June 18th, 2024

Nicol drafted by D.C. Trident

By Dale Woodard on August 19, 2021.

Rachel Nicol has been drafted.

Now, the Lethbridge swimmer and 2016 Rio Olympian waits to see when she’s needed and what her tour of duty will be.

Nicol was drafted by the Washington D.C. Trident of the International Swimming League, a fairly new league that began three years ago.

The first leg of the season is in Naples, Italy Aug. 26 to Sept. 30.

Though she won’t be making that trip to Italy this week, Nicol, who narrowly missed a spot in the Tokyo Games at time trials two months ago for what would have been her second Olympic berth, remains on standby back in southern Alberta should her services be needed.

“How it works is there are three legs of competition and there are 10 teams this season,” said Nicol. “So all 10 teams compete in the first leg and from that they’re ranked and the next top-eight get to go to the next leg of the competition, which will be in November.

“From that, the teams are ranked and I think it’s the last four teams that go to the last leg of the competition in January.”

There are 32 people on the travel team, but the roster can have 36 people, said Nicol.

“The team leaves Aug. 22 for Italy and they’re there for about four weeks. I didn’t make the travel team this time, but it’s just really cool to be part of something bigger and new. I’ve been in the sport for a really long time, so it’s nice to be able to experience something new, even if it’s from afar. The general manager and the head coach have made me feel really welcome and I’m happy to support the team, however that may be.”

If a roster spot comes open for whatever reason, Nicol may be told to grab her passport.

“If people get sick or injured or maybe they want to go home – because people are from all over the globe – I might be included in some of the later legs of the competition,” she said.

Nicol said her being drafted by Washington has had some people asking her if she’s moving to D.C.

That won’t be the case as she stays in game shape and perhaps on call back in southern Alberta as she heads into her final year at the University of Calgary, completing her Masters degree in Kinesiology

“I’m starting school in September, so I’ll be busy with that. So it’s cool to be part of something, but also have the flexibility to be home sometimes, so it’s all good.”

It was through the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty it threw into Nicol’s training that ultimately landed her on the Trident’s radar.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” she said. “This year, as it has for all athletes, been a very interesting and frustrating year.”

When Alberta shut down in December and the pools closed, Nicol was left scrambling for a venue to train.

“At that time, trials for the Olympics were going to be at the end of May,” she said. “With a lockdown in December, it was just really poor timing because I couldn’t not train. I was trying to think about where to go and what to do. I was floating around an idea to go with some Calgary swimmers to Toronto.”

When Toronto also got locked down, Nicol headed south of the border to her former school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas to train.

There, she met the SMU’s new assistant coach, Naya Higashijima

“I was training there and they had a new assistant coach from when I was previously there. So I got to meet her.”

Upon returning home about six weeks later, Nicol was contacted by Higashijima about checking out the ISL.

“A lot of swimmers find it really revitalized their love for the sport,” said Nicol. “I had never really thought about it, the timing had never been right.”

After a few phone calls and questions, Nicol threw her name into the ISL draft.

“After the drafting period was done I hadn’t been selected, but you can be a free agent at that point and if they get in touch with you, you can sign on with them The head coach was in touch with me and said they want to make sure they have all of their bases covered and asked me if I would like to come on as an alternate. I said that sounds great.”

In meantime, Nicol gets ready for her final year of school and looked back on narrowly missing her second Olympic berth,

At time trials in Toronto at the end of June she fell two tenths of a second shy of the Olympic standard in the 100m breaststroke with a time of 1:07.31, just short of the qualifying time of 1:07.07

“I missed the time standard at trials by .24 seconds,” said Nicol. “It’s hard not to think, in my opinion, if I had had more racing opportunities, would I have been able to go the A standard? Probably, I would think. With racing, you can do as much as you want in practice, but until you are put in that racing environment and can really compare yourself to other people, you might not see weaknesses you other would see. There are really good checkpoints to alter training to address things. So it’s hard from an athletes perspective and a coaching perspective as well.”

Nicol credited her LA Swim Club head coach Peter Schori – also the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns swim coach – for doing his best to prepare his athlete under challenging circumstances.

“But it’s hard. You can simulate things in practice as much as you want, but it’s not the same as getting up and racing off the block. It was hard.”

Now, Nicol looks forward to the potential opportunity in front of her with the Trident while casually training back home.

“Training will be a bit back and forth with Calgary and here,” said Nicol. “I think I’ll stay under the LASC club and registered with them and be training in Calgary with Mike (Dinos) coach and have a

conversation with him about that. But it’ll be a bit back and forth with Peter and with the Calgary team.

“I just have one class, so I have a lot of flexibility, which is nice.”

Having returned from trials and heading back to school next month, Nicol is winding down her swimming career on her terms.

“The practices Peter is doing in the morning are fun because there are quite a bit of young kids from the club there as well, so the practices are nice and just getting back to basics and trying some

different things,” she said. “That’s how I want it to be with the year moving forward. I want to have both my hands on the steering wheel and I want it to be the year I want it to be. I want to feel like I don’t

have to go to practice if I really don’t want to. I’m looking forward to the year and really taking control and being happy, loving swimming and really finding that passion again. I’ll be on my way to retirement, so I just want to end it on a good note on my terms.”

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