More than 130 swimmers dressed to impress and tuned into the 2020 World Swim Gala! The event was packed full of musical performances, inspiring stories and a fun dance party! 

Olympic gold medalist, former world record holder, General Manager of the DC Trident, author and motivational speaker Kaitlin Sandeno kicked off the keynote speeches. Kaitlin competed for the United States at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.

Kaitlin has 4 medals:

  • 1 Gold:  Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay (2004)
  • 1 Silver: Women’s 400m IM (2004)
  • 2 Bronze: Women’s 400m Freestyle (2004) and Women’s 800m Freestyle (2000)

Watch Kaitlin’s full speech below!

Related: World Swim Gala 2020 Recap

Looking Back to Find Perspective

Kaitlin shared a story from her first Olympics to illustrate the importance of having a positive perspective. She made her first Olympic team in 2000 at age 17. She explained that after she “punched her ticket” to the Sydney games, preparations felt like a whirlwind of emotions.

Before Sydney, Kaitlin didn’t get nervous — she loved to race and didn’t worry about places. In Sydney, she started hearing people predicting that she’d win the women’s 400-meter IM. Suddenly, her mindset shifted to wanting to win a medal. She was nervous!

The race started, and the swimmer in the lane next to Kaitlin took out the butterfly leg of the 400IM very fast. Shaken, Kaitlin tried to keep up, changing her typical racing strategy. By the end of the race, Kaitlin was feeling confident in a third-place finish. She hit the wall, checked the scoreboard, and found that she got fourth place. No medal. She was devastated, and felt that she let her country down.

Related: Kaitlin Sandeno | The #AskaSwimPro Show

Kaitlin let the outside noise and expectations of other people dictate how she performed instead of staying in her own lane.

In the warm-down pool, Kaitlin was inconsolable until teammate Amanda Beard approached her. Amanda said something that shifted Kaitlin’s mindset for the better: 

“You’re only 17 years old and only 3 people in this world can beat you in a 400IM.”

When Amanda put it that way, Kaitlin realized how impressive her race truly was. She was disappointed in how she raced, but realized that as a first-time Olympian, she was fourth in the world!

Making Connections to Present Day

In Kaitlin’s Olympic story, she was focused on things she couldn’t control. Once she realized this, Kaitlin worked to control the things she could control, and didn’t waste time worrying about the things she couldn’t. 

Kaitlin said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re in a very new situation that we don’t have control over. What we can focus on is ourselves, and what we can do to become the best version of ourselves. She challenged swimmers to work on controlling their mindset, actively finding things to be grateful for each day, and encouraging each other.

Staying Focused on the Future

Kaitlin Sandeno

Although the pandemic seems never-ending, Kaitlin noted that it is just a speed bump in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t move forward. There can be many other speed bumps in your life — injury, illness and other setbacks can keep us from our goals — but that’s no excuse to be negative and not see the silver lining in every situation!

Q&A with Kaitlin Sandeno

After her keynote, Kaitlin answered questions from the audience, including her top swimming moments, her favorite swimmers in the sport and tips to stay in shape while pools are closed. 

Olympic medalist and swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines followed Kaitlin’s keynote with an inspiring story of his own. Watch Rowdy’s keynote here! 

If you missed the World Swim Gala, check out a full recording below!

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