We were super excited to add this amazing girl to our team of athletes last year! Hilary Caldwell is a Canadian Olympic bronze medallist, world champ and commonwealth games medallist. While she was training in Brisbane earlier this month we got her down to one of the most historical pools in town, for a quick photo shoot. Let's just say she fit right in the Zealous crew... behind the scene shots to come.
Q: When did you first start swimming, and when did you first dream of representing Canada in swimming?
I started swimming as a baby, we had a pool in our backyard so I could swim before I could walk. My mum loves talking about how I'd tie my feet together in the pool and pretend I was a mermaid as a kid. The dream of swimming for Canada and going to the Olympics started when I was 9 years old watching the games in Sydney, I was swimming just a few times a week at the time but I remember watching the swimming in Sydney and thinking that I wanted to be there someday.
Q: What teams have you been on as part of Team Canada?
My first senior team was the London 2012 games. In 2011 I went to the World University Games (FISU) but that year we sent more of a B squad to that. Since London I've gone to 2 long course World Championships and 2 short course Worlds, a Commonwealth Games, a Pan Am games, Pan Pacific Championships and the Olympics in Rio.
Q: What swimmers have inspired you over the years?
My main sources of inspiration were always the swimmers I trained with. I moved to the national centre in Victoria in 2009 and at the time we had Canadian Olympians Ryan Cochrane, Julia Wilkinson and Alexa Komarnycky training there. I definitely looked up to them. I also remember meeting Aaron Piersol in London after racing was over and I had a bit of a fangirl moment which isn't really something I am prone to normally.
Q: What was your lead up like to the Rio Olympics?
I would say my lead up to Rio was similar to most swimmers, a lot of hard training and quite a lot of stress! It was different than going into London 4 years earlier because I had been before and knew more what to expect which helped me prepare better. I was also a lot more confident going into trials this time around, for 2012 trials I was a bit of a long shot whereas in 2016 I was more of a shoo-in for the team. It was crazy how stressful trials still was though, even going in pretty confident I was going to be on the team, it's still one of the hardest meets to get through mentally. Really though, it was just a lot of hard workouts, trying to be as fit and as ready as possible to get on the podium at the games.
Q: How did it feel to stand up on the podium at the Olympic Games?
The Olympic podium moment is a bit of a blur to be honest. I remember it in snapshots. I remember getting to run up to the stands and hugging my parents (although my mum says she has no memory of this, she was a bit emotional!). I remember how shaky my smile was by the end standing in front of all the cameras. I remember waving to all the Canadians up in the athlete stands. I had mixed emotions when I touched the wall at the end of my race, on the one hand I saw I was on the podium which was all I wanted going in but on the other hand I wasn't pleased with the time. It took me some time to see that a time can be swum whenever but the opportunity to be on an olympic podium only comes around every 4 years.
Q: What was the highlight of Rio for you?
It's really hard to pick one best moment from the Rio games, I had such a great overall experience there. Being a part of the best Canadian women's team ever was pretty special. We had girls on the podium almost every night and I loved that I was one of them. Obviously being able to win a medal for Canada was one of the main highlights for me. It's also true what they say about the parties after competing is over, I had a blast during the second week of the games too. I've been at enough international meets now that I have friends from all over and you can't beat all being together in one place celebrating everyone's achievements during the meet.
Q: Now part of Team Zealous, do you have a favourite swimsuit?
My favourite Zealous suit is Blossom Bliss.
Any suit that's bright and colourful is good in my book.
Q: You are currently training out in Australia – what has that been like?
I've been training in Brisbane for a couple weeks now and I'm absolutely loving it. It's been great to get out of my comfort zone at home and try something new. (I've also learned to drive on the other side of the road since being here, all about those new experiences!) It's pretty cool to come to a country that is so known for being a great swimming nation and swim with one of the best programs here with a bunch of Aussie national team members and be able to fit right in. I think all athletes have the mindset that what they do is never enough, but coming here and seeing that I can train just as well as them is a great affirmation that what I'm doing at home is world class. It's such a great group at St Peters and Bohly is an awesome coach to swim for. Plus the weather is perfection, I love swimming in the sun. If I could stay forever, I would! Hopefully I'll be back soon.
Q: Finally, what motivates you the most in the pool coming off of Rio?
My main motivation this year is getting down to a best time. I wasn't able to do that at the Olympics, my best time is from Worlds in 2013 and I know I'm a way better swimmer than I was then. It didn't all come together perfectly at the Olympics, an Olympic final is pretty stressful and it's not easy to be a PB in that situation. I think that if I'd had that "perfect" swim in Rio, a best time and a gold medal, maybe it would have been harder to really motivate myself this year; how do you improve on a perfect performance? What more can you do? But I know I have more in me than my time from Rio and that's exciting. I can go into Worlds this summer with a lot of confidence and chase down that gold medal.