Fueled by Family
lizabeth Beisel was just 15 when she made her debut at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Going into Brazil, she’s a battle-hardened veteran with an already-impressive amount of hardware: a silver in the 400-meter individual medley and a bronze in the 200-meter backstroke at the 2012 Games in London. The Rhode Island native, now 23, spoke to PEOPLE about battling back from injuries and her advice for hopefuls going for gold for the first time.
How My Mom Got Me Here
How My Mom Got Me Here
by ELIZABETH BEISEL
When I was growing up in Rhode Island, I lived across the street from the beach and had a pool in my backyard. My parents wanted me to be water-safe and that turned me into a water baby. I was obsessed with water. My parents couldn’t get me out of it! When I was five, I took diving lessons. I was so bad that my mom said, “Honey, we’re going to try the swim team instead.”
I haven’t looked back and she has been so amazing. She was the one driving me every day to practices 45 minutes away. And she always made sure that I had fun.
I've grown up in the best hands possible and I am so thankful for that."
At meets, they have TV cameras everywhere and when I’m finishing a race they’ll pan to my mom and dad in the stands. So my mom would switch up where she was sitting so she wouldn't have to be on TV. That’s a perfect depiction of my parents. They’re super humble, super chill and want to stay out of the limelight.
I don’t even know how I would be able to repay them for everything they’ve done. To say I’m thankful is an understatement. My parents have given me everything I’ve needed to become the best athlete and best person that I could be. I hope that if I have kids one day, I can be just as good a parent as they have been to me. I’ve grown up in the best hands possible and I’m so thankful for that.
My mom and dad kept telling me not to give up: ‘Do not quit. You can do this.’"
- ELIZABETH BEISEL
What I Eat in a Day
A smoothie with blueberries. I always include a cup of milk since each glass has eight grams of protein and nine essential nutrients.
It can range from an omelet with toast or oatmeal or a salad with some type of lean protein. And another glass of milk.
I start with a big salad with lean protein, like chicken or salmon, and a glass of milk. And then maybe a small bowl of pasta or sweet potatoes.
If I were to cheat, I’d just like a really good piece of deep dish pizza. I could just go for cheese, but when it comes to pizza, I will eat anything!
"Instead of eating pizza as an occasional 'cheat,' make a version you can eat any time you want,” says registered dietician nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner. “Top a whole grain pita with sauce and mozzarella and pair it with a big green salad."
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Beisel and AP.
Beisel catching a much-deserved breath during practice.
In competition mode.
Enjoying the moment post-race.
Beisel in action.
A (Sort Of) Rocky Road to Rio!
Last year, I was injured basically the whole season. Leading into Rio, it’s definitely not ideal to have an injury and not be performing at your best.
It was the first time in my life that I started sort of second-guessing my swimming career. Both my mom and dad kept telling me not to give up: “Do not quit. You can do this.” Their encouragement really inspired me to keep going. You wait every four years for a Games, so I wasn’t about to let myself quit and I’m so glad I didn’t. I’m training the best I’ve ever trained. I’m swimming the best I’ve ever swam. And that’s definitely thanks to them for pushing me through that year. It’s been very difficult, that’s for sure.
I have given my entire life to this sport. I’m not going to let one injury get me."
One of the things my dad said was, “Elizabeth, you’ve put in how many years of work over the past 18 years of your life in swimming? And you’re going to throw it all away because you have an injury that, actually, you can still swim with?” That made me realize I have given my entire life to this sport. I’m not going to let one injury get me. I’m going to persevere and push through it.
I don’t have any good luck charms, but before every race I like to be loose and laughing with people. [There is a song] that my best friend and I listen to before a meet. We started playing it in London in 2012. It had come on when we were in the athletes' village and we both started dancing. So we started listening to it before our races. It became our lucky song because we were both swimming really, really well.
We change a line in it to: “Cheers to swimming fast – I’ll drink to that.” We are going to swim fast and celebrate it.”
Advice to first-timers in rio
The Games aren’t something you can prepare someone for. You have to experience it for yourself to know what it’s like. For me, to have two under my belt is something I’m looking at as an advantage.
At your first, you’re a deer in the headlights, absorbing anything and everything you see. It’s an amazing event. At my second, I was definitely more aware of myself and what I needed to do to swim well. Hopefully, this third time around I can continue to do that and expand on it even more.
Knowing what I need to do, what time I need to be in bed, what to eat before a race or how many hours of practice I need: It’s about figuring out the small things and knowing what works for you.
For first-timers, I’d tell them not to worry about what everybody else is doing. I wish somebody had told me that! I was so enamored with what all these other athletes were doing that it sort of distracted me from myself and what I needed to do.
If you’re going to the Rio, then you’re already doing something right. You’re already at that level where you don’t need to change anything that you’re doing. If you stick with what you know and what you’re comfortable with, everything is going to be fine.
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