Local athletes say mental toughness is a big part of competitive swimming

Local News

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo are underway and swimming will be one of the marquee events.

A local competitive swimmer, Gil Shaw – whose name says it all – eats, breathes, and sleeps swimming. “It definitely takes a lot of hard work and determination,” she said. Through her competitions, she’s made sacrifices along the way.

“I also think it takes someone who is able to just, you know, take their plans and cut them short just for a little bit, you know it’s a lot of hard work,” said Shaw.

She’s not quite an Olympian, but her years of competitive swimming are preparing her for the next chapter.

“I definitely want to swim in college. I am in the recruitment process right now trying to see which school is the best fit for me,” said Shaw. Her coach, Tara Boone, says reaching that competitive level means athletes need to have mental toughness.

“Just like when any sport or new skill when you first start, you see drastic improvement,” said Boone. “But then that starts to level off- and what separates the elite swimmers from those who may fade out and decide that swimming is not for them, is the swimmers who can say ‘wow, this is really hard, I didn’t go my best time, what else can I change?'”

Those changes, Boone says, prepare athletes for big competitions.

“As you get closer to a big competition, practices actually taper off – it’s called the taper – it’s a time to give your body a chance to heal and rest and then you can do to the meet and perform,” Boone explained.

As Shaw works to fill the shoes of her heroes, she knows her biggest obstacles aren’t other swimmers, but herself.

“Putting myself in their shoes I would be so nervous, but I also just think they wanna do well for everyone and they don’t want to let anyone down,” said Shaw of Olympic swimmers.

For full Olympic coverage click here.

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