Danish swimmer Jeanette Ottesen is preparing for her fifth Olympic competition as trials for Tokyo begin to heat up. The 2016 medalist is ready to hop back into the pool after a brief break to start a family with her husband and coach, Marco Loughran.
We sat down with Jeanette to discuss how her experience has changed her swimming, how she’s changed her preparation, and a few secret keys to success that she’s relied on over her 16 year international swimming career.
You’ve been in four Olympics so far and hold over 50 medals from international competitions, what’s inspiring you to make this comeback?
Firstly, the timing of my pregnancy meant that I couldn’t finish my international career when I wanted to. I still felt like I had more to give and more to experience. Secondly, and most importantly, was that I wanted to be able to prove to the Danish Swimming community that being a mum doesn’t hinder or halt your sporting dreams, goals and aspirations. If anything, they can help fuel them.
Obviously, having a child has a dramatic effect on your body. How is your training and preparation different now from your last Olympics?
My coach, who is also my husband, has put a big importance on making this comeback journey enjoyable and fun. I have a different perspective now when it comes to training and competing, which I view as a positive. By having a child you begin to realize that there’s more to just swimming, and you start to enjoy the little things about the sport. I definitely don’t train the nine times a week that I used to, but the sessions that I do now all have key focuses, without all the fluff. We are trying to approach the 2020 Games with the view of doing things that others haven’t done yet, as to keep my interest at its peak.
If you make the Olympics in 2020 it will be 16 years after you first qualified at the age of 16. Do you feel like the de facto leader of the Danish swimming team because of that experience? Is there an obligation to be a role model and leader to the other swimmers because of your experience?
I don’t particularly see myself as a leader of the Danish team, but if anyone would like to vent or ask for advice, I’m always available. I’ve seen the highs and lows that the sport has to offer so my view can cover a broad spectrum of questions. I perceive my role in Danish Swimming as that of someone who wants to prove the doubters wrong, and to inspire the swimmers, especially the girls, that age is experience and motherhood is a blessing.
How do you make sure you’re ready for a race? Any superstitions, rituals, or anything like that that make a difference for you?
Before a race I usually have my rituals of how I stretch and shake my legs off. Also, on the blocks when I’m about to get into the ‘take your marks’ position I have a little arm swing, which comforts me. I used to have a pair of lucky socks, which I’ve used for years, but they are super worn now and have holes for my toes to stick out from.
In the past you’ve had some issues with goggles, how have you adjusted your equipment to be confident it is best serving you?
It’s always difficult to find goggles that feel comfortable and you can ‘trust’ in them. Once you find a pair that fits your face and feels great you tend to believe that some sort of ‘confidence’ comes from them. The sense of reliability is what I believe is most important. I have that kind of confidence in TheMagic5 goggles, which is what led me to switch to them for this Olympic cycle.
What are you looking for in a pair of goggles? What makes them more or less likely to be successful for you?
I always love having a pair of goggles that look cool and mean business. It adds a boost to your confidence when you feel that you look like you’re there to race fast and look the part. TheMagic5 does that easily, but like I said comfort is the most important. As long as they feel like they fit my face then I’m a very happy swimmer. Having custom fit goggles thanks to TheMagic5 manages to check off every one of these boxes.
When you’re in the water, ultimately the race comes down to your individual performance. What do you think makes or breaks an individual as they’re swimming?
I think that in a race, the make or break point comes when a swimmer feels that the impossible is out of reach. If the race moves on, don’t be scared to move with them. Don’t back down from a challenge and never feel like you’re not enough.