Dec. 11, 2011
By Jon Cooper
– Competing in the Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Earning the opportunity to try and qualify to do so doesn’t have to be.
Heidi Hatteberg made sure of that.
Georgia Tech’s record-holder in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke — she set both records at last year’s ACC Championships — qualified in both events at last U.S. Winter Nationals at Georgia Tech Aquatic Center. She joined seniors Lexi Weber (50 freestyle) and Jordan Evans (100 freestyle), and freshman Kate Woolbright (400 freestyle) in qualifying last week. Junior Eric Chiu (100 butterfly) also made it.
“She’s been working really hard. She’s a captain on our team and she just does everything the right way,” said Georgia Tech Swimming and Diving Head Coach Courtney Shealy Hart, herself a two-time Olympic champion. “I am super happy for her and her success and looking forward to finishing out the year for Georgia Tech and then also competing in Trials in June.”
Getting back to the Olympic Trials, where she competed in 2008, wasn’t so much elation as relief.
“It feels good just having it out of the way,” said Hatteberg, who competed in the 100 meters at the 2008 trials. “This is my final year so I didn’t know if I would actually continue swimming to try to get it if I didn’t get it [at Winter Nationals. So it’s a relief to know what I’ll be doing for a little bit longer.”
Hart believes that Hatteberg is a much better swimmer than she was in ’08.
“She’s probably equally good in 100 and 200,” said Hart. “I think where she’s grown the most is her mental edge. She’s always been a hard worker but now she has a mental edge that takes her to that next level.”
That edge combined with having the Winter Nationals at the GT Aquatic Center and performing in front of her family — her mother, father and two older sisters, both of whom swam at the collegiate level — gave her an insurmountable advantage.
“It’s great because I know the walls, I know the atmosphere, I know how cold it’s going to be, I know how many clothes I need to bring to keep warm,” she said. “At the same time, water is water. I’ve had really, really bad races in this pool and I’ve had amazing races in this pool. It was more my training that was an advantage than being here.
“Also I did have my teammates and the support of my family. That was a definite advantage,” she added. “It was fun having them there with me. We’re a swimming family so it’s kind of just been great to have them there and in the moment. It’s funny because Courtney said they swam the whole race with me. It just showed how into it they were as well.”
Heidi was locked in last Sunday, first earning the berth in the 100 then coming back even more fired up to qualify in the 200, something she was unable to do in ’08.
“I feel as though I’m a better 200 swimmer and so getting the 100 was great. I got the 100 back in ’08,” she said. “So I really wanted to go in and get the 200 to show that I was better than I was four years ago. So I was pumped up. I was ready to go because I felt I was better at the 200 than I was at the 100. “
Hart is excited to help Hatteberg attain the goal of getting to the Olympics, something she knows all about, having participated at the 2000 Sydney games , where she won gold in the 400-meter medley relay and 400-meter freestyle relay. Her advice to Hatteberg is simple.
“Just continue to work hard and continue to believe in herself,” said Hart. “There’s a little bit of pressure off now that she has the Olympic Trials. Now she can rally focus on ACCs and NCAAs and get excited about that. Obviously that will be a team event. So get her excited and looking forward to that and then when the NCAAs are over we will switch gears and focus on Olympic Trials.
“I think it’s a great balance,” she added. “Every four years everybody has to kind of go through it who has made Olympic Trials. People are very successful at that balancing act. I think it’s a good thing they continue to swim and be able to race and compete and stay sharp and stay on their game.”
Hatteberg believes her game is much more evolved than four years ago.
“Physically I’ve gotten so much stronger. I’ve put much more weight,” she said. “Getting that muscle from the weight room and the different types of training has helped. Maturing as a swimmer, mentally, I think that’s been the biggest change. I know what I need to do to be ready to go fast. I can be confident in my training and what I’ve done and I can now focus on swimming and enjoying it rather than thinking too much or over-thinking it.”
She said she’s not thinking of anything aside from the here and now with Georgia Tech.
“I just kind of take it one day at a time. Now I’m getting back into training to prepare for ACCs in February, which is a HUGE meet,” she said. “That’s the next goal that we’re trying to get as a team and that’s the focus for right now. Just get to that point, doing well in ACCs and then we’ll move on to possibly Nationals and then I’ll move on to Trials.”