On this episode of The #AskASwimPro Show, we talked with U.S. Olympian Summer Sanders about social distancing with her family, tips for athletes dealing with anxiety while they’re out of the pool, and how she sees swimming evolving after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summer won 4 medals at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain: Gold in the 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter medley relay, silver in the 200-meter IM, and bronze in the 400-meter IM. Since then, she’s worked as a sports commentator, TV host and author, all while raising her 2 children in Park City, Utah.
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Social Distancing with Family
Summer’s 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son are both homeschooling now because their schools are closed, and Summer mentioned that this new setup requires extra support throughout the day, and backs up the family’s internet speed!
Slow internet is a small price to pay for extra time with her kids and keeping a more relaxed routine. For parents who are working from home, summer said now is a great time to check in with kids and challenge yourself to help them with schoolwork.
The European Lifestyle
Summer and her family spent a year in Spain, from August 2018 to July 2019. Reflecting back on that experience, Summer explained that her family’s life now is similar to their life in Spain – they are spending more time together, and Summer is more involved in helping her kids with schoolwork.
Summer said living abroad was a great decision. It brought her family closer together, and was a special experience for her kids.
While she is decades removed from the height of her swimming career, Summer understands the frustration, worry and anxiety swimmers have about canceled training and competitions these days. She reminded athletes that at some point in your athletic career, things won’t go as planned. This is one of those times! Athletes need to trust all the hard work they’ve put in — you will be able to call upon it when you need it later on!
Summer advised swimmers to take this time to identify something to work on, whether that’s flexibility or an aspect of their stroke technique.
Turning Down Time into an Opportunity
11 months before the 1992 Olympic trials, Summer hurt her shoulder. Her doctor said she needed to rest for a month and a half, and that was the last thing Summer wanted to hear. She continued to swim with one arm, started kicking with fins and finally resorted to riding a stationary bike.
When Summer was feeling especially defeated, her coach asked what weakness she felt she needed to work on. Summer knew she needed to improve her kick. Riding the stationary bike gave her an opportunity to do just that — the strength she was building out of the water would help her when she got back in the pool. Shifting her mindset in this way was a game changer.
And, just like Summer said, she was able to call upon her hard work before her injury to win 4 gold medals in the 1992 Olympics!
Memorable Olympic Moments
Summer has witnessed some incredible races at the Olympic Games, both as an athlete and a commenter.
- Saw Joan Benoit win the first women’s marathon in 1984 in Los Angeles. She also saw one of the last finishers of the marathon, and said the moment was just as emotional as watching the win!
- Saw Cathy Freeman with a gold medal in the women’s 400-meter track final in Sydney.
- Witnessed numerous amazing 100-meter races on the track. Summer notes how amazing it is to see thousands of spectators fall silent in the moments before the race.
The Evolution of the Olympics
Summer has been involved in the sports world for more than 20 years, and has watched swimming, alongside other sports, evolve into what we know today. Before cell phones and the Internet were commonplace, Summer said the Olympics felt innocent. While the 1992 Barcelona Olympics seemed “old school,” the 1996 games in Atlanta felt like a huge showcase or premiere. From there, Summer saw the Olympics change even further. Athletes began making significantly more money per medal, and more athletes competed in multiple Olympics.
Summer thinks the COVID-19 pandemic will affect how the Olympics are run in the future. She said she feels that the shake-up of a postponed Olympics could start a conversation about reusing host cities for the Olympics. In Summer’s eyes, it isn’t sustainable for countries to spend so much money and time building top-notch facilities that are only used once, and cost millions of dollars a year to maintain. Summer lives 10 minutes from the Olympic facility in Park City, Utah, and can see firsthand how her community has to rally together each year to keep the historic sites up and running.
TV Hosting Career
From a young age, Summer had aspired to work in television, and was able to make that dream a reality after her swimming career. She has hosted numerous TV shows throughout her career, including the popular Nickelodeon show Figure It Out and MTV’s Sandblast. She has commentated at the Olympic Games for CBS, NBC and Yahoo!Sports and has also covered tennis and basketball.
Sharing Her Story
Inspired after a conversation with a fan, Summer wrote her first book, “Champions are Raised, Not Born: How My Parents Made Me a Success.” It’s a collection of stories from Summer and other Olympic athletes about how their parents played a huge role in their success.
Follow Summer on Instagram at @summersanders_! What do you think about Summer’s suggestion to reuse Olympic sites?