NCAA DII Champion Georgia Wright Opens up About Diagnosis of Autism

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Rachel Helm, Swimming World College Intern. 

Known for her contagious smile and her charismatic attitude towards life, Georgia Wright is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the realm of NCAA Division II swimming. Wright originally hails from Doncaster, a town in the United Kingdom, but decided to move to the United States to study exercise science and swim at West Chester University. Since moving to the States, she has garnered several accolades to her name: seven-time NCAA DII champion, NCAA DII record holder in the 1,000-yard freestyle and ten-time All-American as she approaches her senior year.

But behind these awards and smiles, Wright is brutally honest about her struggles. One constant battle is coming to terms with her autism diagnosis while thousands of miles away from home. Cultivating good mental health while coming to terms with not being okay all the time are her biggest challenges. Wright sat down with Swimming World to discuss her collegiate swimming experience.

Swimming World: As a freshman, did you have any expectations of the American collegiate system?

Wright: No. Going to West Chester, I had no idea what I was in for. I would have no idea I would make it this far or even be on track to graduate.

SW: Were you shocked with your performances at NCAAs freshman year (2017)?

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick. Wright went on to set a new NCAA record in the 1,000 free (9.48.87) and win that event along with the 1,650 and another All-American position in the 500 free.

Wright: Yes! I was very shocked. I still remember my first ever race (1,000) and thinking I have two more laps left, and I wasn’t capable of that. That NCAA meet is the reason I returned for my sophomore year.

SW: Has pressure increased since your performances at NCAAs 2017/2018, now being four-time national champion and seven-time All-American?

Wright: Definitely. Something I have always done is put too much pressure on myself, and with all my struggles, winning something was amazing. It made me feel something I don’t often feel, so I always want to feel that. The pressures has always come from myself.

SW: You talk about struggles. How have they changed after your move to the States from the U.K.?

Wright: My mental health decreased a lot. My mum and dad played a huge role in my support. I was diagnosed with autism in 2017, and even though I still had my parents’ support, it’s not the same when you’re 4,000 miles away from home. It opened my eyes big time. Finding out I am autistic gave me comfort for a little while finally knowing why I was the way I was, but over time, the stress built up that I was different.

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Photo Courtesy: Georgia Wright. Wright has now come to find some peace in her struggles. As a commemoration, she got a tattoo of the autism symbol as a sign of who she is and her strength.

SW: What do you do to keep mentally focused throughout each season in order to come back stronger?

Wright: I like to stay fit. Something that really bothers me and affects me mentally is if I fall behind in training, which is why I try to stay as fit as I can to improve. I also try to remember that I want to be the best version of myself for my team, because they’re my family.

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Photo Courtesy: Georgia Wright

SW: You had an outstanding junior season despite the mental setbacks. How did you feel throughout the season? In particular, your NCAA vs. Conference meets?

Wright: Throughout the year I really struggled. I had a trip home for Thanksgiving because I was in such a bad place and needed time to figure out if I still wanted to be in the States. I decided to stay, and my conference meet wasn’t the best time-wise, but I was happy. NCAA was the best I had felt in a while, and it really helped me regain my confidence.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick. At Wright’s 2019 NCAA meet, she regained her NCAA record and title in the 1,000 free with 9.45.86. She also won the 500 free and the 1650 free.

SW: How have your mental struggles morphed you into a better athlete?

Wright: Something I’ve had to deal with all my life is being bullied and being different. Swimming offered me an escape from that. I could be who I am, and eventually, that attitude spread into other parts of my life. I am a strong person because of that.

SW: Where do you see yourself in the future?

Wright: I’m not 100 percent sure about what I want to do with my future, but I would love to improve myself mentally and accept my struggles, find some self-love, and stop beating myself up over every little thing.

Wright will be returning to West Chester for her senior season this fall and stands as an inspiration to many swimmers within the NCAA who may be struggling mentally. She has become a beacon to the autism community.

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World nor its staff.

7 comments

  1. Kalina Grace Emaus

    As a distance swimmer, I’ve always followed Georgia times and always was in awe as I’d watch her dominate the field in the mile and turn around to swim another stellar 200 back. This is a wonderful story of the good swimming can bring to anyone from any walk of life. I can’t love this enough.. thank you for sharing.

  2. Andy Gallion

    I really enjoyed watching Georgia swim at PSACs and NCAAs! Wishing her the best next year!

  3. Rhonda Hegwood-Kraff

    What a brave and brilliant young lady—(and a talented swimmer) wishing her all the best in the future!

  4. Jamie Feran

    Thank you for this article. Very important to remember those who struggle with a mental diagnosis and still achieve great things! Thank you for being so very brave young lady.

  5. Susan Fabris-Jones

    Miss Wright YOU ARE brave and an inspiration for ALL. You have a challenge but you are letting it define you with integrity, perseverance and determination. God bless you in all you do. Stay the course and know that there are many who support you! ❤️❤️

  6. avatar
    Anne Moore

    Georgia you are an inspiration to everyone..you have a wonderful family who have supported you throughout. A credit to your family. Keep smiling x