After Devastating Worlds, Hali Flickinger Transforming Mental Strength to Match Powerful Body

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Hali Flickinger is focused on her mental game. Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

Hali Flickinger, Cali Condors. In the lead-up to the first International Swimming League pro-team season, Swimming World will look at some of the pioneers of a new chapter unfolding in the sport. Today: America’s fastest swimmer pound-for-pound.

Pioneers Of Pro-Team Swimming

Olivia Smoliga
Katie McLaughlin
Ian Finnerty
Amy Bilquist
Ella Eastin
Ali DeLoof

Hali Flickinger spent years working to tone her body.

She knew that to compete against swimmers a foot taller than her she would “need all the strength (she) can get.”

Now, after a devastating finish at the 2019 World Championships, Flickinger is working on her mental game with the same tenacity.

“I think I was meant to be taught a lesson. I look it as a blessing in disguise. I was obviously really disappointed in how everything ended up. But I learned more than anything I ever could have in that one race,” Flickinger told Swimming World.

Flickinger, the heavy favorite in the 200-meter butterfly at worlds, won the silver medal, finishing in second behind her semifinal time with a 2:06.95 and behind Hungary’s gold medal winner Boglarka Kapas (2:06.78).

She exited the pool stunned.

“It stunk to get out of that pool, knowing what I had in me,” Flickinger said. “I learned what I needed to stop doing what I do in my head. I was the most physically prepared athlete in that race.”

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Hali Flickinger at the World Championships; Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Flickinger, like most athletes, has struggled when the pressure is cranked up a few notches, getting in her own head.

It is something she is determined to overcome.

“I just was concerned about others and things I couldn’t control. I should have been thinking about myself. It was so clear when I went a 2:05 in the morning, while cruising the last 20 meters, that I was ready to go a really fast time that hasn’t been seen in a while. Instead, I was too concerned with others and completely fell apart,” she said.

Flickinger is taking the silver lining from the situation. It didn’t happen in the Olympics and it gave her the biggest motivation of her career heading into an Olympic year.

“I have so much to learn and so much to grow on,” Hali Flickinger said. “It happens quite a lot. I think it took that race for me to really recognize how much of an impact that makes. I really need to fix that aspect of my swimming. It was so clear what I need to fix, so I am very grateful to be able to see that. Your mind is so powerful. It is in credible It is all about training it. You have to train it constantly just like physical training. It is much more important than physical. Without those semifinal and final races, I don’t think I truly would have understood the magnitude of what I was allowing my brain to do in a negative way.”

“I have started talking to different professionals about this. I don’t know exactly how to fix this, but I am determined to figure this out. It may take me a few years to get it down. The first step is to understand it. But I am determined to fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

It gives the upcoming International Swimming League season an extra excitement for Flickinger, in addition to being the first year of the professional league. She will have a new set of races against the world’s best swimmers to work on her mental game before 2020.

“This will be super huge. I will get to race different race styles, learn how others race and know they are going to be fast. It will help train me and my mind to get up and race the best in the world more often. We don’t do that many meets throughout the year, so there aren’t as many opportunities to train your brain,” Flickinger said.

Of course, Flickinger is just excited to be part of something so historic as well.

“It means so much,” she said. “It means way more than me participating. All of us who are in it are really creating the beginning footprint of a new generation of our sport. We are leading the way for generations to come. It is really cool to be a part of that and get our sport more recognized. We train so hard. It is obvious people care. This will help bring swimming into a new light around the world. Gender equity in the league is amazing. It is a struggle in most sports. For our sport to be an example really makes me proud to be a part of this sport.”

A new league and a new outlook could mean big things are on the way for Flickinger in 2020.

“This is something we haven’t seen before,” she said. “This is the first step.”

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Hali Flickinger; Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

1 comment

  1. Shannon Phifer

    Paul Kaplan, show this to Phoebe! #girlpower #yyalumni