PHOENIX, Arizona, November 16. DAGNY Knutson had a surprisingly triumphant return to competition recently, and she relives the experience of racing again on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show.
Knutson won the 200 IM at the Minneapolis Grand Prix, but the bigger victory for her, she says, was experiencing the meet through a fresher and more happy perspective in the months since treatment for an eating disorder. Knutson recaps the moment last January when she realized she needed help, what it felt like to return to North Dakota and how her training with longtime coach Kathy Aspaas has changed. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Tiffany Elias: This is the Morning Swim Show for Friday, November 16th, 2012. I am your host Tiffany Elias. Today's guest in the FINIS Monitor has just completed her first meet back in the water this weekend at the Minnesota Grand Prix. Dagny Knutson postponed her swimming career earlier this year to deal with some personal struggles that she shared with Swimming World. She is here to discuss her efforts back in the water. Dagny glad to have you on the show.
Dagny Knutson: Hi. Thanks for having me.
Tiffany: Well congratulations on making your way back into the water and getting a first meet under your belt.
Dagny: Thank you. I had so much fun.
Tiffany: So what was it like to be back in the racing atmosphere?
Dagny: It was a lot better than what I expected. I was pretty nervous going in just because I haven't competed in so long and I haven't raced so long and I just wanted to have a good attitude and enjoy myself and that is exactly what happened and I was pleasantly surprised by my performances at the meet and so that was just a bonus on top of you know having a great time.
Tiffany: Well, we will go into your actual times and how you did, but first off it hasn't been that long since the Austin Grand Prix which was only earlier this year in January that your struggles really came to a head that you had to discuss the eating disorder that had taken over your life. So you have only been training in the water now for a couple of months and you really put up some phenomenal times. So why don't you walk us through that transition right there.
Dagny: Sure. Back in January I would say that my swimming had kind of plateaued just generally across the board and replaying negative thoughts in my head escalated to “I finally need help” and it happened to be at the Austin Grand Prix in January and at time I didn't know if I would ever swim again. You know I have gone back and forth throughout this whole year telling myself, “No, I am never ever going to swim” or “Yes, I want to.”And I think through treatment kind of a light came on and I realized I don't need the sport of swimming I am Dagny the person not Dagny the swimmer and I realized that I have a lot of better qualities than just swimming and that made me realize that I have a God-given talent and I still felt like I had a lot to prove as far as swimming goes, so I moved back home in August and started training probably late August so I have been in the water only about 3 months and wow, I was slow when I first started and I couldn't believe it, but each week I was getting better and I had no idea that I would be this– as far as my times go I didn't know that I would be that fast at this point you know after a 3 months of training and I just couldn't be happier about it.
Tiffany: Well on that note what a confidence boost it must have been to win. Not only go faster than you anticipated but to actually win an event at the Grand Prix. You won the 200 IM in a 1:59. Your other events across the board were all pretty solid as well so walking away from this meet, your overall reaction to the meet was I can assume very positive.
Dagny: Yes. Going to into the meet my goal other than having a good attitude and trying to enjoy myself was to make an A final and I did much more than that and winning was definitely a surprise, but it felt so good and you know I had a lot people you know friends, family even some of the girls I went to treatment with in Minneapolis came to watch and so it was very emotional, but in a good way and you know I have only been doing 7 to 8 practices a week so seeing my results from the meet compared to what I have been doing in practice, I think I can only go up from here and I am so excited.
Tiffany: I definitely want to talk more about your training, 7 to 8 practices a week is probably a lot less than what probably some of your competitors are doing right now, but before we move on from the Grand Prix experience, was this meet reminiscent of past meets? Did you have any old feelings or — you always spoke about how your previous competitions you had all this negative emotions. Were you a completely new Dagny at this past Grand Prix?
Dagny: Yes. For the last couple of months I have been feeling like a completely different person and most of the people that I have talked to have come out and tell me I can just tell in your voice or by your smile on the deck that you have grown up so much and you have changed and I feel it too, and I don't feel those negative thoughts because they came from pressure that I was putting on myself to perform for something that, something other than myself and now that that pain is gone that there is nothing — I don't need to resort to any bad behaviors to make those bad feelings go away and so I am very thankful for this process even though I had to step 10 steps forward to step, or 10 steps backwards I am sorry to step 1 step forward, but I am really thankful because I feel like I am a lot wiser and more content after all this is all has been said and don. So yeah I am really thankful that I even have this opportunity to be back in the water.
