By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, October 6, 2017
To say it’s been a life-changing 17 months for Hali Flickinger is an understatement.
She married her best friend Martin in May 2016. Three months later, she was a finalist in the 200 butterfly at the Olympics. Earlier this summer, she won her second National Championship (defending her title from 2015) in the same event and earned a spot on her first World Championship team.
When she returned from Budapest in August, Flickinger and her hubby had a big ceremony and reception with friends and family to celebrate their marriage.
Lots going on in her life, right? One might think having achieved personal and professional milestones could be enough for her to give it all up and throw in her goggles to focus on career and family outside of swimming.
But that’s not the case for Flickinger.
In terms of her swimming, in her mind, she’s just getting started.
“I plan to continue to swim as long as I am loving what I'm doing and motivated to reach the goals I've set out to achieve,” she said. “I am currently transitioning back into my routine with swimming after having my tonsils removed and adenoids taken out a few days after my wedding, so I will be swimming full time here in a bit.”
Following her finals showing in Rio – where she placed 7th in her signature fly event – and her fast in-season times this spring and early summer, Flickinger said she thought this would be her breakout season on the international stage.
But after Nationals, she contracted an illness that negatively impacted her performance in Budapest, and she missed making the finals – finishing 9th at Worlds.
It was disappointing to say the least, but Flickinger said she decided to use the experience as motivation to aspire for more rather than lament about what could have been.
“I truly thought this was going to be my breakout season due to how I was swimming with not much training going into the Austin Pro Swim Series in January, where I dropped a 2:08. But unfortunately, illness is something that I've been battling on and off for a while,” she said.
“It hit me hard at Nationals and led to disappointment time-wise and then my season just flattened from there. However, everything that has happened I am so thankful for, and even though Nationals and Worlds were not what I hoped, I am so lucky to be able to be doing what I do. I always have to remember that, but everything is a dream when you get to do what you love and of course marry the one you love.”
Aside from the illness, Flickinger – who finished her collegiate career at Georgia this spring – and her coach are still trying to figure out exactly what went wrong during her races, particularly the semifinal at Worlds.
Because she had been swimming so fast for most of the year, they went to Budapest expecting even faster times but that didn’t happen.
“We both thought this is when my training would finally be replicated in a meet, but it didn't and we both haven't figured out why,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but I have been waiting for my time to come, and I will continue to work hard to hopefully one day become the swimmer that I've trained to be.
“It’s been a constant learning experience for sure. Internal experience is always great to have and helps toward the next one.”
Despite the disappointing end to her swimming summer, Flickinger said she has no trouble continuing to find motivation to continue training and working hard to realize her ultimate dream.
Last year’s Olympics opened her eyes to her potential and gave her more confidence, but in her view, she is still determined to win more international medals (like she did at World University Games in 2015) at the world’s biggest swimming events.
“I had more confidence going into every meet, which is a huge part in why I was the fastest I've ever been consistently in season this past year,” said Flickinger, who continues to live and train in Athens. “To know that I have so much to prove and show is what keeps me going. And not to mention my teammates who rock down here in Georgia and my family up in Pennsylvania.”
And while she’s excited right now to continue to see how much further she can take her swimming, Flickinger said she has definitely thought about the future with Martin, a former Georgia swimmer who also swam at Worlds this summer for his home country Germany.
But that will have to wait until she knows she’s exhausted all of her possibilities to swim faster than ever and win at the highest levels.
“I am so excited to one day have a family, but until swimming is no longer in the picture, it will have to wait,” she said. “But I do have a family growing in Athens – a pet family. Martin and I have 2 cats and a dog currently, so we have a handful.
“I still love reaching my goals and the thrill of accomplishing them. I have so many more goals from times, to earning a medal, to my world ranking that make me love chasing my dreams.”
Photo courtesy of Overhere Photography.