their sport. It’s not your sport. So, if they’re not having fun figure out why and move them to a different sport if that’s what it takes. Just love them no matter how they do. Any time Caitlin got out of the water I’d say “Great swim!” and I’d give her a hug and she’d go “Not really, Mom.” And I’d go, “It was to me.”
CL: Which was huge, being an athlete. There are points where I didn’t want to keep swimming and my parents would say “We’re going to love you whether you swim or not.” My motivation to swim and do well was never because of pressure from my parents, it was always their support that allowed me to do well.
P: Gearing up for Rio, what are you most excited for?
CL: Well, the Winter Olympics got me excited just to race again. I love watching Team USA. Being a part of that is just so special. There’s just so much that builds up and leads up to the Olympics, that’s just the culminating point. The time in between from now until Rio is such an important time in terms of enjoyment and growth and learning that you know I try not to look too much ahead to Rio and just enjoy what I’m doing right now.
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Photographs (from top down): Caitlin Leverenz/Arena; Caitlin and her mom, Jeannine
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Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
As our countdown to Summer Olympics 2016 continues (only 884 days to go!) we have two-time Olympic medalist Nick Thoman. Currently holding the world record in 100-meter backstroke, this 27-year-old swimmer got his start at a young age. Parents caught up with the champion and his mom, Kathy Brewer, at a Winter Olympics viewing party sponsored by Swim Today to discuss why swimming is a great sport for kids, his family’s role in his success, and his plans for Brazil.
P: What makes swimming such a great sport for kids?
NT: A lot of my best friends were swimmers with me. The friendships that you build along the way are definitely one of the things that brought me into it initially. [My sister] Vic was swimming and she was having a lot of fun and I was bored, bouncing off the walls so Mom found a speedo small enough and tossed me out in the water.
KB: Swimming was also the best way to find babysitters because you had all-age swimmers. You have kindergarden through high school. You really get to see the high school swim-team kids interact with the younger kids. You really see their character.
NT: It’s true. You did always use swimmers. I never knew why.
KB: Because they were really responsible!
P: What does it take to raise an Olympian such as your son?
KB: I think Nick’s determination. He and Victoria were both determined kids. The focus in swimming is all about lifetime bests. It’s inevitable that you’ll compare yourself somewhat to other people, but the coaches and the parents get you to focus on bettering your own time. But, we don’t coach our kids. Just let the coaches do the coaching and you’re there for the moral support. Good or bad, I love you. I’m proud of you.
P: How important was it to have the support of your parents to alleviate that pressure?
NT: It was awesome. One of the things that I actually remember most from the Olympic trials was my father sent me an email the day of my event and I didn’t actually see it until I had made the Olympic team, but it basically said “No matter what happens, we’ll all still love you.” That was a fantastic thing. He was always, both he and my mother, very very supportive. They did a great job of not coaching me and I know that was hard, [especially] for my father because he was also a swimmer. I really do appreciate all the support I’ve had. Driving me to practice at 4:45 in the morning. Hell, even when I got my driver’s license my mom would wake up and make me breakfast before I went.
P: What a good mom!
NT: She is a good mom!
KB: It makes a big difference if you get involved, too. That shows your kids you’re really supportive of all their efforts. Swim meets from the outside might seem boring, but if you get involved it’s not boring at all.
P: What does it feel like at the Olympics right before your event? What goes through your mind? What are you feeling?
NT: It’s kind of a surreal experience. I’ve only been once and I swam a total of four times. Ending up with two medals at the end was just amazing. There’s a feeling that you get—or that I got—that I knew I was going to go out and have a good race. I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be; I didn’t know how I was going to place, didn’t know that I was going to win a silver medal, but I knew that I was going to race my best for myself, for everyone that supported me, and for my country and that was just a great feeling.
P: What is your message to young aspiring athletes?
NT: Have fun! Just go out and have fun and what you’re passionate about will call you back. Swimming always called me back. I even took nine months off last year, didn’t know if I was going to retire or not but swimming, again, it called me back. Have fun doing whatever you want to do—be it sports, be it musicals, whatever you get into.
P: Mom, what’s your advice for the moms of aspiring athletes?
KB: Oh boy. Be supportive. Allow the children to show their commitment to a sport and whatever they choose to commit to, be there for them. Back them up. One of the things that helped me was finding someone professional to talk to. Because I didn’t want to make my stress his stress. That was really important.
P: Gearing up for Rio, what’s on for the next two years?
NT: I took almost all of last year off and it really got me re-focused and hungry again. I was at a point where I didn’t know if I wanted to swim or not after the last Olympics. Taking that time off really helped. Coming up this year I’m really hoping to make the Pan Pacific Championships and the World Championships next year and we’ll see how we do.
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Photographs: Nick Thoman, Courtesy United States Olympic Committee; Nick with mom, Kathleen Brewer, and sister, Victoria Thoman
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