By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, October 11, 2019
Having recently completed his collegiate swimming career, Ian Finnerty needed a new competitive outlet.
As a member of the International Swim League’s DC Trident squad, the multiple NCAA champion from Indiana University is fulfilling this calling.
Last weekend in the league’s inaugural meet in Indianapolis, he swam as well as he expected – but the event itself blew him and his friends away.
Suffice it to say, without really knowing what to expect, he left Indiana and went to Naples, Italy, for the second meet of the season more than impressed and eager for the remainder of the schedule that toggles between U.S. and European locales.
“It was definitely one of the best events I have ever been to,” said Finnerty from Italy. “The show they put on and the atmosphere is like nothing else I have seen at a meet. I expect it’ll be even more extravagant here in Europe as well. I would put it right on par with Olympic Trials.
“Swimming can be boring to watch. I have friends who watched the stream that have never liked swimming but love this new format. They said it was exciting and fast paced. That’s what swimming has to do to keep up with other sports like basketball – where things are fast-paced, and there aren’t too many breaks in the action.”
Now a Master’s student working toward an advanced degree in Athletic Administration (he earned his bachelor’s degree in sports marketing), Finnerty said he feels like he’s still an undergraduate in a lot of ways.
Finnerty, who continues to live in Bloomington and train with his Indiana teammates, said he was pleased with his swimming last weekend, but went into the meet not knowing what to expect from the competition because everyone is all over the place in their training.
“Some are shaved, some are rested and some are tired,” he said. “The format is a little quick, but it has to be as it is a TV-based product.”
Finnerty’s busy fall of swimming is a continuation of what was a very busy – and successful – summer.
After winning a third NCAA title in the 100 breaststroke in March, he traveled to Naples, Italy, to compete at World University Games. There, he beat a strong field to win gold in the 100 breast with a new meet record, and added a second gold as a member of the 400 medley relay. He also won bronze in the 50 breast.
A couple of weeks later, he competed at Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships, finishing 9th and out of the event A finals a year after finishing 8th in the same event.
He said competing on the international stage at WUGs was an amazing experience, and he’s excited to do more of it at ISL meets as well as in the future – potentially next summer at the Tokyo Olympics.
“WUGs were a great experience,” said Finnerty, who won back-to-back NCAA titles in the 100 breast his junior and senior seasons. “I have had a wonderful time representing Indiana at the college level, but nothing comes close to representing the USA in international competition.
“It was one of the best moments of my swimming life to watch the flag raise while standing on the podium. It was hard to come back from Italy and get ready for the next meet at Nationals. Part of me wanted a break, but going to California is always fun.”
Having started swimming competitively at a relatively late age – 12 – Finnerty said his improvement and time drops have been gradual but significant over the past four years of college.
He said he has continued to get faster each year because he “found the fun” in swimming after his freshman year at Indiana and that has made his journey in the pool that much more satisfying.
And being a professional swimmer is allowing him to focus on his best events – the sprint breaststrokes – and that has definitely made each day more enjoyable and rewarding.
“My freshman year was hard as I was almost too focused on performance,” said Finnerty, who aspires to eventually pursue his PhD in sport management and teach in the future. “Now, I just enjoy hanging out and training with some of my best friends. This new mentality was immensely important for me. The performance is just a byproduct of having fun.
“In college I was a multi-stroke athlete. In a lot of ways that helped me, but now that I am a professional, I have been able to specialize. This has helped me mentally a lot. I have more free time, and I’m able to train in a lot of cool new ways.”
With Trials next summer, Finnerty said he knows that all that he has experienced – successes and shortcomings – over the past few years has made him a stronger swimmer and competitor and he’s looking forward to seeing what he can do.
He said he doesn’t remember much from his first and only Trials so far (2016), but he does remember the anticipation he felt in the ready room, the spotlights and the “most exciting and intense” meet experience he has ever felt.
And whatever happens next summer in Omaha, Finnerty said he is prepared to take things as they come and just continue to enjoy and embrace all the swimming and competition bring to his life.
“I find motivation in seeing if I can always push myself to new limits,” said Finnerty, who recently took up golf as a hobby. “I am way more worried about time than placement. I could lose a race, but if I go a best time, I am happy. Obviously, I want that win but there is something satisfying by breaking personal boundaries
“I honestly just take each meet one at a time. I have goals set up for this next ISL meet, but for the most part, I like to just take things one step at a time and enjoy the process.”