Swimming World Presents “Sister Act: Gretchen and Alex Walsh Chasing The Ultimate Dream… Together”

Swimming World Magazine May June Issue - Sister Act -Gretchen and Alex Walsh Chasing the ultimate dream together

Sister Act: Gretchen and Alex Walsh Chasing The Ultimate Dream… Together

By David Rieder

Alex and Gretchen Walsh have worked their way up the pecking order of American swimming, and in 2021, the talented sisters from the Nashville Aquatic Club and two-time national champion Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tenn., will get their shot at their greatest goal: the Olympics!

When Alex Walsh thinks back on her first Olympic Trials experience, she remembers the awkwardness of arriving in the ready room early before her first race and the nerves of marching into a massive arena for prelims. She was racing in the 100 back in Lane 2 with eminent competition in the next three lanes: 2012 Olympian and multi-time NCAA champion Rachel Bootsma, American record holder and defending Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin and eventual Olympic silver medalist Kathleen Baker.

Walsh, competing for Nashville Aquatic Club, was just 14 years old at the time, but she held her own. She finished sixth in the heat and advanced to the semifinals. A few minutes later, she exited the pool and walked into the mixed zone, where she spoke with a reporter.
“I had to stop the person and go throw up,” Walsh said. “Normally, I don’t throw up in prelims, because I don’t totally physically strain myself, but that was a combination of nerves and stuff. My coaches still make fun of me for that today.”

At 14, Walsh wasn’t the youngest swimmer at the meet—or even the youngest in her family. Her 13-year-old sister, Gretchen, had qualified two weeks beforehand in one event, the 50 free. “Nothing compares to that meet,” Gretchen said. “For me, I didn’t have any expectations, just because I had already gotten my goal just to be there.” For both Alex and Gretchen, the experience was a formative one for their swimming careers. Four years later, both Walsh sisters are established junior-level stars, joined in a pursuit of senior-level elite status with a shared, yet very separate, Olympic dream.

Eighteen months apart in age, Alex and Gretchen have grown up together, and their mother, Glynis, thinks the two complement each other. Alex is more inward and balanced, level-headed and thoughtful. Glynis said, “I definitely trust her thought process, especially for herself. She knows her own heart.” Gretchen, meanwhile, is more focused and loud, more likely to show emotions than her sister—and more likely to be on time.

In swimming, Gretchen was always the more goal-oriented of the two. When the girls were younger, Alex had success more quickly, winning junior nationals when she was 14 and breaking national age group records before that. Gretchen, meanwhile, swam largely in her sister’s shadow. That drove Gretchen to try to match her sister’s early achievements.

When Alex and Gretchen were considering their college choices, they each went through their own recruiting process, but they ended up settling on the same school: the University of Virginia. Each separately felt attracted to the team dynamic and culture that head coach Todd DeSorbo has built in a quickly rising Cavalier program. Alex will enter college in the fall of 2020, and Gretchen will follow one year later.
On being together in Charlottesville, Alex said, “I think it’s going to be fun,” to which Gretchen responded, “I don’t think we’ll get sick of each other as often.”

In college, Alex and Gretchen won’t be together as often, and they won’t constantly compete against each other in practice, but they will still have each other for support— as sisters.

“By the time Gretchen gets there, they’re going to live on opposite sides of the campus, and they’ll swim on opposite sides of the pool because Gretchen will be in the sprint group and Alex will be in the middle distance group. Instead of being right next to each other and being compared, they’ll be more parallel and supportive,” Glynis said. “They’ll be there as teammates, as friends. They’ll be there for the good and the bad, but they won’t be right next to each other.”

To read the full article about Gretchen and Alex Walsh and their plans for the University of Virginia, 
Check out the May/June 2020 issue of Swimming World Magazine, available now!

Swimming World May June 2020 Issue - Gretchen and Alex Walsh - Cover

[PHOTO CREDIT: SPEEDO USA]

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FEATURES

020 TOSSED INTO TURMOIL
by Dan D’Addona
The spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had a far-reaching impact not only on everyday life, but also on the sport of swimming across the globe.

022 COVID-19 AFTERMATH: UNCERTAIN TIMES
by Dan D’Addona
While the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to sports around the world, the full financial impact of the pandemic will not be known for some time—especially in college sports, which could lead to uncertain and even a fearful future for the sport of swimming.

024 TIMING IS EVERYTHING
by David Rieder
Everyone knows how important timing is—races can be won or lost by hundredths of a second. For swimmers competing at the NAIA and NJCAA Championships, the most important timing was measured in days. Both associations were able to complete their championship meets just before other major sports championships were being canceled due to the threat of coronavirus.

026 SILVER LINING COULD TURN TO GOLD
by Michael Randazzo
The Olympic postponement was hardly perceived as a positive, but it could lead to hope and opportunity for any men’s or women’s water polo team that aspires to Olympic competition—including the United States’ national teams.

