By USA Swimming | Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Over the past five years or so, Jordan Wilimovsky has emerged as one of the country’s top distance swimmers. Since 2015, he has won three national titles in the 10k at the Open Water National Championships and was a world champion in that event in 2015. He is also accomplished in the pool, taking the 1500m free title at Nationals in 2018. In 2016, he finished second in the 1500m freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials to become the first American male to qualify for an Olympic Team in both the pool and Open Water events at the same Olympic Games. Last year, he finished 5th in the 10k at the Open Water World Championships, which qualified him for his second Olympic Team.
Here’s a look at what drives Jordan, both in and out of the pool:
How did you become a swimmer?
I began swimming when I was 9 years old after I failed to pass the swim qualification for the Junior Lifeguard summer camp program. Junior lifeguards (JGs) is a summer camp run by the Los Angeles County Lifeguard department that helps teach children water safety and ocean skills. In order to qualify for the camp, participants have to pass the swim qualification, which was to swim 100 yards in under 1 minute and 50 seconds. At 9 years old, I was unable to make the standard and was not allowed to join the program. That summer, instead of participating in JGs, I asked my mom to enroll me in our local YMCA swim team so that next year I would be able to make the time standard.
And how did you come to focus on distance swimming, in particular?
I was never the best swimmer when I was younger, but I always enjoyed competing and racing. Growing up, I was quite small for my age so I would race distance events where my size did not matter. When I was 16 years old, my coach, Dave Kelsheimer took over as head coach of my club team (TSM) and introduced me to open water swimming. I loved Open Water because of the strategy and tactics involved in racing. The following summer I qualified for the Open Water National Junior Team, and the Open Water Junior World Championships Team. This would be my first time representing the United States. I placed second in the men’s 18-and-under 7.5k, and our relay team finished second.
Talk a little bit about how your open water career evolved from there.
That fall I started school at Northwestern University. I competed for the swim team and continued my open water career. In 2013, I qualified for my first senior National Team and the Open Water World Championships. Every year my goal has been to continue to improve and to continue to represent the United States on the world stage. In 2015, I was fortunate enough to win the 10k at the Open Water World Championships, which qualified me for 2016 Olympic Games that following summer. I would also end up qualifying for the 1500 free in the pool, becoming the first American ever to compete in the both pool and open water swimming events at the same Olympics. Being able to represent the U.S. is an incredible honor and something that motivates me every day to train and pursue success in the pool with the goal of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Growing up in Malibu, Calif., I always loved being at the beach and in the water. In my free time I enjoy surfing and being at the beach with my friends. Spending my weekends and summers competing in surf lifesaving races and being around the ocean. I think that this is one of the reasons I love to race in open water and why I feel comfortable in many ocean venues the races take place in. Other than surfing, I love to travel and have been fortunate that swimming has offered me the opportunity to see many different places. Some other hobbies I have include photography, rock climbing and cooking.
What do you think you will do after you’re done swimming?
While I do not know what I would like to do post-swimming, I am interested in furthering my education. At Northwestern I majored in Political Science and international studies with my favorite classes centering on foreign policy and international security.
What has been your biggest challenge as a professional athlete?
My biggest challenge as a professional athlete is taking care of my training expenses. Securing pool space in Los Angeles is very expensive. I hope that the United States’ growing success in open water and distance swimming will help to build its popularity. However, as of right now these events are not the focus of most people’s attention. As a result, it is hard to find sponsors and events that offer adequate prize money. Right now, funding from USA swimming and prize money earned from meets helps take care of living expenses, but many training fees are not covered completely.
To learn how the USA Swimming Foundation is helping build champions like Jordan, please visit usaswimmingfoundation.org.