May 30th, 2024

Nicol reflects on swimming career

By Lethbridge Herald on April 10, 2024.

Canada's Rachel Nicol swims to win the gold medal in the women's 100-meters breaststroke final at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

By Justin Seward

Lethbridge Herald

Rachel Nicol reflected on what was a successful swimming career after announcing her retirement from competitive competition earlier this year after 26 years.

“Overall, it feels good,” said Nicol, when asked about how it feels to be retired.

“I feel content with the decision,  I don’t look back at it with any regrets so far … It’s nice to kind of  be on the other side of things as well. Like I went to a swim meet as a coach not that long ago with the (University of Calgary) Dinos and it was kind of nice to be on the other side of it … You worry about other things as a coach but not having to worry about all the little itty bitty details of a race day that it takes to be a swimmer. So that was kind of cool.”

Nicol thinks swimming shaped who she is as a person today.

“I wouldn’t have gone away to school in the United States if it wasn’t for swimming and that really made me grow as a person,” she said.

“I was really (an) introverted and quiet kid and didn’t have a whole lot of life experience and social experience and so moving away from home was very, very difficult. But it was definitely one of the best decisions I made and that was because of swimming and so I always look back at my days at SMU (Southern Methodist University) really fondly and all the learning that I did there and becoming my own person.”

Nicol was fortunate to have been an Olympian in 2016 in Rio.

“I think if I hadn’t made an Olympic team, I’m sure I would’ve been perfectly fine because I also have failed to make an Olympic team and life goes on and it’s OK,” said Nicol.

“But to be able to say that I did do that, I think is still something that when I made the Olympic team, people asked  Oh has it sunk in yet that you went and made the Olympic team, and then I would say, no I think maybe I’ll feel it like after I actually go and compete and comeback. And I still feel like it was just this fever dream that happened and I feel like it was an out of body experience that I was even there. But it means a lot, like it really does, for all the hard things that I went through.”

She finished fifth in the 4×100-medley relay and the 100-metre breaststroke at the Olympics.

She finished her career off a champion as she won the 100- metre breaststroke and 4×100-metre medley relay at the 2023 Pan American Games.

She also had a second place finish in the 4x 100-metre medley relay and won bronze in the 100-metre breaststroke at the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Other Past accomplishments include a third place finish in the 4 x100-metre medley relay in  Long course World Championships and  a second place finish in the 4×100-metre medley relay at the 2016 Short Course World Championship.

In 2010 she earned a first place and two third place finishes at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

“They’re all special because swimming was really, really hard for me,” she said.

“And all of those medals signify that every time I was brave and got up on the blocks and swam that race with courage, even if it didn’t go well … And so, all of the medals, even ones from when I was a kid and provincial meets, and club meets and things like that all really mean a lot because they all added up to these bigger medals at the end of the day.”

A memory that stands out to Nicol while with Team Canada was in the pool with Icelandic swimmer  andf riend Hilda Luthersdottir back in 2017 at the world championships in the semi-finals.

“She was in the lane beside me and so we were all marched out for our race and everything’s super serious,” recalled Nicol.

“In swimming, you have your own lane and you’re pretty far apart because lanes are quite wide and so we’re at the block… getting ready to go in. Hilda comes up behind me and kind of taps me on the shoulder and just gives me like the double high fives, up and down, and just let’s go and I was like yeah let’s go and this is so exciting, this is great. And just that extra little boost of excitement and endorphins (and) just getting up on the blocks, I had my best 50 breaststroke ever, I never touched that time ever again and I got like half-a-second best time in a 50. That’s a really big deal.”

She credits her parents Chris and Lorraine, her brothers Jeffrey and Alastair,her fiancé Ogem Izegbu  various teammates, coaches and mental health consultant Sharleen Hoar for helping her along the way.

Her plan is to relax after 26 years of competitive swimming and enjoy working her part time job at TCR Sport Lab and Bike Shop in Calgary.

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