Eat. Sleep. Swim. Repeat. Competitive swimmer and Apex High School student, Ana Pozder, has had a rock star year! This summer, Pozder competed in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, and her community is so proud! Not only is making it to the Trials a massive achievement on its own, but it does not stop there. Pozder won her heat in the Women’s 800 meter freestyle and made it look so easy! However, what is frequently overlooked is how much dedication and time it took a swimmer, like Pozder, to reach that point. In this interview, Pozder has provided us with a behind the scenes look of what it took to make it to the Trials. Here is an insight into this swimmer’s world!
When did you start swimming and what made you chose the sport?
I started swimming for my neighborhood summer league team when I was five, and I started year-round competitive swimming at twelve. As a child, my parents made sure that I tried lots of different sports, but my land-coordination has always been severely lacking. I always found myself coming back to the pool. I have always loved the water: sprinklers, puddles, oceans, bath tubs, you name it. Eventually, I told my mom that I really only liked sports in the water, so she signed me up for my first year-round team.
What does training look like? How many times/days did you train a week?
I swim for the TAC Titans in Cary, and my training group practices six days a week with a total of eight practice sessions. Each one is two and a half hours of pool time and an extra hour of either yoga or a dryland circuit. During the school year, we have a practice before school twice a week in addition to the afternoon workout. Also, over the summer we had morning workouts as well.
What did the process of making it into the Olympic Trials look like?
For me, the process of making it to the Trials began when I was eight years old. It was 2008, and I was completely amazed by the Beijing Olympics. I was still loving every second of my swim practices. I used my second grade math skills and figured out that in 2016 I would be sixteen years old. That was when I decided I would be at the 2016 Olympic Trials. It was an overarching goal in the back of my mind for years, and as the summer crept closer, it started to look like an actual possibility. To go to the Trials, you have to achieve a certain time standard. They set these time standards fast enough that roughly one-hundred athletes per event qualify. I worked hard to earn my spot, and my teammates encouraged me throughout the whole process.
When preparing, what did your average week or day look like?
In the weeks leading up to Trials, I did lots and lots of swimming, especially distance sets. I swim the 800 freestyle, so building up endurance is key. Between practices, I had to focus on having a healthy diet and giving my body the rest it needed. However, I swim best when I am relaxed, so being with friends and family leading up to a big event helps me take the pressure off and just have fun. I tried to incorporate fun and times of not swimming into my schedule to make sure I did not feel too much pressure or stress.
What were your thoughts when you made it into the Olympic trials?
Complete joy and happiness! This is something I had worked on for a long time, and I was beyond thankful to have the opportunity. The immediate moment of reaching a goal you have worked so hard for is one of the best feelings.
What Olympic swimmer do you admire and why?
I really admire Missy Franklin, a 2012 gold medalist and member of the 2016 Olympic team. What I like most about her is her personality. She is one of the greatest athletes in the world, but she still manages to be incredibly humble and kind. On camera, she always appears to be happy and confident, and she inspires me with how she combines her Christian faith with her swimming career.
What is your favorite event to compete in? Why?
The 800 of course has a special place in my heart because it is the event I swam in at the Trials, but I also love to swim the 400 free. It’s shorter and a perfect distance where you are not dying at the end but also do not feel like you were sprinting.
How do you balance school and sports?
It does get really tough sometimes to balance academics and athletics, but any athlete with a rigorous practice schedule would probably admit it. I usually do not get home until seven o’clock at night, so I have to go straight to homework. Getting enough sleep is a continuous fight, and during the school year I probably watch a grand total of twenty minutes of television. I went to this one came where a spokesperson taught us about the acronym “W.I.N.” He said it stands for “What is Important Now.” When I am at practice, what is important is that I am getting better and having fun. When I am at school or doing homework, that is what’s important. When I am with friends or family, I focus on just enjoying them in that moment. Categorizing my life and focusing on one thing at a time is what has helped me manage the schedule.
What was it like to attend the Olympic trials? What memory will you cherish?
Most of the people I talked to before heading to the Trials said that it was the experience of a lifetime, and they were definitely right. It is completely unlike any competition I had ever been in. The athletes are pampered with free massages, smoothies, merchandise, and therapy dogs. The overall atmosphere of the Olympics is incredibly exciting but also very tense. I have never been as nervous in my entire life as I was right before my race. However, the entire experience was incredible. My favorite memory was the event’s Olympic atmosphere. The Olympic motto of “higher, faster, stronger,” is definitely the aura of everybody involved. It was special getting to directly take part in something that excites people around the world, and the support from everybody is what made it all worth it.
What advice would you give to young children thinking about swimming as a sport to try?
Go for it! You are picking one of the toughest, and most underestimated sports out there, but it is completely worth it. The bonds you form with your teammates and the dedication and work ethic you receive from swimming will carry you through your life.
What does success in the pool look like to you?
To me, success in the pool is not getting medals or winning races. Success is working hard, pushing new boundaries every single day, and reaping the rewards from it. If you can honestly say you gave everything you had, and that you have accomplished something you have never done before, that is a success.
What is your next goal in regards to swimming? What does the future hold for you? What do you hope to accomplish?
I am hoping to swim collegiately, and I am looking forward to seeing where my life takes me with this sport. Being in the water is my “Zen” spot, and I feel confident that there will not be many stretches of my life where I am not somehow involved with swimming. I am so excited for the upcoming high school season, and I cannot wait to see where Apex goes this year!
Anything else you would like to add?
Throughout the entire experience the support from everybody, both in and out of the swim world, was tremendous. You guys are the absolute best cheerleaders, and I could not have done it without the people back home.
We are all so excited to cheer on Pozder and the rest of the Apex High School swim team this season. Ana is someone we can all take something from. Her passion for the sport is really cool to see. We are so proud of you and all you have accomplished! Here is to the 2020 Summer Olympics!