Catching Up with Emily Silver
By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Emily Silver’s first and only berth on the U.S. Olympic team was in jeopardy.
Having qualified the day before as a member of the 400 freestyle relay team, Silver was competing in the semifinal of the 50 freestyle near the end of 2008 Olympic Trials.
Finishing with a rush, she slammed her hand into the wall – fracturing two of her metacarpals (bones in the middle of her hand) – and putting her Olympic and swimming future in question.
“I heard a ‘pop’ and knew something was really wrong,” Silver said. “After feeling really sorry for myself and having a good cry, I decided that I would do anything it took to be ready to swim a month later in Beijing.”
“I had surgery a few days later to correct the fractures, having two plates and 17 screws inserted to stabilize my hand. I'll never forget getting the call from Mark Schubert letting me know they were still going to bring me to Beijing even though my hand was broken. He said they weren't sure I would actually swim, but they wanted me there.”
Over the course of the next several weeks between Trials and the Olympics, Silver’s hand healed, and she was able to train again and swim in the preliminaries of the 400 free relay. The coaches had her do a time trial three days before the relay to see if she was going to be fast enough.
“They told me I needed to be 55 seconds or faster; I ended up going 54.7, which was actually faster than what I went to make the Olympic Team at Trials,” Silver said. “After re-qualifying for the team, I was ready to do whatever I could to help the United States qualify for finals and secure a medal.”
Silver and her teammates went on to win silver in Beijing, and shortly after that, she decided it was time to call it a swim career. Being an Olympian had been her long-term dream, and she knew after achieving that goal, she could walk away with no regrets.
“At the time I was struggling emotionally with swimming; it wasn't really making me happy anymore,” said Silver, who swam for Teri McKeever at California-Berkeley. “Three months before the 2008 Olympic Trials, I told Teri and (Cal assistant coach) Kristen (Cunnane) I wanted to quit swimming, but they convinced me to stick it out until Trials.
“Looking back, what it came down to was that I was terrified of not making the Olympic Team and disappointing myself, my coaches and everyone else who supported me throughout my swimming career. Teri and Kristen helped me understand that whether or not I made the team, I had so many things to look back on with pride: Pac-10 and NCAA titles, American records, National Teams (2005, 2007, 2008), and unforgettable moments with my college teammates.”
After retiring from swimming, Silver, who majored in American Studies at Berkeley, was on the path to becoming a wellness coach when she received an email from Lindsay Mintenko at USA Swimming about a job opening.
Having been a competitive athlete and a member of numerous National and international teams with other top athletes, the position, Athlete Relations Manager, seemed like a natural fit for Silver even though she didn’t have any experience with public relations or marketing.
“It was pretty intimidating applying for a job in the Business Development Division of USA Swimming without prior experience in the marketing and communications field,” said Silver, who hails from the Seattle area.
“I sold myself for the position by showing how I would relate to the athletes in a way others wouldn't be able to as a former swimmer and my strong ability to learn quickly and take initiative on projects. I loved my job and my co-workers at USA Swimming. I couldn't have asked for a better organization to work for.”
Silver spent several great years at USA Swimming, but left earlier this year to accept a new position in California before uprooting her life entirely a couple of months ago. She moved to Eastern Canada to be with her boyfriend, Maxime, a former Canadian basketball player.
They originally met at the World University Games in Thailand in 2007 and became Facebook friends. He reached out to Silver again in November 2011, and they started talking and visiting each other, then broke up for about a year.
“When we started seeing each other again in 2013, we talked about how we could fix the distance problem,” Silver said. “I was thinking about a career change, and he fully supported the idea of me moving.
“After some consideration and conversations with him and my family, I decided to quit my job, sell almost everything I owned and take a leap of faith. It has turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made in a really long time.”
Now living with Maxime in a 95 percent French-speaking province, Silver is taking French lessons so she can pursue her passion of becoming a yoga instructor.
Currently, she volunteers as an instructor at Naada Yoga, a yoga studio in Montreal, and hopes to start training in January or February to become a teacher. It's a year-long program, and once she completes it, she’ll be certified to teach anywhere in Canada or the United States.
“I have always had a feeling of wanting to help others, and I want to be able to help people stay active,” Silver said. “I was practicing yoga about three times a week in San Jose, and have dabbled in it since 2005. I started thinking about how I could make it my life's work.
“I did some research and decided that teaching yoga would be a way for me to combine everything I'm passionate about and what makes me happy into my career.”
And as for their burgeoning relationship, the couple isn’t talking about becoming engaged or married.
They are simply enjoying their time together in the same city and taking things one day at a time.
“I am extremely happy!” Silver said. “Maxime is an incredible person. I haven't met someone so similar to me in their positivity, outlook on life and drive. He inspires me daily to live up to my full potential. I feel so fortunate to be able to share my life with him. I am not going to jinx anything. I am just enjoying what we have at this moment in time.
“We are young enough to try this out; we didn't want to look back and regret not trying to make it work. Living with someone is really telling, but so far we are an awesome team. As for plans on getting engaged/married, we are just enjoying our relationship and being in love. That's the most important thing!”
And does she miss swimming – as a competitor as well as someone who works with and around other swimmers?
“I think a part of me will always miss swimming,” Silver said. “I actually just had a dream the other night that I just missed qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Team in the 200 freestyle without any training, so I know I will always be a swimmer at heart.”