Chlorine: The Breakfast of Champions

By CLAIRE TOBIN

Competitive swimming is one of the most physically and mentally taxing sports. According to Dr. Anthony Bull, professor of human biology and kinesiology, swimmers are among the most overworked athletes. The Colorado College swim team practices in the pool Monday through Saturday for about two hours every day and attends mandatory lifts three times a week. The team has to sacrifice many of their Block Breaks and even large parts of Thanksgiving and Winter Break to attend swim meets and train.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Cooper

Swimmers keep a rigorous practice schedule, manage to find time to eat several thousand calories a day, and mysteriously keep their hair from turning green in the chlorine. Senior swimmer Hannah Cooper sat down with me to discuss how hardworking and fun-loving the CC swim team is.

Cooper is an english-film track major and a dedicated member of the swim team. She is from Dallas and began swimming around the same time she learned how to walk. According to Cooper, her mom helped her foster a love for the sport by playing with her in the pool at a young age. “My mom was my first swim coach,” Cooper said. “She was a swimmer and a coach for years. She taught me how to swim when I was six months old.”

Cooper began swimming competitively in elementary school, took a brief hiatus from the sport during middle school, and then returned to the pool her freshman year of high school. “I tried other sports in middle school but realized I hated [them],” Cooper admitted. “So I started swimming again freshman year.” Cooper competes in the 200 meter and 100 meter backstroke and sometimes mixes in the 200 meter individual medley if she can score points. “I like the sprint events, and I like to stare at the ceiling endlessly,” Cooper said with a smile.

Cooper’s love for the pool has played an integral part in her life. “I love having swim as a part of my day and I love traveling with the team and seeing new places,” Cooper said. However, competitive swimming is extremely taxing and the season is long. “Practicing every day without having a break is hard,” Cooper said. “It’s a huge mental game and I get inside my head a lot. I get frustrated with myself over my progress in meets sometimes.”

Cooper draws her motivation from two main sources: her own strong inner drive and her teammates. Cooper is fiercely competitive and loves the feeling of accomplishment after a hard workout or meet. “I love coming out of the pool and telling myself that I did it. I might have cried and every muscle in my body may hurt, but I did it.”

Cooper also acknowledged how supportive and helpful her teammates are in maintaining motivation throughout the season. “We’re a very close team, and we spend a lot of time together,” she said. Cooper hinted that the strong bonds formed on the team are partly due to how much skin shown while in uniform. “We’re 90 percent naked all the time. It [definitely] brings you closer.”

When asked about the quirks of the swim team, Cooper laughed and admitted that there many themed parties throughout the year. The most anticipated event of the year is the swim team prom. According to Cooper, the entire team is dressed to the nines. She then opened up about her own personal quirks. “I’m missing two of my front teeth and I can take them out, “You know it’s a true friendship when you lose them and your friends are on their hands and knees looking for them.”

As a senior, this is Cooper’s last year on the swim team. “I am more focused on enjoying the team and the sport [this year]. I know I’ll miss all of this when I’m done, so I’m trying to make it last,” Cooper said. The swim season is just getting underway, but so far Cooper is happy with her progress. “We just had a meet in Chicago, and I dropped time in every event I was in.”

Cooper was adamant about keeping her prerace superstitions a secret. She insisted that if her ritual was shared with the school, then it would lose its magic. “I can tell you this, I have a certain pair of goggles that I wear only at Championships.”

You can see her race here at CC on Dec. 9.

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