Behind the Beep: Catching Up With U.S. National Team Member Nick Albiero

nicolas-albiero-

Behind the Beep: Catching Up With U.S. National Team Member Nick Albiero

Louisville Cardinals’ Nicolas (Nick) Albiero used his fifth NCAA competitive year to his advantage. After losing the opportunity to compete at the 2020 NCAA Division I Championships, which were canceled because of the COVID pandemic, Albiero came back in 2021 and 2022 with a bang.

In 2021, Albiero became only the third male swimmer from Louisville to clinch an NCAA title when he won the 200 yard butterfly and contributed to Louisville’s winning 4×50 medley relay. His 1:38.65 200 fly ranked him No. 5 all-time for the event.

The following season, Albiero made history again by defending his conference title in the 200 butterfly at ACCs for a record fifth time. His 1:37.92 was the second fastest time in history, only bested by Jack Conger’s 1:37.35, set at the 2017 NCAA Championships.

“To date, I think my best swimming accomplishment has been breaking the 1:38 barrier in the 200 yard butterfly and becoming the first person in history to win five consecutive individual conference titles,” says Albiero.

Many swimmers visualize the day they will break records. For Albiero, and many swimmers who had their collegiate careers interrupted by COVID, it was bound to be extra sweet for him when he finally broke the 1:38 barrier.

“I remember looking up and seeing my time,” reflects Albiero. “I was shocked, and my teammates and coaches were going crazy. It felt amazing because it was a barrier I dreamed of breaking for so long. I felt relieved, but also grateful for the people who pushed me to that moment. It always feels great when your hard work pays off.”

Albiero’s illustrious collegiate career wasn’t just because of his individual success. In 2021, he helped Louisville earn its first-ever ACC title. He was a key member on four relays, including the 400 medley, 200 freestyle, 400 freestyle and 800 freestyle. For his efforts, Albiero was named ACC Swimmer of the Year.

Recently, Albiero took the time to talk to Swimming World Magazine about his race-day preparation and overall philosophy on how to show up your finest on race day.

HOTEL

Getting into the right frame of mind is key the night before a big race. Some swimmers visualize the next day, while others seek out distractions to keep the nerves at bay. For Albiero, the majority of his mental preparation centers around keeping his mind off his race, whether it’s Olympic Trials, NCAA Championships or national championships.

“The night before a big race, I try to stay calm and think about something else. If I think about the race, my heart rate goes up, and I can’t sleep.”

Albiero’s rituals are minimal, but they include two important things: candy and television.

“I like to watch HGTV shows because they calm me down,” he says. “And at meets, I must have dark chocolate on standby.”

WARMUP

After a solid night of sleep, it’s race day. For Albiero—a seasoned three-time U.S. national team member—the morning before a big race is usually well rehearsed. While some swimmers opt to head to the pool for a quick “wake-up” swim—usually no more than a few 100 to a 1,000 to loosen up their muscles—Albiero has a different morning routine.

“The morning of the race I usually hop in a warm shower for a bit. It wakes me up and gets me moving around before breakfast,” shares Albiero. “I usually leave the hotel two hours before the race starts.”

Once on deck, he takes his time getting into the pool. He sits down and takes in the energy before even starting his stretching routine. It isn’t until an hour before race time that Albiero hits the water.

“I like to do pace 20 to 25 minutes before the race,” says Albiero. “Honestly, my best races have come from warm-ups where I feel pretty terrible in the water. At that point, I try not to care about how I feel during warm-up, and just go with it.”

With little time before he’s set to enter the ready room, Albiero hops out of the water and into his tech suit.

“People think I’m crazy, but I get my suit on just 15 minutes before the race!”

READY ROOM

The ready room can be a highly stressful setting. In that small room, some swimmers feed off the nervous energy, some intimidate their competitors, and others keep to themselves. Albiero’s ready room routine involves almost avoiding the room altogether!

“I honestly don’t love ready rooms, and I like to get there as late as possible,” he says. “I don’t listen to music or talk much, but I do give some fist bumps out to my competitors. I try to stay as relaxed as possible and control my breathing.”

BEHIND THE BLOCKS AND DURING THE RACE

Walking from the ready room to the race pool is an exciting and energetic few moments. The crowd and teammates in the stands, the scoreboard and announcer all make it an infectious spectacle.

“Once it’s time to walk out, I do my best to take it all in, feed off the energy from my team, and enjoy the moment,” says Albiero. “When the starter calls my name, I usually throw my “L” up for Louisville and look at my teammates. They get me excited, and it reminds me of who I am racing for.”

But before he even steps on the blocks, Albiero loosens up his body. He jumps around and shakes out his legs. Then it’s verbal positive reinforcements as he takes his mark: Sometimes, “Let’s do this”…other times, “You’ve got this.”

In the pool, Albiero sticks to his race plan no matter what is happening around him. He knows that trusting in himself and his training will get him where he needs to be—whether that is an NCAA Championship title or the second-fastest 200 yard butterfly ever swum.

ADVICE TO OTHERS

And after it is all said and done, Albiero can look back on his mental and physical preparation with confidence.

“Mental preparation is key, and I think (mine) has grown over the years,” reflects Albiero. “Whether it is self-talk, visualizing, meditating, etc., mentally preparing for any scenario goes a long way in being successful.”

Despite his own personal success, Albiero is wise to advise young swimmers that his way may not be the best way for them. It takes athletes years to evolve and perfect their “perfect” race-day scenario—so don’t expect it to happen overnight!

“Just because I do things a certain way does not mean it will work for you,” says Albiero. “There are no guides out there to prepare you for your own race. When it comes to giving your best performance, it’s about your willingness to do the work no matter who you are or what meet you are racing at.

“And don’t forget to have fun!”

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