Mindset & Body Image Swimming & Technique

An Open Letter About Learning To Chill

Dear two of the top female sprint athletes in the world,

You’ll have no idea who I am, but two years ago you both inspired me.

My most successful swimming year swooped by in 2014 after I qualified to compete for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships.

During that competition on the Gold Coast, beneath a ferocious grey sky and pelting rain, there was a moment that shaped me as both an athlete and person.

And it involved you both.

I was feverishly trying to drag my suit on before the B final of the 50m freestyle.

I was nervous as hell.

Having the opportunity to swim in the finals session was something I was exceptionally proud of.

What happened during my prep that day, however, was more significant than the event itself.

I learnt something which has helped improve my own performance- and enjoyment.

While I was nervously fidgeting with my race suit, and mentally imploding in that changing room, you both happened to walk in.

I listened in complete awe. You were both light, jovial, joking with one another.

And I was literally about to vomit my peanut butter crumpet on deck.

Your light heartedness loosened the noose of expectation I had subconsciously begun wrapping around myself.

For some reason, I had thought stepping up to bigger competition meant I had to change. To harden and take my racing more seriously than I had back home.

But it’s the exact same game. Just with bigger, faster athletes- and strobe lights.

That moment in the change room sparked a memory from one of my favourite swims.

My close friend, Emily Thomas, had made me laugh so hard I was still chuckling when I jumped in the water for the start of of the 50m Backstroke Final at the national trials. I didn’t think I’d even be able to swim, I was still in hysterics.

Less than 30 seconds later Emily broke the open NZ record and I broke her NZ age group record.

We went 1, 2.

The point of this letter is to say that you’re an inspiration beyond what happens between the lane lines. Your attitude, demeanour and genuine happiness helped me to look for more enjoyment in racing.

Turns out I race worse when I assume a rigidly serious style.

Since that day on the Gold Coast, despite any nerves that claw at my insides, or my imagination which churns over nightmares of failure, I have made a conscious effort to enjoy the moment.

Which is hard as hell when you want to win more than anything.

Thank you for inadvertently teaching me to lighten up, to learn to enjoy this crazy, epic ride. I attribute a lot of my successes to that one, random moment in a changing room in 2014.

From Laura Quilter.

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