Megan’s last swim before the car accident was April 12 at the Richmond Pro Swim Series. At that point her comeback after two knee surgeries hadn’t quite been going as she hoped. She was five years removed from National Team status and even though she was swimming faster than the time that landed her on the National Team in 2013, the bar had moved and her times were no longer fast enough. In her mind, she hadn’t done anything to prove she was worthy of delaying the “real world” to be a pro swimmer and she thought maybe others were wondering the same thing, all of which created enormous self-doubt that spurred her to regular visits with a therapist. Finally, a rollercoaster career filled with injury seemed to hit the final big drop when a car struck Megan as she was crossing a store parking lot. Somehow the hit missed her problematic knees but created shoulder and elbow injuries that would need weeks of physical therapy to heal. Swimmers are by definition a determined bunch but this would test anyone’s resolve. The universe seemed to clearly be telling Megan something, but true to her nature, she took the accident as just another challenge to overcome in reaching her ultimate goal of making the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team. She has come back, for the second time, more positive and, perhaps, better than ever. This is her story of dogged perseverance.
Swimming Olympic Trials with a Dislocated Knee
Megan Kingsley has had more problems with her knees than we have time to list. In 2012, one week before the biggest meet of her life, Jr Pan Pacs, she dislocated her left knee. Then three times in high school she had patellar sublexations (when your knee cap slides into places it shouldn’t but doesn’t fully dislocate). Despite these issues Megan managed to swim fast enough in the 200 fly to land her on the 2013-2014 National Team. A couple years of minor issues gave way to the worst: three weeks before the 2016 Olympic Trials her left knee dislocated while diving off the blocks at a meet in Austin. She soldiered through and swam Trials with it taped, squeaking into semi-finals with a time in her signature event, the 200 fly, that was well off her best.
Ever-hopeful, Megan went back to the University of Georgia excited to see what two more years with one of the nation’s top programs would bring. She dropped a 1:54 200 fly in October, which was just about 1.5 seconds off her time at NCAAs earlier that year and two off her best, but while walking around her house in November her left knee gave out and her doctor said it was time for surgery, which would force her to miss the 2017 NCAA Championships. Megan deferred the surgery to help her team, placing 12th at the meet and scoring points, but going practically the same time as she did in October. Her best time up to that point, a 1:53.10, would have gotten her 3rd. There was no avoiding surgery now.
The First Comeback
“I was told the patella realignment surgery had a recovery period of 1-2 years and there was a very good chance I would never swim at the same level again.” Another surgery a year later to remove the screws that were pushing out against her skin made a comeback even more unlikely. But she hopped back in the water in November 2018, having graduated from UGA just a few months earlier. There was no big pro swimming contract to help finance the comeback. She worked at a marketing agency and coached, all while trying to get back to a full training schedule of nine practices a week plus weights and dryland.
After just two months of full training Megan jumped into the 2019 Pro Swim Series, first in Knoxville in January. Despite much self-doubt, she swam a 2:11.63 in the 200 fly, her best since 2013. She got faster at the next stop in Des Moines with a 2:10.91, a new lifetime best. The third leg of the series in Richmond produced another best- 2:10.25. Things were on the right track.
“It was like something out of a comedy movie.”
Unfortunately Megan’s job as an administrator with the Georgia LSC required her to leave the Richmond stop of the Pro Swim Series early. There was an all-star banquet the following Monday that she was responsible for and there was still a lot of work to be done. She caught a flight home that was very delayed due to bad weather and on Monday had to run into WalMart to get a particular connector cable for the projector, which WalMart didn’t have. While going through self-checkout with a cable she hoped would work, the power in the store went out and the self-checkout registers shut down. Frustrated, she finally walked out, cable in hand, to the familiar giant yellow WalMart crosswalks, looked both ways, and then found herself in an ambulance.
She was told later that she rolled onto the motorist’s car when he hit her and then back onto the pavement when he braked. She went into shock, so much of the incident and moments after are a blur to her. The diagnosis was devastating for someone who had already been through so many medical issues:
- Multiple sprains in the left arm, elbow, and wrist
- Severe bruising on her tailbone
- Sprained AC joint, which provides the ability to raise the arm above the head
That was April 14. The accident took her out of full training and into physical therapy for a month, an eternity with only about one year to go until Trials. And that cable she went to WalMart for in the first place, it didn’t even fit. “The whole thing was like something out of a comedy movie.”
The Second Comeback
Megan’s first real practice after the accident was May 8. She was nearly four weeks out of the pool and she jumped into 10×100 fly, long course! After the first few 100s she asked the coaches to stop calling out her times. She knew she had been dealt a big setback and didn’t need the reminder every minute, the pain was enough. But she knew every day mattered this far out from Trials and she was determined to be ready.
A less visible effect of the accident was a bit of post-traumatic stress. Until very recently her heart rate would jump walking down the street as cars sped by, and of course while crossing an intersection. Her visits to a therapist helped her handle this by “focusing on the fact that what happened in the past is in the past and we are not bound to relive it.” The stress has become manageable and her conditioning in the pool is as good as it ever has been. At an unsanctioned meet last weekend in Athens, Megan went lifetime bests in both the 100 and 200 fly, dropping a 59.70 and a 2:09.88! That 200 time is just off the slowest qualifier for the 2018-2019 National Team.
Megan will be competing at U.S. Nationals in a few weeks, and while she has no delusions about breaking world records, she hopes to make a statement- that she does belong in the rarified world of pro swimming and she will be a factor in 2020. Swimmers are the most determined, toughest athletes in the world, and Megan Kingsley is raising that bar even higher. You need to pay attention to what this swimmer is doing.
You can support Megan on her journey to Tokyo by following her Instagram and Facebook pages, and you can get the latest Fike Swim news, product updates, and videos by liking them on Facebook and subscribing to their YouTube channel. And you can get a candid look at Fike Swim’s journey to help swimmers SWIM DIFFERENT by following them on Instagram.
About 33 Meters
These articles are meant to shine a deserving spotlight on our ambassadors, who are usually living between two worlds: the swimming world and the “real” world. As any competitive swimmer knows, life outside the pool is a juggling act, one that gets even harder when you are no longer a student-athlete and have to pay your own bills.
About Fike Swim
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-James Fike, Founder
Fike Swim Products was born when founder James Fike put a brick on top of a kickboard and transformed just another legs-only kick set into a total body workout felt into the next day. Since then it’s been our mission to create unique swim equipment with the single-minded goal of making you faster. We don’t sell toys. We create tools to help you reach your potential.
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