Diary of an Olympian: Swimmer Emily Seebohm on training, eating and dating a fellow athlete.


Have you been watching The Australian Swimming Championships on Channel Seven? I have, with my heart in my mouth! I said to my husband Ryan last night, “I think I’d feel more pressure on the blocks in Adelaide, than I would in Rio.” Knowing that this swim, this moment, is your ticket into the 2016 Rio de Janerio Olympic Games.

I was beyond thrilled to see Queenslander Emily Seebohm qualify, and even more chuffed when her partner Mitch Larkin made the team. I have no doubt that this power couple will achieve great things and I can only imagine what it must be like to share the experience with your boyfriend.

I caught up with Emily at Aria in Brisbane’s CBD for a chat.

What’s a typical day of training like and what’s the toughest set you’ve ever done?
“Well I’ll give you a Monday! 5:30am we have to be at the pool, so I’m up around 5am, I have a yogurt and I pack my water bottle and a Muesli Bar. We stretch until 5:45am and then we hop in and train until 7:30am.

I then have 30 minutes to chill out, rinse off the chlorine, get changed and go into the gym. We are in there 8 – 9am. Home after that and I’ll have some breakfast. Then I’ll have some free time.

Some days I’ll have a massage, or physio, or a sponsor will want me to go somewhere and do photos or an interview. Leading up to the Olympics there’s a lot more hype and there’s always something happening to fill this time. When the afternoon rolls around, I’ve had maybe an hour or two to rest solidly.

I’ll lie on my bed and watch a show or a movie, I’ll just completely chill out. Then afternoon sessions on a Monday are hard! So I prepare for that and leave two hours before training where I don’t do much. We stretch for 30minutes from 3:30pm and then we train from 4pm to 6:15pm and then I’m caught in the city traffic going home! 6:45pm I have dinner and it’s straight to bed to start a new day!


In regards to the hardest set, I do this once a month. It’s a testing set, to gauge if we were to do a 200metre race, how much we could hold on at the back end of it. We do 12 x 25metre sprints. Now that may sound easy, but it’s honestly the hardest thing. I’ve cried two times after doing it!

It’s hell. You have to go max from the start and you get 5 seconds when you touch the wall before you turn and go again. It’s the shortest rest, and every time I get in I’m huffing and puffing my way… and coach is like ‘3,2,1…’ and I think ‘where did I get a breath from that’!

In backstroke I can easily push out 12 kicks underwater to the 15metre mark from my first push off. After just 4 of these sprints, I’m down to 2 kicks underwater before I come up struggling to breathe! It’s mental conditioning because at halfway you don’t know how you can keep pushing physically, but you do.”

Emily's training routine is intense. To say the very least. (Image: Supplied)

How much attention do you pay to food?
“I’m not super strict because I am so disciplined with swimming in my life, that when I come home I don’t want to have to worry and relate food to the pool. I don’t eat ridiculous amounts of anything super bad for me, if I crave something I’ll eat it, because I know if I don’t, I’m more likely to binge. If I think ‘man I just want some Chocolate’ and I don’t have it, the next day I could eat a block! I have a little bit and I’m fine. We need a lot of energy and I thought I ate a lot, but Mitch will eat my plate plus another plate!”

Looking after your body is important. But how do you look after your mind? (post continues after video):


How do you and Mitch make your relationship work, while under the pressure of training for the Olympics?

“I find it really helpful because we understand what each other are going through. It makes it so much easier when I can tell him one of my sets and he’ll understand, whereas anyone else would think I’m talking in code. We relate to each other and have a really strong connection because of this. We talk to each other about our worries. He’ll have a worry and often I find myself saying ‘oh yeah, I went through that a year ago, I’ve felt like that before and this is what I did’. Or I’m like trials is coming up and I’m scared’ and he’ll respond ‘I know but you’ll be fine’ and you trust him because he does know. It’s really nice like that.”

How will you deal with the attention on you both as a couple during Rio?
“We’ve already spoken about this because we do know that it can catch you off guard. His coach and my coach were kind of like ‘will this work, how will this work, what if you break up, what if this happens?’ they had their worries. We were like look, ‘we’ve spoken and we are not planning on breaking up! We are happy and comfortable with each other and that will make our performance that little bit better, because we’re so happy!’ We feel like we have an advantage because we get to go in together. We have that home comfort of each other while away! Our plan is that by the time we get into Olympic village we probably won’t spend too much time with each other before we race. We both decided that if one of us races, the other will not watch.


