5 Inspiring Quotes for Championship Season

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

By Devin Javens, Swimming World College Intern. 

Quotes can be used as a motivating factor to help inspire many athletes. Some of the world’s best athletes can make a significant impact on the lives of those who look up to them. These swimmers have achieved the impossible and know what it’s like to be at the top. However, more importantly, these swimmers can serve as role models to many fans. Their words speak from experience and can greatly influence the minds of their peers.

Since championship season is upon us, read on to find a little inspiration to help you dominate your upcoming meets.

1. “I don’t want to put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the more you achieve.” -Michael Phelps


Photo Courtesy: Azaria Basile

Michael Phelps can easily be named as the greatest swimmer of all time, however, this quote was spoken before he became one of the world’s most famous athletes. Donald McRay of The Guardian writes about Phelps’ exceptions going into the 2004 Athens Olympics after much chatter about his attempt at breaking Mark Spitz‘s record of winning seven gold medals in a single Olympics. Since walking away from the 2000 Sydney Olympics without any medals, Phelps’ started becoming more of a threat to his competition. At the World Championship Trials in 2001, Phelps broke his first world record at the age of 15 in the 200 butterfly. Being such a dominant force in the years leading up to Athens, many expectations were set upon him for his second Olympics.

Despite the media frenzy surrounding the possibility of him breaking Spitz’s record, Phelps decided not to focus on the medal count. In his interview, he mentioned a deal that was made with Speedo which promised him a reward of $1 million if he was able to reach this fantasy that so many had projected upon him; however, he didn’t seem to think much of it. Phelps emphasized the significance of earning a single gold medal, let alone seven or eight, and said that he wasn’t going to keep a set number of medals in mind. By doing so, he could unintentionally limit himself. Phelps went on to earn a six gold medals in Athens but ended up surpassing Spitz’s record in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

2. “I don’t really compare myself to others. For me, it’s about not being afraid to set scary goals – goals that most people never even dream of – and then going out and chasing them.” -Katie Ledecky


Photo Courtesy: JD Lasica

This quote is fitting for one of the world’s most dominant swimmers in history. Katie Ledecky has proven her superhuman capabilities by finishing first in the 800-meter freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics and then setting two world records at the 2013 FINA World Championships in the 800- and 1500-meter freestyle. The swimming community continues to stand in amazement at her impossibly fast times and consistency of improvement. Rarely does she lose.

It’s not uncommon for Ledecky to be body-lengths or even laps ahead of her closest competitor, even in a meet as big as the Olympics. In an interview with ESPN, Ledecky was asked for the reason behind her success. She answered with this quote, crediting goal-setting as the secret to her success. Her goals for the Rio Olympics were to go a 3:56 or better in the 400-meter freestyle and an 8:05 or better in the 800-meter freestyle. So of course she went on to swim these times in Rio. Ledecky recalls these times to once be intimidating to her, because they were significantly faster than any woman had ever gone. However, Ledecky learned to not focus on what others had or had not done, but to only focus on what she knew she could do.

3. “Maybe I won’t win, but at the end of the day, you must have the mindset that you can achieve your goals. Otherwise, you won’t succeed.” -Chad le Clos

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - APRIL 13: Chad le Clos on his way to qulaifying time and gold medal in the 200m butterfly for mens final during the finals session on day 4 of the SA National Aquatic Championships and Olympic Trials on April 13 , 2016 at the Kings Park Aquatic Center pool in Durban, South Africa. Photo Credit / Anesh Debiky/Swim SA

Photo Courtesy: Anesh Debiky/Swimming South Africa

Chad le Clos is best known for his rivalry with Phelps. However, le Clos reveals that Phelps was his role model prior to becoming one of his biggest competitors. In his interview with Sport24, le Clos even cites Phelps as his inspiration to start training butterfly after his incredible eight-gold-medal feat in Beijing. This training seemed to have paid off after le Clos defeated his own role model just four years later at the 2012 London Olympics in the 200 meter butterfly. However, Phelps was able to take back the crown in the same event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Now with Phelps retired for good, le Clos has his eyes set on the gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Le Clos tells Sport24 that he 100 percent believes that he will win the gold medal in Tokyo because he is the best competitor out there. Maybe it seems a bit cocky, but as the quote stands, success is not possible if you don’t wholeheartedly believe in yourself. With less than two years until the Tokyo Olympics, le Clos isn’t worried about his competition: he has chosen to only focus on his own swimming to set himself up for gold in 2020.

4. “Challenges, obstacles, and perceived failures can be your greatest assets if you choose to approach them with the proper attitude.” -Natalie Coughlin


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In an interview with Quartz at Work, Natalie Coughlin recalls her early memories of swimming before her success as an Olympian. Prior to the 2002 Sydney Olympics, Coughlin sustained a shoulder injury that potentially threatened her chances of qualifying for a spot on the Olympic team and also earning an athletic scholarship for college. After being placed in what she called the “gimp lane,” Coughlin had grown to hate the sport that once showed so much promise for her.

Of course, Coughlin was able to heal from her injury and went on the qualify for the 2002 Sydney Games, 2008 Beijing Games, and 2012 London Games. Additionally, Coughlin attended and swam at the University of California, Berkley where she became a dominant force within the NCAA. By learning to use obstacles as a positive asset to her training, Coughlin was able to earn the title of the most decorated female American athlete in Olympic history (and is still currently tied for the title).

5. “It’s never too late to achieve your dreams. I’m living proof of that.” -Rowdy Gaines


Many swimmers these days know Rowdy Gaines for his thrilling commentary for swimming’s biggest events. However, Gaines first came onto the swimming world scene during his career as a collegiate swimmer. Gaines caught up with AU Now and recalled the early days of his swimming career. After becoming involved in the sport at the late age of 17 and only swimming for two years, Gaines started competing for Auburn University where he ended his career with eight NCAA titles and the title of SEC Athlete of the Year in 1981. Gaines had qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics but was unable to go due to the United States boycotting the Games. He finally got his shot at Olympic glory after qualifying for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. There, he earned three gold medals after only swimming for nine years.

Each of these athletes have contributed so much not only to the swimming world but life beyond. We can all learn something from their tenacity and experiences. What is your favorite quote for inspiration?

-All commentaries and research are completed by the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

1 comment

  1. avatar

    beautiful collection of words
    thank you for sharing