By Bob Schaller//Contributor | Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Freshman Nicolas Albiero had a big summer, picking up his first medal at World Juniors. The diverse Cardinals swimmer qualified in five events. And while he’s proud to swim for his father, U.S. Worlds assistant Arthur Albiero, it turns out his Mom, Amy, is the real task master in the family when it comes to all sports water and land -- as Nick explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. How big was it to make the U.S. Team for World Juniors in Indy?
Nick: Junior Worlds was my focus for the whole year leading up to it. My only goal was to make one event. I ended up making it in five individual events. I thought, “How cool would it be to make it and then make finals?” To make the final in my first event, the 100 back, was so cool because you walk out to the crowd with your name alongside your country, and I was so proud to represent the United States.
2. How important are meets like that for development?
Nick: Getting the international experience, especially where we are now, just after the Olympics and 2020 three away, is the biggest thing. Going to Trials and then World Juniors was important as far as a learning experience, from the crowd, for what to be prepared and watch for -- and just the whole experience of what goes into it and everything around it.
3. You won silver on the mixed relay, how cool was that?
Nick: It’s ironic because the best part of World Juniors, with representing our country and getting to know my teammates, is getting to know people from around the world -- people who I will stay in touch with the rest of my life. It was my first time being on a mixed relay, but I was on it with Regan Smith, who is one of the best there is right now, and two other great swimmers in Grace Ariola and of course Reece Whitley -- both are amazing.
4. Did getting the medal make you emotional?
Nick: It was really just amazing. And after competing against Reece, to be on a podium with him was a great honor.
5. Your Dad is from Brazil and though an American citizen, you have dual status -- what’s that like?
Nick: I’ve always joked around with my parents that I’ll be on Team Brazil someday for the Olympics -- and then it turns out I’m on Team USA with my father as a coach, which was pretty great. I have a lot of pride in our Brazil heritage, and in fact I have a Brazil cap next to my dorm bed, which I traded for at World Juniors.
6. So you know a lot about Brazil?
Nick: I don’t think you can ever know enough -- there is more to learn. I have been very fortunate to have (Brazil Olympian) Joao De Lucca to swim with at Louisville. He still trains here, and he is always wearing his Brazilian gear. I learn more about it all the time, but like I said, there’s a lot more -- I haven’t even really begun when it comes to learning everything about Brazil.
7. Your father told me about the USA Swimming gear box coming to your house after you qualified for the team -- what was that like?
Nick: It is so special. Ever since I made the team, every day I would ask my Mom, “Is the box here, is it here yet?’ Then it arrives, and you are just overwhelmed when you see a bunch of caps and the shirts and the White Jacket I saw Team USA wear at Worlds in (Budapest) Hungary. It makes you realize you are following in some amazing footsteps when you get that bag and you realize you have a commitment to do your best and represent America the best you can.
8. You can swim so many strokes, where does that come from?
Nick: Ever since club swimming, you swim all the events no matter what you are good at or bad at. That’s just how I’ve been training. I was swimming all the strokes, even the 500 -- even the ones I am not (laughs) good at! I am not a breaststroker at all, but to get second to Reece in the 200 IM at Winter Juniors was so special, too. My goal was to make it in the 100 fly -- I think that was my best bet. On first day I end up (making the team) in the 200 fly, and I didn’t think I’d make it in that event. I was ready because there were a lot of overlaps with finals and prelims the same days.
9. How did you deal with that?
Nick: I was really nervous with the lineup, but I was confident with the training I had put in, in the past, to get to that point.
10. How much did that experience help you with college swimming so far?
Nick: In dual meets with the back-to-back feel of the meets, and how quickly they are over -- it helps with that. You might have to swim four events in two hours or so. So you have that experience and World Juniors -- and the Trials that got me on the team -- and take that into the ACC meet, and then NCAAs. Plus, we have Nationals (this week) and I have a lot of events. So, the more you do it, the more experience and confidence you have to know what it takes to focus and bounce back.
11. So the challenge is more mental than physical?
Nick: I feel for me it’s more mentally challenging than anything. The tightest night (at World Junior Trials) was the 100 back final and 100 fly semifinal. Drew Kibler and I both swam that. We swam the 100 back and had I think 15 minutes until the 100 fly. So we got out, went into the warm-down pool and kept warming down until someone pulled us out to go to the ready room for the 100 fly semi.
