| Wednesday, February 6, 2019
For someone so young—she is just 26—three-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel has a well-developed philosophy, one that has helped her bring home two Olympic medals and be chosen as captain of the US Swim Team in 2016. “Don’t compare yourself to others,” she says, speaking of both athletics and life in general. “You can only control what you do. Just be true to yourself, do what makes you happy—and stay in your own lane.”
A water baby
Beisel grew up in Rhode Island, the Ocean State, and was sent for swimming lessons early, because her parents wanted her to be safe around the water. “And I was also a water baby,” she says. “I absolutely loved the water and grew up swimming and surfing from age 5.”
She set her first personal goal when she was only 7 years old. “I watched my first Olympics on TV. It was the 2000 Sydney Games. I remember watching swimming and telling myself that I wanted to be there one day.”
Her own winning formula
That goal came true when at just 15 years old, she became the youngest member of the US Olympic Swim Team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. There, she watched famous swimmers like Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin, and Ryan Lochte carefully to see how they prepared for a race.
“I was very focused on what everybody else was doing,” she says. “I didn’t know until later that what they need is not what I need. It was a huge learning experience. Ultimately, I was able to take a little bit of what each of the others did and make it my own.” Her personal race strategy involves distracting herself right before the race instead of focusing on it, which only makes her more nervous. “Once I’m out of the warm-up pool, I am socializing. I am keeping my mind off the race.”
Facing obstacles her way
Like all athletes, Beisel has had to overcome challenges, including something as basic as her size. “I’m 5’6” and I have size 7.5 feet, and the people that I race are often 6’3” and have size 13 feet. I’ve just had to grind harder.”
She notes that anything that keeps you out of swim practice, even something as common as swimmer’s ear, is very difficult for a competitive athlete. “I dealt with swimmer’s ear a lot, and I would love to come across a swimmer who has never had it. It’s extremely painful, especially as a young kid. And frustrating, because once you do get swimmer’s ear, you’re forced to be out of the water for a week or two. When I was 8, I even had to miss my Big Eight and Under New England Championships because of it.”
Looking to the future
“It’s a little scary to think about the future right now, because I’m done with swimming, and I’m not sure where the road will lead.”
Beisel says that at age 12, she had to choose between her love of swimming and her equal passion for the violin and music. She is happy that she still enjoys both activities, and feels confident that the habits of hard work and concentration both require will help her succeed in her next career—possibly in broadcast communications, which was her college major.
“I think my comfort on camera comes from my swimming career,” she says, “because I’ve been interviewed since I was 13 on NBC at the Olympics. I honestly hope that whatever I end up doing is something that makes me happy. I would love to live by the quote that says you’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do.”