Don’t look now, but Elizabeth Beisel’s career is entering hallowed territory as the talented University of Florida star and Olympic medalist focuses on 2016. She is almost excited beyond words to have signed as a professional with Speedo, and she has a lot of other things on her mind, as she explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. So you’re a pro athlete with Speedo. How’s that going?
Amazing! I am so proud, thankful and grateful to be working with Speedo. That means the world to me. It has been so much fun so far, and it’s only been a couple of months.
2. You have swum on two Olympic teams and trained with Ryan Lochte and so many others. Did that prepare you for what to expect as a pro?
Elizabeth: I have seen so many people go pro, I sort of knew what to expect. But I had never experienced it for myself. It is sort of a relief, because swimming in college is so much more about the team – which I absolutely loved, and that’s why I stayed and competed all four years – but now, and especially at this point in my life, I can sort of focus on myself, which fits perfectly with where I am in my life now. So if I have a bad day in training now (laughs), it’s all on me. But seriously, this is a fresh, new period in my competitive life, and it came at the perfect time.
3. And you are accountable to yourself, right?
Elizabeth: That’s true, too! I sort of like it like that. It’s more back to what I was doing during club swimming, but as with any swimmer, the motivation has to come from within.
4. You are still so young, and yet heading into 2016 Trials, you will be among the most experienced Olympians on either the men’s or women’s team. What’s that feel like?
Elizabeth: It’s so weird. I feel like my trademark thing was always being the youngest one. People were always saying I was the bab,y and they were my big brother and big sister. Now being 21 and on the National Team for so many years, and seeing the younger kids come up, I can relate to them, because I was in their shoes not too long ago. If they need me to help them out, I have been there, and it’s cool that I can help them out.
5. So does your focus change now as a pro compared to as a college athlete?
Elizabeth: Yes and no. There is more freedom, but other responsibilities, if that makes sense. The thing is, this particular summer has been going better than any summer so far for me at Florida. It’s because of a combination of things, from not having the best NCAAs (in 2013) and coming back to prove what I could do this year.
6. And now, with two international teams on the line, the stakes only get bigger, correct?
Elizabeth: If you don’t qualify this summer, you don’t qualify for next summer, and that’s going to be a great indicator of what to expect in 2016. So you have to step up. I am hoping to continue on the path I am on and see where it takes me.
7. Was getting an agent and everything stressful?
Elizabeth: Actually no, and I don’t have an agent. The process was awesome, actually, a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. The first sit-down I had with Speedo, I knew I wanted to go with them. Actually, I knew as a little kid that Speedo was a company I wanted to be with because they’ve always done a lot for me. So as I said earlier, I am thrilled and honored to be with Speedo.
8. So how nice was it you could have it not be stressful?
Elizabeth: Very nice. It’s been pretty much smooth sailing. There are going to be a lot of people you can talk to, or listen to, after NCAAs if you are going to continue swimming. It’s a little bit like another recruiting process.
9. Can you share some advice?
Elizabeth: My biggest advice to someone going through it is don’t be afraid to say no. You are not going to be able to take every offer. If something sounds a little iffy, say no or that you will think about it, then take your time, maybe seek out other opinions, and then make a decision. That was a hard thing for me because I am such a people pleaser. I had to manage swimming, training, and to be in classes for four years, and that was hard at first. If you allocate the time accordingly and give everything what it needs, you really can do it, and everything will fall into place, especially once you plan things out correctly.
10. You mention time management. It’s that big of a factor?
Elizabeth: Yes, and I think that’s one thing that has helped me along the way. Even going through college, you learn so much about time management and not putting all your eggs in one basket. But you learn to do that, and it is so empowering. You learn to deal with multiple things on your plate because you understand how much attention each warrants – what kind of time and place they have in your schedule, and how they fit into what you are doing, and what your goals are.
11. You swam for Bluefish with such an amazing crew that included, among others, Laura Sogar, and a host of other future college stars. Do you look back now and wonder how special that collection of talent was?
Elizabeth: Of both talent and personalities, those are people I’ll proudly call friends for life. Bluefish was like a dynasty when we were there. There were just so many heavy hitters. It was awesome. It’s weird thinking back on it because we didn’t have any idea how good we were. We’d go to Grand Prixs and National meets and win all of these titles. That was just normal for us. I was so lucky to swim for them when I did. We produced so many cool kids. All because of (Coach) Chuck (Batchelor). He’s the best.
