The Pathway to an Olympic Medal


Rebecca Soni (small)By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant

Last month I wrote about the developmental tracks taken by our 2012 Olympic Team in terms of their participation in previous USA Swimming camps and competitions such as the National Select Camp, the National Junior Team, and prior National Teams and international competitions. 


This month I am going to discuss similar research that we have done on our medalists and the progression by which they came to their success in London.


Of our 20 medalists (individual or finals relay swimmers) at the 2012 Olympics:

  • 6 (30%) attended a National Select Camp
  • 10 (50%) were on a National Junior Team
  • 17 (85%) were on a previous National Team
  • 18 (90%) competed on a previous international competition team (World Champs, Pan Pacs, Pan Ams, etc.)
  • 11 (55%) competed at a previous Olympics

Interestingly, these percentages are slightly lower than what we found for roster as a whole. However, the notable exception is the percentage of athletes that had competed at a previous international competition or Olympics. On the roster as a whole 86% had swam in a previous international competition, whereas for medalists that percentage rises to 90%. On the general roster, 43% of athletes had competed in a previous Olympics while, 55% of medalists had prior Olympic experience. Of course this is not evidence of a hard and fast rule, but this research suggests that perhaps some of the most valuable experiences we can provide our athletes involve exposure to the international stage in competition.


In my opinion this concept applies equally well at all levels of swimming. Less than ideal environments, better competition, adversity, and unfamiliarity prepare athletes better for success perhaps as well as any other service we can provide.

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