No Doubt: Beata Nelson a Different Swimmer at Her Second NCAA Champs (Video Included)

Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

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By David Rieder.

Beata Nelson didn’t want to talk about her freshman year NCAA championships. That was the meet where the former top-ranked recruit and National High School Swimmer of the Year finished 40th, 27th and 17th in her three individual events as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin.

Looking back, Nelson called that meet “a transitional period for me and super necessary to be where I am now.” And now, at her second NCAA championships, she has swum in her first individual final, fulfilling what she calls “a dream of mine.” She bolstered her case as a national favorite in another event. Why would she want to spend time dwelling on last year?


Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

Nelson finished sixth in the 200 IM, posting a time of 1:53.54, making her the 18th-fastest performer of all time. But that was just a prelude to what Nelson would uncork later that night, when she led off Wisconsin’s team in the B-final of the women’s 4×100 medley relay. Nelson touched in 49.83, the fourth-fastest performance in history.

That was just five hundredths off Nelson’s best, a 49.78 she swam four weeks earlier in the same Columbus pool at the women’s Big Ten championships. Before that meet, no one thought of Nelson as a national championship contender and certainly not in a backstroke event. After all, she had been best-known for her butterfly abilities coming out of high school.

But then came the Big Ten breakthrough, and now Nelson knows that it was no fluke.

“It’s awesome. It’s something I’ve strived for since I started swimming. To see it again here is obviously exciting,” Nelson said. “Seeing that up on the board during the relay really gives me reassurance that it wasn’t just one time and it’ll keep happening again so long as I believe in myself, so it’s exciting.”

It’s tough to declare one person in the 100 back a favorite. Perhaps it should be Kathleen Baker, the Cal junior who is the defending champion and also the World and Olympic silver medalist in the long course 100 back. Or maybe Stanford’s Ally Howe, who holds the American record in the event at 49.69.

But note this: Nelson’s relay leadoff Thursday night was much faster than either Howe (50.34) or Baker (50.66) swam while leading off their respective relays a few minutes later in the A-final. In Friday’s prelims, she qualified first for the 100 back final at 50.61, three hundredths ahead of Howe.

Over the last year, Nelson prepared herself for dealing with the extra pressure and emotions that come with an NCAA championships.

“Just building up my confidence and realizing that I do deserve to be here and I’ve worked hard enough to be here,” she said. “Using breathing techniques and trying to focus and hone in on the little things is always what I try to do at meets like this. It’s just another swim meet—people don’t realize that with all the excitement and hoopla that comes with it—but it’s just another swim meet, and that’s how I’m looking at it.”

For how much disappointment Nelson dealt with at her first NCAA championships, she is better off for that experience. She no longer has any doubt in her own abilities. And that’s what makes her so dangerous as she enters a star-studded but still wide-open race in the 100 back.

1 comment

  1. avatar

    Sooo happy and excited for Beata. .who has worked soo hard for soo long..she is an amazing athlete and an amazing person. ..I love her comment about the fact that she had to go through a transition phase to get her to this point. ..absolutely. ..not to mention. .other personal struggles that she had to deal with. LOVE YOU BEATA! Best of luck to you!