By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, June 26. TONIGHT after his 200-meter backstroke, Ryan Lochte spoke candidly to how hard it is to find the motivation after the Olympics to train at the level you did leading up to the Olympics, and he is right.
Post-Olympic letdown is a real thing: you spend your whole life preparing for this one moment, this big goal, and then you achieve it. And then what? The skies don't open up or anything of that nature. You might have a little more money in your bank account and you might sign autographs for a few months, but other than that, life returns to normal.
And for swimmers, normal is staring at a black line on the bottom of the pool. Normal is chlorine burn so bad that it stings when you take a shower. Normal is not knowing what T.G.I.F means, because you have Saturday morning workout. This loses a lot of its appeal once you have achieved your goal.
I do not want to project any presumptions about why Allison Schmitt is not swimming like we expected the reigning Olympic champion would. There is no doubt in my mind that this is not how she planned to perform this weekend. She narrowly missed the final of the 100-meter freestyle yesterday, and in her premier event–the 200-meter freestyle–this morning.
But, after missing two finals, she stood up for the consolation final in both events.
That is very, very classy. A lot of Olympic gold medalists might bow out of a “B” final, especially when they have other events in the meet, but she swam, and she swam hard. The meet is far from over for this champion–and I mean champion on multiple levels–and she will have lots of fans rooting for her on Friday in that 400-meter freestyle.
It's important to remember how hard it is to win year after year, to maintain that focus and physical strain. That is why Michael Phelps is so phenomenal: not just because he was good, but because he was good over and over again.
Not qualifying for the final of the 200-meter freestyle does not take anything away from what Schmitt has accomplished in the past. She is still the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 200-meter freestyle, she is still the same woman who dominated the final split of the gold-medal winning 400-meter medley relay team in London.
I feel fairly secure saying that she will be back, and it will be that much sweeter when she is on top again. Did you see the smile on Christine Magnuson's face when she qualified for the World Championships Team in the 50-meter butterfly? That is the smile of redemption. And that is even sweeter than just plain old victory.
Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M's first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.
Follow her on twitter @juliah2o