By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, January 26, 2017
When she retired from swimming after her final season at the University of Virginia in 2014, Rachel Naurath quickly traded her swimsuit for handcuffs.
Figuratively speaking, of course.
She’s not a police officer in the traditional role of arresting people and throwing them in jail.
Naurath, a member of the 2010-11 U.S. National team and 2011 World University Games team, spends her days policing clients for Citibank’s Global Investigations Unit (GIU), conducting anti-money laundering (AML) investigations into high-risk clients with a global reach.
She said that AML investigations can involve many different financial crimes: corruption; sanctions violations; money laundering related to drug trafficking; trade-based money laundering; and terrorist financing, to name a few.
“I oversee investigations end-to-end, so I conduct research, analyze data, write reports, then make a recommendations on steps to take to mitigate AML risk,” said Naurath, an assistant vice president with the company in Wilmington, Del.
“It’s a really interesting and engaging job, and one that I didn’t know existed until I worked for Citi’s office in Washington, D.C. The people in my unit (and especially those on my team) are brilliant and motivated, and it’s great to continue working somewhere that has such a team-centric approach to everything.”
Naurath’s promising swimming career – one that took her to two Olympic Trials and made her one of the top recruits as a senior in high school – began when she followed her cousin, Kate, to the nearby swimming pool.
She joined summer league at 10 and started swimming year-round the next season. She said she was about 14 when she realized she had the potential to swim in college and that quitting the sport was not an option.
That was the age when she said swimming became real for her and she focused on it much more.
“I think I learned a flip turn at 11 and never really mastered how to dive into the pool,” said Naurath, who made the National team with a top 8 finish in the 200 butterfly at 2010 National Championships. “Just ask any of my teammates—I never learned how to properly step up onto the blocks.”
As a freshman, she earned honorable mention All-America honors but moving forward in her career, she neverreally equaled those early results – and expectations. She competed at 2012 Olympic Trials but failed to make it out of prelims in any of her events.
She continued on, finishing her career with nine All-America awards despite swimming with mononucleosis her senior year, but after her final NCAA Championship (2014), she knew her time in the water was coming to a close.
“I couldn’t imagine swimming for another two years to make a run at Trials in 2016,” she said. “I felt at peace with all that my team had accomplished and all I had personally accomplished. After I swam pretty poorly at the 2012 Olympic Trials, I was forced to take a hard look at my potential and also at how I was treating myself mentally.
“I felt as though I had put too much of myself into one bucket, and that I needed to find other activities to invest in outside of swimming. I think that becoming more involved at Virginia and re-orienting my life around activities other than swimming allowed me to walk away from the sport without any regrets or what-ifs. It’s so important to have a healthy balance and to define yourself as more than just a swimmer so that when the time comes to retire, the carpet isn’t pulled out from under you.”
Two-plus years removed from her final competition, Naurath said she has been exploring ways to redefine herself – and she’s enjoying the journey.
She said her post-swimming life has been gratifying in a completely different way than she was used to as a competitor. She feels like she can make a difference through her work, and this has put swimming into perspective for her.
“Our sport gave me many unique skills and abilities; to be able to use them and channel them into my work has made the shift away from swimming much easier,” she said. “I find that I have more time on my hands for activities I really enjoy – reading, cooking, traveling and catching up with friends.
“It has been pretty easy to balance my work and social life as I had to do that for so long prior to beginning a career.”
Naurath said she gained numerous skills and traits from her time in the pool, including how to accept failure amidst successes.
Swimming also gave her some incredible relationships – teammates, coaches, mentors and friends among them – and helped her realize the debt she can never repay to her family.
And while she’s very proud of the work she put in over the years, she learned that the results meant so much less to her than she ever anticipated.
“I will always be most proud of the teams that I was a part of: my first country club team (the CCV Devilfish); high school team (Collegiate Cougars); club team (NOVA); college team (Virginia); and the U.S. National Team,” she said.
“If you don’t let yourself learn how to fail and recover, you won’t be able to live up to your full potential. No one starts a new career knowing everything, and no one performs perfectly every single attempt. I wish I had been less hard on myself during my career, but I suppose that was something I needed the benefit of hindsight to see.”