By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, July 20, 2018
Even though she’s dedicated to training and competing toward an Olympic run in 2020, Hellen Moffitt admits she’s happy to have a major distraction in her life.
While she contemplated ending her competitive swimming career following a disappointing performance at 2016 Olympic Trials, Moffitt accepted a full-time job in Charlotte, N.C.
When she decided to return to the pool after a couple of months away, she kept working at the same pace and still does now even after moving to San Diego this past May.
With her employer’s support, she’s continuing to work remotely while she trains for next week’s Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships – and this year’s and next year’s international teams – and said she feels like the distraction is working.
She’s swimming some of her best times in practice that she has in a couple of seasons.
“It was a tough adjustment working full-time while still training at a very high level, but during my time in San Diego working with David (Marsh, her former coach in Charlotte at Mecklenburg Aquatic Club), I’ve found a nice balance between swimming and working remotely,” said Moffitt, who works in supply chain management for a food and beverage company and also still trains with her college coaches at the University of North Carolina.
“I’m so appreciative of my employer for allowing me to chase my dream and still work. Knowing they support me in wanting to do this while I need to support myself means a lot.”
Moffitt’s return to competition following a seventh-place finish in the 100 fly at 2016 Olympic Trials has been auspicious to say the least.
Starting with Short Course World Championships in December 2016 – where she won gold as a member of the 400 medley relay and finished sixth in the 200 and ninth in the 100 backstrokes, respectively (she didn’t swim her signature 100 fly) – Moffit has enjoyed steady success.
Last summer at Phillips 66 Nationals, she was the runner-up in the 50 fly (she missed making the World Championship team because only the winner is taken in the 50-meter events) and was fifth in a very competitive 100 fly – missing a spot on the team by .17 seconds.
Her performance was fast enough to earn her an invitation to compete at the 2017 World University Games, where she went on to win gold in the 100 butterfly.
Moffitt said all of her races over the past year or so have taught her several lessons about where swimming fits in her life – and how important it is to her despite the disappointments.
“Being away from training and competition gave me a vantage point and perspective that surprised me,” she said. “I took my break following Trials not sure what I would do next, but the time away taught me that I still love swimming and that I have more to accomplish.
“Whether that’s a World Championship team or Olympic team or no team, I know that I am dedicated to doing my best and what happens is meant to happen.”
Moffitt got her start in the pool when she was 5 swimming at the pool at the end of their street.
There was a girl on her street she admired who swam, so she followed her down to the pool to cheer her on – and from there, she joined the summer league team.
“I wanted to be on the swim team, and you had to swim a lap in the pool to make the team,” she said. “I swam a lap on my back and was on the team from that point forward. I went year-round at 8 or 9 and have been swimming ever since.”
Naturally inclined to the backstroke, Moffitt said she swam that stroke for the first couple of years on the club but transitioned to butterfly – largely teaching herself to swim it.
When she enrolled at UNC, she swam the 100 and 200 backstrokes and 100 fly but has since focused on the sprint fly events – loving the speed and beauty of what she calls one of the most arduous yet beautiful strokes in the sport.
Moffitt said during her time in San Diego – back working with Marsh – she has changed up her training to focus more on speed work and dryland exercises like yoga and Pilates and less on volume.
“It’s quite different from what I did in college,” said Moffitt, who is named for her great-great-grandfather, whose last name was Hellen. “I’m swimming more efficiently now, and that’s been really good for me. It’s important to change things up and keep things fresh and interesting.”
After this summer – regardless of what happens at Phillips 66 Nationals – Moffitt feels like it’s time to move from Chapel Hill to Charlotte where her job is based.
She wants to find new avenues for her swimming and life, even though she’s absolutely loved her time at UNC and attributes much of who she is as a person and swimmer to her college experience.
For the time being, however, she is excited for Phillips 66 Nationals next week and all that the meet represents leading up to 2020 and the next Olympic Trials and Olympics.
With this summer’s Pan Pacific Championships and next summer’s Worlds, World University Games and Pan American Games all determined based on race outcomes at Nationals (and Pan Pacs for Worlds), Moffitt sees this summer as a springboard for the future as far as her swimming is concerned.
But she also recognizes making or not making a future team this summer isn’t the end all as Tokyo grows closer and closer. She knows she can only control her own outcomes and not what other swimmers do or don’t do leading up to and during races.
“Having been on a few past international teams, it’s exciting for me to see how different training styles for different swimmers pays off in their results,” she said. “I’ve learned from the past that I have to focus on what I can control. Everything else is out of my control.”
And as far as swimming beyond 2020 – regardless of what happens at the next Trials – Moffitt said she’s taking things year-by-year right now and will keep swimming as long as she enjoys it.
And as long as her life and career allow it.
“I’m really enjoying my job and enjoying the company I’m working for right now, and swimming and career are working well together but that might not always be the case,” she said. “I’m still very passionate about swimming, and it’s difficult to imagine being as passionate about something else. But being away from swimming and working and juggling everything have taught me about the importance of swimming in my life and made me miss it and want it back.
“Making the Olympic team has been a dream of mine since I was 5, and as close as I have been and am to achieving that, I also know that my career and my identity will not be defined by it. Today, I’m doing it for the little kid inside of me who still simply loves swimming.”