To read SwimSwam’s full 3,000+ word feature story on Kate Douglass, subscribe to the SwimSwam magazine here.
Kate Douglass has already achieved everything that she possibly could in short course swimming.
She’s a seven-time individual NCAA champion, owns NCAA records in four different events, and holds some of the fastest times in history across the 50 free, 100 fly, 200 breast, and 200 IM. Her success on the college scene, which most recently included a 2023 NCAA Championships meet where she went three-for-three in individual wins and NCAA records, has drawn comparisons to greats like Natalie Coughlin, Caeleb Dressel, and Leon Marchand.
However, there’s one thing that the aforementioned three have that Douglass does not: an individual long-course Olympic or World Championship title. And no, this is not me being critical of her—she’s aware of it too.
“It’s definitely really weird,” Douglass said of the comparisons. “I guess my success in the college season is similar to theirs, but when I think about their success internationally, I feel like I’m nowhere near their level.”
“I’m honored that people think I belong in that category, because that’s something I never really believed and I still don’t feel like I do belong there.”
As an Olympic bronze medalist, Douglass is more decorated than most all swimmers in the big pool. But when you compare her accolades in short course vs. long course side-by-side, it almost feels as if there’s potential for success beyond bronze in the latter category. And that potential was a big reason as to why she gave up her seemingly utopian playground of college swimming, in pursuit of chasing more uncharted territory with eyes on the Paris 2024 Olympic games.
“It’s pretty exhausting to go to dual meets all the time, and that was just something that I was ready to be done with after four years. I’ve loved my time on the team, but I’m also excited for a change and something different,” Douglass said. “Especially once I knew I had the capability of being a pro athlete and training for international teams, I wanted to test putting all my focus and energy into that.”
“I feel like I accomplished everything I wanted to in short course swimming. That made me confident that I was ready to set some big goals for myself in long course.”
It’s easy to say that Douglass won’t be able to translate her success from yards to meters—there’s also the preconceived notion that stars made from the college scene will struggle to transition their success into long course because of an overreliance walls and underwaters. And sure, there have been examples of swimmers with record-breaking underwaters who couldn’t succeed past college because they aren’t as good on the surface. But it’s shallow to claim that Douglass is a better short course swimmer than long course swimmer, as she doesn’t believe that about herself either.
Douglass actually thinks that less underwaters will make her job easier, not harder, when she starts swimming long course full time.
“I have really strong underwaters, but I also think I’m strong on top of the water,” Douglass said. “I don’t think that taking away underwaters is a bad thing for me—I honestly don’t love having to focus on underwaters and holding my breath in short course. So I’m excited to do less of that in long course. My underwaters are good, but they aren’t the only reason why I’m good.”
“I’ve been more successful in short course than in long course, but being able to go to long course meets throughout the year is definitely gonna help improve my long course because I haven’t done a lot of it in college.”
Douglass knows she’s about to enter a new situation—being the only pro training in a college environment next season at Virginia will be tough. But this isn’t the first time she’s had to embrace discomfort, as recently, she overcame nearly two years’ worth of stress and anxiety caused by 200 IM to produce one of the greatest NCAA swims in history through racing the event. And with her focus shifting towards grad school and long course, it’s clear that the end of her college career is really just the beginning of her legacy in swimming.
Again, to read SwimSwam’s full 3,000+ word story on Kate Douglass and her transition from college to long course, subscribe to the SwimSwam magazine here.
I don’t understand why anyone would underestimate KD in LC.
Just because she’s been successful in yards doesn’t mean that’s all she’ll do. She was successful in yards cos that’s what she was competing in.
Now that her focus is LC her talents will be poured into that. She’s a champion and she’s going to get results.
Whether that’s an Olympic or world champion is to be seen – but I’m certainly not underestimating her.
And I’m excited to see where her unique skill set takes her in LC.
I don’t doubt she has the ability to do well but comments like yours are part of the problem. “She’s a champion and she’s going to get results”. You’re acting like she’s already won.
She has a great shot of potentially winning some long course races… but wait until she’s done it to declare her swimming champion of the universe.
Rubbish. How am I ‘acting like she’s already won’ when I said her results are yet to be seen? Where did I say she’s a ‘champion of the universe’?!! Seriously.
She has an Olympic bronze medal… ? Honestly not surprised to see you here declaring she’s overrated, as you do on pretty much any thread that mentions her.
I don’t understand why some people must say “this is the best she’s capable of” or “she will never convert to LC”. Could she win gold and some other medals in Paris? Absolutely. Could she also not medal at all? Absolutely. She has the potential, but no one knows what will happen until it happens. I’m truly excited to see what she can do, along with all these other rising stars from around the world.
Her emotional intelligence is repeatedly displayed. She will concentrate on LC now and we all get to enjoy the results of that and stop speculating. Thanks for the article.
I see her with the potential at the following level: 200IM 207high/208low, 200BR 220, 100fr 53.5 100fly 56
So the real problem here is people’s expectations or people implying that if she can’t/doesn’t win Olympic gold she is not a successful pro swimmer. Overall she is probably top 20ish right now and in terms of versatility she is top 2 or 3. I don’t know what else she has to do but get out there and start swimming the big international meets. She is going to finish on tons of podiums at the very top level over the next 4-5 years assuming she goes to 2028.
So her potential is times she’s pretty much already done?
pretty much yes but she goes a fraction faster on these she is top 3 or 4 in world in 3 events. I don’t see why we would expect some big improvement just a few tenths here and there. Then you consider scm and she turns into Hosszu 2.0 on the world cup
Did UVA announce a new full time coach? I guess the increased staff sizes has begun!
bro till she don’t drop 40 on me she is just a underwater merchant
That might have been lost on the swimswam audience…..or not.
I see her as having a real shot at top 6 for 4×100 free relay. Hope she at least takes a crack at it in prelims. I can see her popping a sub 54. Not sure where it lies in the schedule…
Douglass only good in the small yard bathtub a non factor in long course with the exception the 2im a bronze at best
Right now I think McIntosh is clearly above the rest, but silver is doable. Saying she’s “only good in the small yard bathtub” and “a non factor in long course” is just ignorant and plain stupid
I wouldn’t say McIntosh is clearly above Walsh in the 2IM.
I don’t think anybody will beat Macintosh this summer or next year but it’s okay to dream
“only good at bathtub with the exception of the other thing she’s also good at” is quite the take