I have decided to take a step back from competitive swimming.
After 14 solid years of being on the USA National Team, I am looking forward to the opportunity to pursue other interests in my life. Reaching the Olympic level in any sport requires an extreme amount of dedication, at which I put my whole life towards for many years now. Every top level athlete has their own story of setbacks, injuries, and triumph, and I have now reached a stage in my life where I need to take a step back and evaluate my next phase.
Leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games I had overcome many injuries, food allergies, and so on, but what I’m most proud of is my ability to change the way I thought about the sport, competing, training, and my body. To look at all sources of activity, and to pursue becoming more athletic all around. In that pursuit I became healthier and more aware of my everyday lifestyle. During the training for the Olympics I was doing yoga, running, volleyball… basically any athletic activity to help learn how to move as an athlete. Since London this has continued, and even with my step back from competitions, I look forward to continuing my pursuit of being a healthy, active, well-balanced individual.
A friend of mine once told me that the traditional way of training can feel like you’re in jail. That your whole life is scheduled out for you, when to be at practices, the year’s competition schedule, optimal meal planning, bed times, and so on. Not that I’m complaining – this also gave me goals, direction, and a path to success. But I am now going to take time to be able to make decisions just based on me; to figure out what else I want in my life, what makes me happiest, without working around a strict schedule.
I could never judge my happiness on how many medals I could get, how many world records, or titles, I’ve had to look within and decide what I want out of life, and the path I want to take to get there. Right now my pursuit is a Certificate in Interior Design and Interior Architecture. I hope to combine that with my previous medical background, spokeswoman for heart health awareness, and love of kids in a manner that I don’t necessarily know yet! Possibly designing children’s hospitals, working with doctors to create a healing environment that is comforting to children. Who knows!
Is this a scary change for me? You bet! I go back and forth on this decision constantly. I have great arguments for both sides. But if I ever want to fully get back into competitions (which I’m not crossing out as a possibility) then I need this step back to not be constantly wondering if I would have been happier pursuing school and a family.
Wish me luck, and thanks for reading!