Separated by the vast Pacific Ocean but with common ties as elite open water swimmers aiming to get on the podium at the upcoming world championships in Barcelona this July, Ashley Twichell and Cara Baker, two fast marathon swimmers, talk shop.
Ashley Twichell: How did you get your start in open water swimming? What was your first open water race, and how did it go?
Cara Baker: My first open water race was at the 2009 Queensland state championships in Australia where my younger sister wanted to compete in the 10 km. I decided that I would also give it a go and just swim the 5km. I surprisingly won the Open womens.
Ashley Twichell: Do you compete in the pool at all? Do you do your training in the pool?
Cara Baker: I have always competed in the pool since I was younger until this year. I decided to concentrate just on my open water. I only train in the pool, unless I do the odd session out in the ocean.
Ashley Twichell: Last summer, you qualified for the 2012 Olympics per FINA’s requirements, but were not able to go due to New Zealand Swim rules. Can you explain this?
Cara Baker: The New Zealand Olympic Committee had given the open water swimmers a certain criteria, requiring that we had to be in the top 9 at Portugal [Olympic qualifier] to allow us to qualify for the New Zealand Olympic Team. Unfortunately, I was only seconds from that qualifying spot. Even though Kane Radford and I had both qualified for the Oceanic spot at the Olympics, New Zealand still didn’t take us on the team as they believed we would not be able to perform to a top 16 standard at the Olympics.
Ashley Twichell: How were you mentally able to overcome that disappointment?
Cara Baker: Honestly, I still haven’t. Being told that the Olympic Oceanic spot is yours and then having a group of people rip your dreams from you is something no one can ever overcome. I took a month off swimming and I was ready to hang up my togs, but I knew I owed myself to retire on a good note. I jumped back in the pool and with the help of my Australian Coach Denis Cotterell, I mentally coped with the disappointment.
Ashley Twichell: What is your next competition?
Cara Baker: The World Open Water Championships in Barcelona. I am swimming the 5 km, 10 km, and the 5 km team event.
Ashley Twichell: What are your goals for the near and far future?
Cara Baker: With Worlds only months away, I want to medal. Not only for myself, but to prove that, that Oceanic Olympic spot should have been mine. I haven’t really thought about my plans after next year. I take each year as it comes.
Ashley Twichell: What is the best advice you can give swimmers who may be trying out open water for the first time?
Cara Baker: To have fun and enjoy the fact you don’t have to follow a black line all day!
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