Hali Flickinger Aims for Tokyo on Heels of Dominant, Versatile ISL Season

hali-flickinger-isl 1
Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu

Hali Flickinger has been one of the fastest butterflyers in the world for years.

She has been so good that it is easy to overlook that she is pretty fast in the other strokes as well.

Flickinger has qualified for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in nine events — both butterflies, both backstrokes, both IMs and the 200-400-800 freestyles.

Not only has she qualified, but outside the 200 butterfly, an event that saw Flickinger win the silver medal at the 2019 World Championships, she isn’t sure what she is going to swim. That is because she has a good shot of making the finals in perhaps seven of the nine events.

“I do everything the best I can. I try to work hard in everything I do and that really helped me become as versatile as I am,” Hali Flickinger told Swimming World. “I don’t look at a fly set different than a backstroke set. I don’t really like swimming IM, but I will give the same effort in an IM set.

“It helps with versatility and helps with my main stroke as well because I am giving an honest effort, even if I don’t want to.

“I take a lot of pride in that.”

hali-flickinger-condors

Hali Flickinger. Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

Flickinger’s versatility was on full display during the International Swimming League (ISL) season. With the entire season in a bubble in Budapest, and condensed to six weeks of competition, there were a lot of races, especially for someone like Flickinger, who swam nearly every event in the lineup at one point or another for the Cali Condors, helping the team win the championship.

“I enjoyed the ISL so much. I was nervous to go because of everything going on and my training had been so up and down,” Flickinger said. “The six weeks went by so fast because it was so much fun. We got to spend so much time with each other. We made so many cool memories. I am really thankful that I went.”

And the Condors are thankful they had Flickinger on their side.

Flickinger finished 11th overall in the season MVP point standings out of more than 300 swimmers. She was the sixth-highest point scorer on the women’s side.

“I was having so much fun that I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing and how many events I was doing. If I stopped to think about it that way, maybe I would have been, ‘holy crap, this is ridiculous,’” she said. “But I was having so much fun and I wanted to do what I could. My events are the harder ones — the longer ones. It was my chance to step up for the team.”

Part of the reason Hali Flickinger could just sit back and race, not worrying about the outcomes is because no matter what happened, there was another race looming just minutes later.

The other part is that she and her coach, Bob Bowman, had a strong plan going into the bubble.

“Bob had a plan. We talked quite a bit and we had a plan going in. The training that I did helped me through the ISL to continue to step up and be strong,” Flickinger said. “We went into the ISL with the mindset that this was a training opportunity. I was doing really hard practices and that allowed me to have all of that under my belt so I could keep going rather than getting weaker. I made sure I stayed on weights the whole time. I was able to handle them like they were training meets.”

Flickinger, like most swimmers, was not sure how fast she would be after the COVID-19 pandemic took over 2020, keeping many swimmers out of the water for months.

“(The ISL season) really gave me that boost of energy, why I love swimming so much. COVID-19 has been hard, especially with pool time. The ISL gave me that mental boost because mentally the pandemic has been hard,” she said. “We all went to Budapest not knowing where we were. I saw some things I did really well and saw some things I needed to work on. I learned so much.”

After moving to Arizona to train with Bowman, Flickinger said she has learned more than she ever thought she could.

“Bob sees things that I don’t necessarily see. I am really hard on myself, but he is able to take all of the positives and put me back to reality when I need it,” Flickinger said. “He really balances out my weaknesses, especially when it comes to not seeing progress as fast as I would like. I tend to jump to the future and freak out. It is really nice to have his perspective and bring me down to chill mode. He knows the butterfly better than anybody. I get critiqued on my stroke constantly. He still can find what can be better even with good strokes.

“I still pinch myself that I am able to train with him.”

Hali Flickinger

Hali Flickinger; Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS / ISL

Outside the water, having that confidence in herself and her coach has helped her prepare.

“I just have to keep putting in the work. My confidence comes from everything I do day in and day out,” she said. “There have been so many times I have told Bob what I want to do. He has helped me get those best chances at what I want to do.  Last year, I only really got five months with Bob. We are jumping back to where we were and sticking with the plan.

I worry a lot, so I trust him to get us where we want to be. Obviously what Bob is doing is working.”

That gives Hali Flickinger a boost of confidence heading into an Olympic year, where her biggest goals await.