How They Train Beth Botsford – Sponsored by TritonWear

Beth Botsford at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials - Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In a five-year period in the early 1990s, North Baltimore Aquatic Club phenomenon Beth Botsford held every national age group backstroke record (SCY/LC) for ages 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14. At 15, she went on to win two Olympic gold medals (100 backstroke, 4 x 100 medley relay) at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

In her career, she was a 16-time NCAA All-American, won six national USA Swimming titles and broke the American and U.S. Open records in the 200 meter backstroke. She also competed and won medals at the World Championships as well as the Pan American, Pan Pacific and World University Games. These days, she is an assistant coach at her alma mater, the University of Arizona, where she is a member of the Wildcat Hall of Fame.

As her first NBAC coach, Tom Himes had a bird’s-eye view of the promise to come.

“Beth came to us in September of 1991 after turning 10 in May. I had seen her swim in a couple of summer league meets, and she was extremely sloppy, but seemed to sit on top of the water and demonstrated a good feel,” he recalls.

“Beth’s first two weeks were a bit stressful. She had never done much in practice, and when she had, it was mostly 25s. Initially, she cried every day, but always returned ready to go. After overcoming her fears, she developed quickly. She was essentially just a backstroker. Her free was sloppy, breast very weak and her fly was a mess.

“Yet from the start, it was evident that she was truly focused. She listened and applied what you told her. She was very coachable and took to challenges. We focused on improving all of her strokes. She became a great backstroker and developed an outstanding fly and a solid IM,” says Himes.

“In the beginning, she swam for 75 to 90 minutes, four to five days per week, and her improvement was nothing short of remarkable. She went from crying every day at practice in early September (1:24 SCY 100 back) to breaking the 10-and-under NAG records in the 50 and 100 back in March/early April—28.79 /1:01.71.”

In short order, Botsford added a fifth day and then a sixth as an 11-year-old. At 12, she swam seven days a week for an hour-and-a-half and occasionally for two hours. “Beth moved into the senior group when she was 13, and did not start doing doubles until she was nearly 14 years old,” says Himes.

“From very early on, Beth set lofty goals. In May 1992, she did a class presentation on swimming, and professed that at age 15, she hoped to be at the 1996 Olympic Games. Her yearly goals included the Olympic dream. With her, it was believable to her coaches that it was an accomplishable goal,” he says.


(Short Course Yards)

• 25 back drill @ :40
• 50 back kick @ :50
• 50 free @ 1:00
• 75 back FAST @ 1:10

• 6 x 100 back @ 1:35
• 200 back kick @ 4:00
• 4 x 100 back @ 1:25
• 200 back kick @ 4:00
• 2 x 100 back @ 1:15
• 200 back kick @ 4:00

• 6 x 50 reverse fly kick (on back) w/ fins @ :50
• 1 x 200 fly drill @ 3:30
• 6 x 50 fly @ :50

• 50 free kick @ 1:00
• 50 side kick @ 1:00
• 50 reverse fly kick (on back) @ 1:00
• 50 side kick @ 1:00
• 5 x 100 back @ 1:30
• 4 x 200 back @ 2:50
• 3 x 300 back @ 4:10
• 2 x 400 back @ 5:30
• 1 x 500 back @ 6:30

Progression of Times

SCYSept '91Oct '91Apr '92Apr '93Apr '94
50 Back36.6331.8328.7926.6226.50
100 Back1:24.101:10.861:01.7157.8756.23
100 Fly1:24.681:17.841:05.7359.6456.40
200 IM---2:38.992:23.642:11.742:08.58
LCJan '92Aug '92Aug '93Aug '94
50 Back33.5032.0830.8830.43
100 Back1:14.491:09.391:05.331:02.92
200 Back------2:23.852:16.51
200 IM2:51.712:35.222:28.022:24.57

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This article originally ran in the June 2018 issue of Swimming World Magazine.

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Author: Taylor Brien

Taylor Brien is the Assistant Operations Manager and a staff writer at Swimming World. A native of Bettendorf, IA and a 2015 graduate of Illinois College, she has covered a variety of events since joining the SW team in 2015, including the NCAA Championships, World Championships, Olympic Trials, and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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