Tips and Training
Jessica Hardy: Something to Prove in 2012
From: USA Swimming
While most of the world was glued to their TVs watching Michael Phelps’ quest for eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, Jessica Hardy tried everything she could to avoid it altogether.
Unfortunately for Hardy, who had made the U.S. Olympic Team a few weeks earlier only to voluntarily withdraw because she tested positive for an illegal substance at Trials, the coverage – television and otherwise – was just too good and too prevalent.
“I deliberately avoided watching. It was the most painful thing you can imagine to watch,” said Hardy, who would have been a medal threat in both the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke as well as relays in Beijing. “I ended up watching my boyfriend’s (Dominik Meichtry of Switzerland) races, especially the 200 freestyle final, but I still have not watched any of the events that I was supposed to have competed in.”
Having already completed a one-year suspension (returning in August 2009), Hardy was recently officially approved to compete to qualify for the 2012 London Games.
As a result of enduring the “hardest thing I’ve ever been through,” she is choosing to look forward rather than backward in her views of life and swimming.
She said she takes nothing for granted, is completely grateful for the opportunities that stand before her and wants to prove she belonged on that 2008 Olympic team no matter what the tests might say.
“I can’t put into words how thankful and appreciative I am to be competing again, without any barriers in front of me and my future in the sport,” Hardy said. “I didn’t realize how much the indecisiveness was burdening me until I heard the official ruling from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on April 28 that I was going to be allowed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games.
“I feel like a million pounds has been lifted off of my shoulders, but I didn’t even realize it was there until now.”
During her year away from competition, Hardy said she took some time off and cut back her training, but never entertained a single thought about ending her swimming career.
As she worked to clear her name of the allegations that she purposefully took Clenbuterol (she eventually proved it was included and not labeled in a contaminated nutritional supplement), Hardy admits she fell into a dark place.
She was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression and said she felt a disconnection to the sport during the suspension. She made a conscious effort to stay off the radar surrounding the time of her positive test so as not to take away focus and attention from the U.S. Olympic team competing in Beijing.
“It was a very lonely and isolated time in my life,” Hardy said. “With my positive test, I was treated as guilty before proven innocent, and I really relied upon the support of my family, boyfriend, coaches and closet friends.
“I know in my heart that I wouldn’t have survived that time without them. They were my backbone, and they made me realize what was really important in life, and I am more appreciative for their support than I can ever express.”
When she resumed competition Aug. 5, Hardy said she felt her performances had taken some “steps backward,” but her race results told a much different story.
A day after her return at the 2009 U.S. Open, she set a world record in the 50 breaststroke. She also broke Olympic champion Rebecca Soni’s world mark in the 100 breast, and the next day, broke her own world best in the 50 breast again.
Almost a year later at 2010 ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships, Hardy proved again that she was back with a vengeance, qualifying for the Pan Pacific Championship team and leaving Irvine, Calif., with gold medals in the 50 breast, 50 freestyle, 400 medley and 400 freestyle relays.
“There was never any doubt that I would be back and that I would be stronger than ever,” Hardy said. “The past couple of years have made me more humble, more grateful, more motivated and more focused.”
Now that she has been cleared for 2012 Olympic Trials, Hardy, who trains with rival and friend Soni under the coaching of Dave Salo at USC, said she is excited to redeem herself next summer in Omaha.
“I am excited for the opportunity that 2012 brings, and personally, am looking forward to hopefully having a positive connotation with the world ‘Olympics’ for the first time since 2008,” Hardy said. “I am grateful that I am still swimming at the top of my game, and can’t wait for the opportunities that lie ahead.”
And for the athletes who continue to take nutritional supplements, Hardy has some words of advice – and warning.
“I watch absolutely everything that I put into my body,” Hardy said. “I don’t drink sports drinks; I don’t eat at Whole Foods or smoothie shops.
“I have learned the hard way that you can never be too careful, and I would absolutely recommend that all drug-tested athletes do the same.”
Article of the week from USA Swimming:
INSIDE THE WORKOUT
Learn to Build Your Races
By Garrett Weber-Gale//Olympic Gold Medalist
There are countless ways strategize the perfect race. Each athlete is a bit different, so there are varying theories depending upon how you race. Some swimmers go out really fast and try to hold on, others try to negative split, and some just try to stay the same pace throughout.
