Abbey Weitzeil Working on ‘Taming Mind’ Before Unleashing Everything at Trials

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Photo Courtesy: Bex Wyant

When Abbey Weitzeil steps onto the block, she puts everything into her race — body, mind and heart — to get to the wall first.

In the sprint events, the roar is unleashed with everything on the line in a matter of seconds.

On the mental side, the key is to have everything blocked out and be ready to roar.

Overthinking is an issue for many swimmers as they build to the moment on the blocks, no matter how elite the athlete.

“Experience helps because you know what to expect and how to calm your nerves and work with your mind behind the block a little bit,” Abbey Weitzeil told Swimming World. “That has been a struggle for me, to tame my mind behind the blocks. I have been working on it. Being a veteran allows you to be more excited and enjoy the process more. When you are younger and it is new, you are caught up in everything. You don’t know how to control your mind or nerves, and that is where being a veteran comes into play.”

There is no secret formula. And just because something worked once doesn’t guarantee it will work again.

“I don’t think there is a specific answer, just having the experience of going through the motions enough and learning to not overthink,” she said. “I just want to dive in and race. I do my best when I am racing and overthinking. I definitely have not perfected that. It takes a lot. I feel like I know where my mind will go and that helps me.”

Once her mind is tamed and her blinders are on, it just takes a short burst of clarity and focus before Weitzeil bursts into the water. Her focus is trained on her race alone, and her face shows her ferocity as she readies to at the start.

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Abbey Weitzeil. Photo Courtesy: Aaron Okayama/SpeedoUSA

“I try not to pay attention to it,” she said. “I am going to dive in and do what I can do. I can’t control what anyone else does. I can do my best and race as hard as I can and the outcome will be the outcome.”

That is not to say Weitzeil isn’t aware of who is around her. For most of her highest-profile races the past five or six years, she has been in a middle lane next to Simone Manuel, who qualified for Rio in 2016 with Weitzeil in both the 50 free and 100 free.

While they are rivals, it’s a friendly competition that seems to bring the best out of each other. They swam with and against each other on national teams at national events and were college rivals in the Pac-12 across the Cal-Stanford divide. The road to international events for Americans over the last half-decade has gone through that duo.

“Simone is an amazing competitor and I think we have only gotten to race once this year. We usually race a lot and we just haven’t,” Weitzeil said. “We swim the same events and are rivals, but I am always pulling for her. It is nice to have someone you are comfortable swimming next to, but also pushes you to your best.”

Weitzeil made her mark in college as well, breaking the American record in the 50 free, the first woman to break 21 seconds (20.90). She said that performance took a while to sink in, but now that others have broken 21 seconds, she appreciates it a little more.

“The fact that I don’t have it any more made it sunk in a little more,” she said. “I missed my last NCAA season and wanted to get the barrier lower. Watching from afar has made it sunk in a little more.”

Weitzeil was hoping to have another shot at breaking that barrier last year but the NCAA Championships of her senior season were wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. She turned pro, signed with Speedo and swam for the LA Current in the International Swimming League.

But her last major college meet was one of the most stunning performances in NCAA history, something that continues to be talked about in swimming lore.

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Abbey Weitzeil. Photo Courtesy: Bex Wyant/SpeedoUSA

At the 2019 NCAA Championships, Weitzeil injured her arm in the finish of the 200 medley relay, with still a day of the meet to go. She had to anchor the 400 free relay, since the injury prevented her from exiting the pool fast enough on one of the earlier legs.

With her arm heavily wrapped, Weitzeil anchored Cal’s NCAA-record 400 free relay that finished in 3:06.96 to close the meet. Only the arm wrap prevented it from being counted as an American record.

Weitzeil anchored in 46.07. Earlier in the meet, she won the 50 free in an American record 21.02. But even with an American record in the 50 and three NCAA relay titles, the question of how fast could she have gone healthy will always remain.

“That was the best meet of my college career,” Weitzeil said. “I feel like I have always been super competitive in general. Everyone at this level hates losing, even little games. I love to compete and I hate doing things I am not good at because I like to be good at things. I love to step up behind the blocks and race. I am a decent in-season swimmer, but when it is go-time, I am ready to go. I just get in this mode. I would have loved to have seen what I could have done at NCAAs. I hadn’t swam the 100 free healthy in a couple of years. I don’t even know what I could have gone.

“I was prepared for that meet. I knew I was going to go fast. I didn’t have a choice. We were so close to winning that meet that I had to get in there. I swam not for me. I swam for the points for the team. I didn’t want to just quit, so I wanted to see what happens. I definitely know I could have gone way faster without a thing on my arm. In prelims, no one knew what was going to happen. I dove in and went straight down and was immediately in last place. I had to just kick and I made finals. At night, I just had to rip it with my legs.”

Weitzeil is healthy and ready to rip it at Trials, hoping to make her second Olympic team.

“I am feeling decent in the water,” Abbey Weitzeil said. “I am excited to go out and race.”

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Photo Courtesy: Aaron Okayama/SpeedoUSA

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