By Reed Shimberg
TAMPA, Florida, July 13. ELIZABETH Beisel, a great friend of the Swimming World family, is a teenage phenom. Since breaking out onto the scene at the age of 13, where she made her first international team, she has been unstoppable. Recently, the Bluefish Swim Club member finaled at the Olympics in two events and this past summer won her first international medal at the 2009 World Championships in Rome by finishing third in the 200 backstroke.
At the age of 17, she is considered a veteran and a staple of the future of USA Swimming. Earlier this month, she won five events at the Canada Cup continuing her dominance in the lead up to nationals next month in California. At that meet, she will attempt to make the Pan Pacific team as well as the 2010 and 2011 World Championship teams.
Beisel just graduated from North Kingstown High School in Rhode Island and will be a freshman at the University of Florida this fall. She took some time out of her very busy schedule to let Swimming World know what she has been up to, why she chose UF, and what it is like being on the national team as a teenager.
What made you chose Florida?
Making a decision was very difficult when it came down to it. I think Florida was the best fit for me for so many reasons. I have known Coach [Gregg] Troy for a few years now and I think we are going to work great together, because I am somewhat used to the type of training he has the athletes do down there.
All of the teams were great at the schools I visited, so it's hard to say one was better than the other, but the guys and girls down in Florida are extremely nice and welcoming. I felt most comfortable in Florida, and I think it was the best decision for me.
Did you ever think about going professional and forgoing your college experience?
I thought about it as an option, but I don't think I ever considered actually going through with it. Everyone I talked to about going pro versus swimming in college told me to at least experience the college swimming scene, and if it doesn't work out I can always go professional. As of now though, I am planning on competing all four years of college and I couldn't be more excited about my decision.
It seems like you and your coach, Chuck Batchelor, get along really well. What is it about you two that lets you really bond?
Chuck and I have been working together for five years now and each year gets better. The reason that we get along so well is because we are honest with each other and I can speak my mind around him. If I don't like something, or I am worried about something, I can tell him without it being a problem. We also have very similar personalities and that definitely helps when it comes to a relationship with a coach.
How much input do you get to have in your training schedule, meet schedule, and sets you get to do in practice?
Chuck basically controls all of those things. I completely trust him in what he thinks is best for me, but there are times when I will question or suggest something that I think I need or will help. I am almost always in agreement with Chuck and what he plans so that makes swimming that much easier for me.
What are your goals for the end of this summer?
For this summer, I definitely want to make the Pan Pac team, but if not I am just going to focus on the upcoming year at Florida. Either way, I am making sure I am enjoying my summer.
I have heard some stories about a Thanksgiving set that you guys do over at Bluefish. Can you elaborate on what it is?
Thanksgiving day practice is the absolute worst practice I will probably ever go through. We had to do 50X400's, with every other one at race pace. I literally could not move for a week after that.
How was it going back to high school after the summer Olympics in Beijing?
It was so strange and different. The Olympics changed almost everything at school. Everyone knew who I was, and I got a lot of attention that was almost too much for me. People thought it was a really big deal that I was an Olympian but to myself I was still the same, and many people would try to become friends with me which was weird.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your young career?
The highlight of my young career would definitely be making the Pan Pac team when I was 13. That was sort of the jump-start to my national team career, and I wouldn't be where I am today without making that team.
Who do you most like to compete against?
I don't think I have a specific favorite person to race, but I think if I were to it would be Kirsty Coventry. Whenever I race her, I am always behind her but she is such a talented competitor and it's an honor for me to swim next to her when I do.
Who is your favorite member of the U.S. National Team?
Hayley McGregory. We have roomed the past two national team trips, and we have become pretty close.
What was it like being a "veteran" on the World Championships trip to Rome when you were only 16?
It was so weird being the one of the youngest but still being considered a veteran. It was awesome helping out some of the rookies that were around my age, because I think they could relate to me more easily than someone in their twenties.
Which young swimmers do you see to have the most potential to either breakout this summer or in the following year?
There are so many up and comers it is hard to single out just one, but I do think Liz Pelton is going to be amazing. Her breakout year was probably last year, but I know that she is going to improve so much and she has already gotten a lot faster in just one year. Missy Franklin is also an extremely talented youngster that people should watch for.
What is it like when you are so young and you go on these national team trips to swim meets where everyone is older than you? How cool does it feel to have achieved such success at such a young level?
Being the youngster at first was tough because I didn't know everyone, and I was basically a deer in the headlights because I was shocked to be on the same team as Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin. It is intimidating being the young one, but everyone on the trips I have gone on has been so friendly and nice, and I have made so many new friends. Now that I am older, I can give other rookies and youngsters advice and help them out. I am so glad I was able to experience what I did as a young swimmer, because I am that much more experienced now as a 17 year old.
Who is the funniest person on the national team and can you tell us a funny story about them?
Hands down Allison Schmitt. There isn't one specific story, but if you ever have a chance to sit down with her and have a conversation with her, you will be laughing within a minute. She has such a great personality and she makes any situation positive.
What would you tell a young girl or boy who might be achieving a lot of success at a younger level to inspire them to continue with swimming and what advice would you give them?
For a younger swimmer, you definitely need to be able to stay focused. It was difficult for me to balance school and swimming at first, but it got easier as time went by. You should also never allow one bad swim determine the rest of your meet or season. Having a bad swim is inevitable and you need to take as much back from it that you can. The only reason anyone improves on their times is because they learn from bad races and use that to turn their mindset and race strategy around. Stay as positive as possible, and if you're having fun it will be that much easier.
How do you have time to be a teenager? Are you able to lead a "normal" life with all the training, competing, and traveling that you do?
Being a normal teenager has always been easy for me. I have amazing school friends that keep me away from the swimming scene and keep my mind away from the stress of swimming. I have always gone to public school, and have worked to hang out with people who don't swim as much as possible to keep a balance of normalcy. Swimming isn't my life, and it is important that it doesn't take up too much of my time.