Here at the University of Texas, coach Eddie Reese teaches us to build our races. Although we still believe in the concept of going out fast, it is critical to be controlled and increase the intensity along the way.
One of the ways we take this theory and put it into practical application is by creating sets around the concept. Here’s a set we recently swam in order to help us build the back end of our races.
4x100 on 1:40
The first 100 you go fast on the last 25.
The second 100 you go fast on the last 50.
The third 100 you go fast on the last 75.
The fourth 100 you go fast on the entire 100.
We did this entire set two rounds swim, one round pull, and two rounds kick. Between each round we took a 2-minute break.
Exploding on parts of the 100 that started from the end allowed us to build up the entire swim so that at the finish we were really firing, as if we were really in a race. Just like in a race we realized that it was important to build up each ‘fast’ part so that we had gas at the end. For instance, really only the last 15 to 25 meters of a race is completely ‘all out’.
I swam in the group that did 100s, however, we did have some athletes who did the set going 200s. The group that did 4x200 started with the last 50 being fast, and added a 50 on each repeat. This is a much different set physically and will be much harder to get the same type of top-end speed from. If you’re not as much of a speed demon, the 200’s set might be better for you.
Work with your coach to figure out what part of this set will benefit you most. Remember, in order to execute the perfect race strategy in the race, we must practice it in workout. Keep working hard and having fun.
THE MAGIC OF AN OPPORTUNITY: BY Mike Gustafson Mike Gustafson//Correspondent BY Mike Gustafson//Correspondent BY Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
Imagine Doc Brown from Back to the Future came up to you and said, "Today you're going to set a world record. The only thing you have to do is race."
You'd swim that day, right? You'd be the first person in the pool, warming-up, excited and ready to swim?
World records aren't broken every day. The opportunity is rare. You'd take advantage of it.
Unfortunately, time travel and Doc Brown do not (yet) exist. Swimmers don't know what the future holds. Sometimes, we don't feel like swimming.
Instead of swimming that looming, ominous 1500m this afternoon, we'd rather go to the beach. Or go shopping. Or take a nap. There will be another day, another race, right?
But you never know. Sometimes the difference between breaking a world record or not is simply showing up to swim.
Take Kate Ziegler. At the Indianapolis Grand Prix, Ziegler told me that on the day she broke Janet Evans' hallowed 1500m world record, she didn't want to swim that evening. She wanted to go to the beach. She wasn’t really feeling it. Fortunately, her coach convinced her to swim that afternoon. The rest, as they say, is history.
But what if she had gone to the beach? What if she never swam that day? For whatever reason, the nuts and bolts were zooming in perfect harmony that day. Would they realign? Could she repeat that same performance the next day? Next week?
What if she didn't swim that day?
I was once told from the creator of "Friends" that the hardest thing to do in the entertainment industry isn't getting your foot in the door; it's being prepared when you're already in.
People always get their foot in the door, but they rarely take advantage of it.
It’s that old “elevator pitch” theory. You should always be prepared when you live in Hollywood, because you never know who could be stuck in an elevator with. Some of my friends went from assistants to executive producers in 24 hours because they were stuck in an elevator with someone like Rosie O’Donnell, pitched her an idea they had rehearsed, and made the most of their opportunity. No joke.
Swimming is similar. Any given lane at any given time is an opportunity. "Give me a lane, anywhere, anytime," one famous swimmer used to say, "and I'll aim for perfection."
Sometimes, swimming is viewed in a linear path. You’d think, “Times will get faster. Races will get easier. I’ll eventually get here, do this, swim that, and by this year I’ll be where I want to be.” Swimmers sometimes circle on the calendar, "This is when I'll swim my fastest. This is the plan."
But swimming is rarely predictable. It’s not this linear, easily-planned calendar of time progression. It's more a chaotic fun house. It’s opposite than what you’d expect. You swim fast when you expect to swim slow. You swim slow when you expect to swim fast. One day, you could be planning a trip to the beach, while your body secretly knows, “I could be breaking a world record right now, this very second.”
You never know when the swim of your life will happen.
You can’t plot out the future. And unless Doc Brown swings by your house and points out the highs and lows of your future swimming career, it’s best to say to yourself, “Give me a lane, anywhere, anytime – and it could be magic.”