12. Katie Ledecky breaks more records. How does this keep happening?
Elizabeth: You watch her train, and see the way she works so hard, but also works so smart, and it is just incredible. So this is how I found out: I was checking Twitter, and I saw a tweet about Katie breaking a record. I was like, “She’s at an age group meet, right?” Then I started getting texts from everyone, “Did you see Ledecky?” This was during the Santa Clara meet, and so of course I texted her about how awesome she is. She texted me back, “Beisel, you are killing it out in Santa Clara!” I was like, yeah, I’m doing well, but I am not (laughs) breaking world records! That shows the kind of girls she is, so down-to-earth and so humble. When breaking another world record doesn’t faze you, it’s a pretty good.
13. And she’ll be swimming for Stanford. What about Missy being at Cal and going to college?
Elizabeth: Oh, for sure, that was good to see Missy at NCAAs. Every single person has their preference, and for some of us it is to stay in school , but it’s an individual decision that people have to make for themselves, and I respect that. As far as Missy, it’s been so great seeing her wearing that Cal cap, because she’s so proud to represent that amazing school. You can tell she’s a really good teammate and someone you want to have on your team.
14. Your Olympic experiences in ’08 and ’12 were pretty different, especially with the new faces and younger stars on the 2012 team?
Elizabeth: My Olympic experience from 2008 to 2012 was completely different. By the way, you mention the young stars, and it’s such a great thing for Missy and Katie, and several others, already to have an Olympics under their belt. For me, in 2008, it was just about making the team, and whatever happened, happened. My main goal was to be in Beijing, and that was it. In London I had goals past that. I wanted to medal twice, and win a gold medal. The second time around, you have higher expectations. But you know, if you can do it in high school, hopefully you can do it in college. Having that first Olympics under your belt can definitely help you the next time around, just having that experience and having been there.
15. And who knows, there could be some veterans who didn’t make it last time around who are there in 2016 at Trials and bring it, or even some younger faces, right?
Elizabeth: Oh, for sure. You can’t count anybody out, especially at a meet like Olympic Trials. There are people who will make that team in two years who we haven’t heard of yet. That’s one of the scariest things about swimming, but one of the coolest things about swimming. You can’t count anyone out. That’s the beauty of this sport.
16. Switching gears for a second: Seeing Amy Van Dyken Rouen in the hospital recover from paralysis, how has that impacted you having watched her when you were a young girl growing up?
Elizabeth: It’s been incredible to see how Amy has handled it. I follow her on Twitter, and seeing her with such optimistic posts has been so inspiring. If I were in a situation like that, I might be torn down and too upset to talk, and that would be understandable, but Amy decided, “No way, that’s not me.” I have no idea how she’s done it, but now she’s back in the water doing things. She’s such a great ambassador, and she’s shown yet again that she is one of the toughest competitors out there. At Santa Clara, USA Swimming set up a huge banner we all signed, whether you were an Olympian or in the B final – and that just shows how strong and close the swimming community is, and how big Amy’s impact still is on this sport. Words can’t describe her. I wish her a speedy recovery and know she is going to do even more amazing things in life because that’s who she is, and that’s how she handles a challenge. Nothing beats her. Ever.
17. On a very different note, how much are you enjoying Michael Phelps being back?
Elizabeth: It’s so exciting to have him back. He’s so good for the sport. Even the additional fans who come to swim meets are awesome. It brings so much exposure to have him back. When you have Michael, Ryan, Missy and Katie at meets, seeing the fans line up is truly incredible. The best part about Michael coming back is seeing how content he is. He is happier than ever, and that means the most to me.
18. Your buddy and former training partner Ryan Lochte – what’s he up to?
Elizabeth: Who knows with that kid. He’s always up to something different. He has had an injury that has prevented him from racing as much as he wants to, but he will be back. Yes, he’s all over the place, but that’s what makes Ryan who he is. That being said, we want him in the pool, racing and competing for USA Swimming.
19. People writing him off are making a mistake aren’t they?
Elizabeth: Absolutely. That’s always a bad idea. You can’t ever count out someone that talented and driven. Swimming with him so many years at Florida, I would know that no matter what state he was in, tired or coming back from an injury, he will come back and stare it down. He will get it done. You can’t be taught that; it comes from within, and not many people have that. He’ll come back from this injury even stronger toward 2016. I hope he’s back, and I hope he’s ready because we miss him.
20. So you are staying at Florida to train – finishing up a last class or two?
Elizabeth: I will absolutely stay at Florida. Coach Troy and I have a good thing. This summer, I am doing the IMs, the backstroke, and maybe a little freestyle. I am trying to convince my coach no 800 because that is (laughs) way too long for me. But yes, some freestyle and backstroke along with the IMs. I have three credits left in school. It’s a macroeconomics class, and then I graduate in December. I have had so many great friends, teammates, coaches, professors, and classmates along the way. I can’t look back yet because what’s going on now is so exciting and demands all my attention. But there’s not a day that goes by where one of those amazing teammates isn’t in my life, making me realizing what it means to be a part of the swimming community, and I am humbled to be around such great people.