Feature by Shoshanna Rutemiller
PHOENIX, Arizona, May 22. THE journey to the Olympic stage is a long and winding road for many athletes. With Olympic selection committees setting up criteria, and World Rankings updated after every qualifying meet, it is easy to imagine an Olympic hopeful getting lost in the details. But the most successful athletes — or at least the most sane ones — are the ones that realize they can only control their environment, both inside and outside of the pool.
Case in point, Rebecca Ejdervik is an Olympic hopeful in the 100 breaststroke from Sweden. After an emotional 2011 season during which she almost lost her spot representing the Swedish National Team at the Shanghai World Championships, Ejdervik once again finds herself on the cusp. But this time, she is striving for the Olympics.
Ejdervik is currently training at Auburn, and recently spoke with Swimming World about her road to Olympic selection. A recent graduate from Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., she decided to follow her coach Demerae Christianson to The Plains for a three-week training camp where she can swim alongside other world-class athletes.
Easy access to incredibly talented athletes, such as Fred Bousquet and Laure Manaudou, is one of the reasons Ejdervik chose to spend the last few weeks before Sweden's final Olympic selection at Auburn.
“I think training with them matters a lot. You need better people around you to make yourself better,” she said.
So far, it has been an interesting week for Ejdervik. On her first day of practice, she tried to drive a new scooter to the pool, only to end up broken down on the side of the road.
“Mark Gangloff actually came and picked me up,” she said. “I was so embarrassed, going to my first practice late.”
Not many people can claim an Olympic Gold medalist came to their aid during a transportation breakdown. Fortunately, this incident did not hinder their relationship as training partners; after practice, Gangloff helped Ejdervik with her breaststroke kick.
Ejdervik recognizes that world-class assistance is necessary in striving to become a better competitor. Last year at Canadian trials, Ejdervik clocked a 1:07.58 LCM in the 100 breaststroke. As of 2012, she stands about two seconds slower at a 1:09.46, posted at the Charlotte UltraSwim.
This places her among the top 100 in the world rankings. At this point, there are two Swedish swimmers ahead of her in the rankings: Jennie Johansson and Joline Hoestman. Johansson is ranked sixth with a 1:07.10 and has already been selected for the Olympic team with one of two possible spots.
The selection requirements for the Swedish Olympic team are more involved than just a FINA A cut.
According to the Swedish Olympic Committee website, “…an individual candidate must show results sufficient to compete for places 1-8,” with two athletes maximum per event.
“The selection criteria for Sweden is quite tough for such a small country. If we only bring top-eight athletes, the team will consist of about four to five swimmers,” Ejdervik said. “There has ben quite a lot of criticism against the selection criteria being kind of vague.”
Currently, the top two 100 breaststrokers in the world are Rebecca Soni (1:05.85) and Jessica Hardy (1:06.12); both athletes from the United States. From a competition standpoint, a country choosing its athletes based on world rankings sounds logical; countries want to bring talented athletes that will be competitive. But for those Olympic hopefuls waiting to be chosen, it becomes a bit of a rankings game.
“I do what I need to do and then try and beat the competition,” Ejdervik said about keeping herself centered.
Ejdervik makes it a point to express she's not worried about her current time.
“Going under the A [FINA] cut shouldn't be a problem, I still have a few weeks to get it done. It's not over until it's over,” she said. The FINA A cut is a 1:08.49, which is almost a second slower than Ejdervik's best time of a 1:07.58.
This is a far cry from Ejdervik's experience with World Championships last year. In the 50 breaststroke, Ejdervik clocked a blazing 31.03 LCM, placing her first in the world for a period of time. One day before leaving the United States for Sweden, she checked the world rankings and saw her name seventh. Her 100 breaststroke time would have qualified her but a quirk in the rules disqualified the time because it was swum during time trials.
Ejdervik professes that she became a swimming nerd after reading the change in rankings. She checked the rankings daily, and swam at a number of meets trying to better her already fast times. Then, one day, she checked the team homepage, and saw her name on the roster for swimming the 50 breaststroke.
“The coach said he decided to bring me because I had such a fast time in the 100. Even though I was only swimming the 50, he said my presence would keep competition high among the swimmers in Sweden before an Olympic year,” Ejdervik said.
Her methods are different this year. When asked if she still frequently checks the rankings, she brushed it off.
“I don't like looking at them,” Ejdervik said. “Looking at them gets them in your head. I just want to do the work to make the team. It's funny because the last time I went on to the World Rankings website, it didn't work. It was like a sign telling me I don't need to see it anyway. That I shouldn't worry about it.”
Ejdervik has two meets left before Sweden's final selection: the Mare Nostrum in Canet, France, June 6-7, followed by the Seven Hills Trophy in Rome, Italy, June 15-17.