We don’t want the pressure of ‘well they did this, so I’ve got to do that’. That doesn’t work and we know that, so we won’t watch and we won’t make an effort to go up to each other and say ‘good luck’ or ‘do a good job’ because we both know that we think that anyway! We don’t need to go out there and plant pressure with a kiss! So for us, that’s how we’ve planned it and I think from the moment we step off the bus at the pool venue we’ve said that we are not a couple as such, we are just there individually to do our own thing. This is our plan. We are going to do it at trials (Australian Championships) and from there we can see what worked and what didn’t and make those changes we need for the Olympics.”

"We feel like we have an advantage because we get to go in together. We have that home comfort of each other while away." (Image: Supplied)

Talk me through competition day at an Olympics, what happens before you hit the blocks?

A typical day in London was you get up probably 3 hours before you compete, you take all your stuff with you to breakfast, two swim suits in case one rips, an extra cap and goggles incase one breaks, your training togs, a jacket and tracksuit. I typically wear runners because it’s more comfortable. You get on the bus after breakfast, go to the pool, then there’s so much security! It’s like getting a flight at the airport. You walk in through a metal detector and your bag is screened. You finally arrive and stretch for 30 minuets. Warm up in the pool for half an hour and then that gives you 20 minutes to put on a suit and go to marshaling. You have to be there two events, before your event is called, so it’s usually around 15 to 20 minutes before your event. There’s 3 marshaling rooms, there’s the first one where they check all your tracksuits, caps, goggles, swimmers for extra logos or logos that are too big and if you’ve got one then you get given something else to wear!

They check your suit for a code that states they’re approved swimmers, then they let you sit down and relax with the other competitors and then you go to the next call room and it gets a little more serious, people stop talking there. There’s always cameras in there and then the final call room is just behind the blocks, it’s similar to a marshaling room where they call out your name, what lane you are in and put you in your order. 9 is the slowest qualifier and 1 is the next, so often they will place us from the outside in to the middle. 4 is the hero lane. It’s good for TV keeping the favorite till last, but a lot of swimmers don’t like it because you can end up being more rushed than lane 1. You race and then there can be a million interviews after depending on how you go. Pool deck interviews, then inside for smaller media or non-broadcast interviews, and then radio interviews, and then you can cool down. That process can add up to 5 hours. If you get drug tested it’s an even longer day.”

Emily and partner Mitch (Image: Supplied)

Can you sleep the night before a race?
“I’m pretty good, usually I am just so tired from the big days that I can fall asleep quickly. We do take a sport psychologist with us, which is helpful. She holds workshops just before bed, where she gives us techniques to calm ourselves down. I found that great. I always went to them, unless I was too tired to go!”

You’ve broken an Olympic and a world record, what’s the feeling?
“It all depends on when you break a world record. If you do it in a semi-final you don’t want to think ‘Oh shit I’ve broken a world record and I’ve got to come back and do better tomorrow’! Then you can become too focused on time, rather than trying to race your competitors. I’ve been too caught up in doing a certain time before and I’ve learnt sometimes your best time won’t win the race. At the Olympics there’s so much pressure, people are so nervous and stressed and sometimes it just takes someone to beat a competitor, than a time. You just want the win. I now zone out of times and worrying about a line in the pool. Sometimes I’ll see the screen on the wall when I turn, and you can’t help but look at it and think ‘man there’s the line I can see it, I’m close, I’ll keep going’ and that can push you, but competitors push me more, because they’re right there and I can see them all of the time.”

Social media apps such as Twitter and Instagram were growing legs during the London Olympics, now along with Instagram, they’re in full swing, how do you manage the online attention and comments you receive during the Olympics?
“I think for me I’ve finally worked out through the last Olympics how I can use it to benefit me. I’ve worked out I can use social media up until heats for my race. Then I’ll switch off until after the finals. That way I don’t worry about looking at it and seeing what people are saying. Most of the comments are super positive and I love seeing how many people are following me and little kids aspiring to be like you, but sometimes you need to learn how to switch that off, so you can switch on your own emotions. It’s hard when you have so many other peoples opinions and you forget where your’s is and where you sit.”


What wouldn’t people expect about the Olympic Village?
“There’s a McDonalds!”

What do you do in your downtime?
“I do a lot, I horse ride, love movies and Mitch and I are really into Escape Rooms. We’ve done all of them in Brisbane. I like Bounce Trampoline centre but Mitch isn’t allowed to do that. He’s accident-prone. He’s not allowed to horse ride either”.

Who inspires you?
“This might sound weird but Khloe Kardashian. She’s awesome, she’s been through a lot and she’s such a strong woman. I think she has good values, doesn’t take life too seriously and enjoys life for what it is. I adored Thorpie when he was swimming. How much he put into it, how much he believed he could do it and how professional he was. I also love Grant Hackett because he’s such a character. A bit like Lorrie Lawrence, he can be the quiet guy and then out of nowhere will lift up the spirit in a whole room full of people. I really like how he has this switch where he can turn it on and turn it off when he needs to.”

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