028 MENTAL PREP: BEFORE THE BEEP WITH ASHLEY TWICHELL
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

030 IMPACTING LIVES THROUGH COACHING
by David Rieder
Dave Durden, University of California and U.S. national team coach, simply refers to himself as a swim coach. But he’s also a leader, an expert at maximizing performance, removing doubt, instilling confidence and navigating young men through demanding situations.

034 CHASING THE ULTIMATE DREAM… TOGETHER
by David Rieder
Alex and Gretchen Walsh have worked their way up the pecking order of American swimming, and in 2021, the talented sisters from the Nashville Aquatic Club and two-time national champion Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tenn., will get their shot at their greatest goal: the Olympics!

038 TAKEOFF TO TOKYO: T ‘N’ T—A FRIENDLY RIVALRY FOR A DYNAMITE DUO
by John Lohn
During the Olympic campaign of 2000, Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres—complete opposites out of the pool, but with few differences as competitors—were engaged in a friendly, but not-so-easy rivalry—one that brought out the best in both swimmers.

042 TAKEOFF TO TOKYO:MISTY’S MAGICAL MOMENT
by John Lohn
The United States’ Misty Hyman turned in one of the biggest upsets in Olympic swimming history, beating Australia’s Susie O’Neill—the defending Olympic champion, world record holder and the host country’s favorite—in the women’s 200 fly at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

046 ISHOF: A DUKE, A MERMAID, A WAR AND THE FLU
by Bruce Wigo
COVID-19 isn’t the first pandemic disease to have brought the world of competitive swimming to a halt, and the 2020 Olympic Games are not the first to be postponed or canceled. This is the story of the years between 1914 and 1918, when the world was suddenly and unexpectedly turned upside down by events not so different from what our sport is experiencing today.

048 ISHOF: TRAGEDY & TRIUMPH AT U.S. TRIALS…60 YEARS AGO
by Bruce Wigo
Every U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, since they were first held in 1904, has always seen favorites fail and underdogs rise to the occasion.

COACHING

016 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: THE VALUE OF HAND FORCE ANALYSIS: PART II—BACKSTROKE
by Rod Havriluk
Synchronized video and hand force data is an essential tool for optimizing technique. A coach can use the force data to pinpoint limitations, refer to the corresponding video images to explain changes and monitor a swimmer’s progress in improving technique.

018 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: THE VALUE OF HAND FORCE ANALYSIS:  PART III—BREASTSTROKE
by Rod Havriluk
The two previous articles in this series (Part I—Butterfly and Part II—Backstroke) presented information about the value of using hand force analysis to identify specific technique elements that limit performance, and in many cases, substantially. This month’s article includes more general information about force analysis with a breaststroke example.

052 MOTIVATING SWIMMERS TO NEW HEIGHTS
by Michael J. Stott
Memorable are the sporting events where an athlete or team is “on fire.” Swimming World checks in with two high school and two age group coaches for insight into how that happens. Spoiler alert: the common denominator is “buy-in” from athletes who connect with a coach.

056 AEROBIC OVERLOAD: VOLUME REVISITED
by Michael J. Stott
In the first of two parts, Swimming World Magazine re-examines the role of volume in  swim training.

058 SPECIAL SETS: CHANGE-OF-PACE FUN
by Michael J. Stott
USA Swimming master coach consultant Bob Steele provides some favorite change-of-pace exercises that are designed to insert spice and fun into in-season training.

060 SPECIAL SETS: STARTING OVER
by Michael J. Stott
Bruce Gemmell, head coach at Nation’s Capital Swim Club (Georgetown Prep site in North Bethesda, Md.) provides some sample sets—and some guidelines—for when it’s time to return to the water for training.

066 Q&A WITH COACH DOUG FONDER
by Michael J. Stott

067 HOW THEY TRAIN OLIVIA BRAY
by Michael J. Stott

069 Q&A WITH COACH RON & DON HEIDARY
by Michael J. Stott

070 HOW THEY TRAIN MADDIE SMITH AND EMILIA BARCK
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

012 DRYSIDE TRAINING: STROKE STRENGTH SERIES—FREESTYLE
by J.R. Rosania

015 DRYSIDE TRAINING: DRYLAND EXERCISES TO DO WHEN YOU CAN’T SWIM
by J.R. Rosania

JUNIOR SWIMMER

063 GOLDMINDS: THE MOST POWERFUL FORCE IN SWIMMING
by Wayne Goldsmith
The greatest power that swimmers can possess is the power of choice. With that one power, all swimmers—regardless of age, experience or level of swimming capability—can accelerate their improvement and realize the full extent of their potential.

072 UP & COMERS: FINN CONLEY
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COLUMNS

010 A VOICE FOR THE SPORT

051 DID YOU KNOW? 1920 U.S. WOMEN’S OLYMPIC TEAM

073 GUTTERTALK

074 PARTING SHOT

6 comments

    • Joanne Newton

      Kristi Cardoni-Weyant these amazing ladies started their journey in CT where my kids swim. Always loved watching them compete!

    • Joanne Newton

      We are hoping our community pool will reopen on 6/20. In the meantime, thank goodness for our backyard pool and stretch cords!!

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