12. That’s about as tight as a turnaround as there is, how do you deal with it?
Nick: If I have a tough double like that just warm down and get refocused. No matter how the backstroke went, I am changing my mindset to fly, calming down and focusing on race preparation. I might have some fuel -- some water, or even a small snack -- in between depending on what I need, how I feel, and how much time there is.
13. What’s college been like at Louisville?
Nick: Louisville is just so special. I have grown up here my whole life. I was able to watch people before me, not just people in swimming but the college in general. It was so different once I got here though, because it has grown so much and so have the sports programs. It’s just growing so much. I have a lot of respect for those who do all the work to make this happen. I am. very honored to say I am a Louisville student-athlete.
14. Training with not just so many Olympians, but so many from different countries at U of L, what’s what like to see Kelsi Worrell and Mallory Comerford?
Nick: You know I was actually in Rio and got to watch seven Cardinals there. I was in London as well. Watching my friends actually swim in Rio, and to have all these people from Greece, Israel, Finland -- on our team here is just incredible. And, of course, having Mallory and Kelsi from Team USA and training with them is so cool. The best part is everyone brings something different to the team and it helps us all -- and you learn a lot about the world along the way, which is so important.
15. What’s Kelsi like as a teammate?
Nick: I watched her from the stands when she was a freshman. Then I watched her from sophomore and junior year on, seeing her full progression and growth. I was there at NCAAs when she broke the American record. I was at her wedding a few weeks ago, and she was at our house for Thanksgiving dinner. She pushes me a lot at practice and we race a lot. It’s so cool to have someone like that, who is such a great swimmer and role model.
16. How motivating is it to see Mallory Comerford also step up -- your mother’s maiden name is Comerford, any relation?
Nick: No, but I do joke around with her still that we’re cousins because I haven’t seen another person named Comerford so I’m (laughs) convinced we’re related. Watching her swim every day, she’s amazing. She’s so cool under any pressure and such a good role model. She’s so confident in herself, even when she’s defying odds to go against people who might be ranked above her. To see that is so motivating -- and to see all the work she puts into it makes you respect and appreciate it even more.
17. So you could have gotten a waiver to live at home but opted for the dorms, why?
Nick: I’m still only all of 25 minutes away (laughs) so I try to get home every other weekend if that’s possible. But actually, being away from my family -- not spending time with them, is the hardest thing. And my relationship with my Dad now is that he is my coach -- so in these roles now I view him as a coach here at school as he is to all of us on the team, not as a father when we’re at U of L.
18. How does the dorm change your life -- how do you adjust?
Nick: Living in the dorm changes a lot -- the way you sleep the way you eat, the homework, how you travel and get ready to travel. I do get to sleep in more because I don’t have a 25-minute trip in since I am closer to the pool. So that is nice. And I live in a small room with a roommate in a suite with other guys, so it’s definitely different from my house. I wanted to be all-in and get the full college experience. It’s important to grow and develop, and all this is part of it. I like having a roommate. I like living in a dorm. And that’s what college includes.
19. Is it different now going from being Kentucky prep swimmer of the year to college freshman?
Nick: I guess you could say I went from being one of the big dogs to being the little dog. I was at the top of the age group and now I’m at the bottom. It’s a lot different. A lot are three or four years older than me. But we lost a huge senior class so there has been a lot of responsibility for my freshman class in general. There are five of us, so we’ve done a lot to keep the momentum going.
20. Your Mom is a club coach, how tough is she as a coach?
Nick: I always joke with her how I am so relieved to swim for my Dad now because she was such (laughs) a hard coach! She coached me for seven or eight years and I know I was a handful, so I probably deserved her getting on my case as much (laughs) as she did. But seeing her train for the Ironman was so inspiring. What she had to do to train for that and compete in it. I was able to see her every step of the way and how hard she had to persevere, and it was one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen. And you know how she approached it? With a smile every single day, even when she wasn’t sure if she could do it. It reminds me how much I love to swim, how fun it is, and how fortunate I am to do it, both for the U.S. and for the University of Louisville. These are great opportunities, and when it’s tough or I’m tired and not sure if I can get it all together at once, I just realize how lucky I am, and part of that deal is sticking with it -- and smiling.