Tiffany: Do you attribute that positive change to your treatment or what is the catalyst behind — or the main catalyst behind your total transformation?
Dagny: I think it had a lot to do with the treatment that I went to in Florida, in Gainesville over the summer. My mom had came to live with me for about a month while I was in treatment just to kind of monitor me while I wasn't at the hospital and so I had a lot of support from her. And you know I think once I realized why I was doing what I was doing to myself, I had a lot more understanding how to correct it sort of in a way and it's a lot harder than how I make it sound because it was – I was at a very low point in my life, even though it was only recent and yeah I just. I am very thankful that I was able to go to Florida for treatment and learn as much as I did.
Tiffany: Right, very fortunate. So with that moving forward with your training, things have definitely been going well, now you mentioned you are only doing 7 to 8 workouts a week.
Tiffany: And shocked with that that you were able to do so well so moving forward training wise what are your plans?
Dagny: I think 8 practices is a good number because I am not definitely not being over trained but yet practices are still very challenging and you know I talked with Kathy my coach and I said if I keep improving at this rate is 8 practices is fine and she said absolutely because you know a happy swimmer is fast swimmer and you know I am still doing the same type of training I did before. It is just minus 3 practices instead of 11 or 9 practices it's 8 and I am really confident about it and it is going tremendously well.
Tiffany: Do you enjoy being back in your home state of North Dakota training or do you miss those teammates that you have been able to train around the country with?
Dagny: Both definitely. Leaving Florida was really hard for me because I made such good friendships with so many of the girls and the guys on the team and love the coaches, but I knew that going home was best for me to have family support. Financially, it was best for me to go home and I swim one-on-one with Kathy most of the time so I feel really good that she gives me a lot of attention and the focus is primarily on what I can accomplish and I actually like swimming alone with her and — but being back has been awesome. The North Dakota swimming community and just the North Dakota community in general is so supportive of what I am trying to accomplish and I am very, very, very proud to say that I am here.
Tiffany: Well that is great. Have you thought much about your future meet schedule?
Dagny: Yes. I kind of have to pick and choose which meets that I am going to go to. Definitely going to Austin, Texas and a couple of weeks for winner nationals. It will be, I don't know maybe a big deal just because almost a year ago that is kind of the meet or the pool that I escaped from, but I am excited again to see friends that I haven't seen in a long time and let's see, after that I am going to Chesapeake Pro-Am Meet and I am excited for that just because I have never been and I have heard really good things. The Grand Prix in Orlando in February and probably Charlotte for sure, other than that I am not sure, but yeah, I am looking forward to all of them.
Tiffany: Well you definitely have quite the lineup ahead of you. So before we get closed here, what was the main reason behind you coming forward and going public with your personal struggles?
Dagny: When I was struggling you know really, really bad, I thought that I was the only one who was struggling you know for some reason because when you look at just our society in general, it is not, it is almost frowned upon for people to show their vulnerability and so I was very ashamed of what I was putting myself through and I realized that there is very, very many people who struggle with an eating disorder or self-harm or whatever it may be and so I wanted to share my story and let people know that they are not alone and I am a person that I can be reached out to no matter who you are and you know I mean also people were, “Where is Dagny Knuston? She is not at Olympic trials, what happened to her? She was a World Champion and then fell off the face of the Earth.”So I just I wanted to explain what I had been going through and that it wasn't — I didn't stop swimming because I thought it was hard. You know I had very legit reasons and you know I didn't want to escape from swimming. I just wanted a different approach to swimming and life in general.
Tiffany: Well you have a very, very brave in this process and I am sure you have already helped numerous people and so many more to come. But, thank you once again for sharing your experience. We are very glad to have you back in the water and anxious to follow you now and your journey throughout the next couple of years.
Dagny: Thank you so much.
Tiffany: All right. Thanks Dagny. That is Dagny Knutson in the FINIS Monitor. That will conclude today's Morning Swim Show. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all the latest news. I am your host Tiffany Elias. Thanks for watching.
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