A couple of weeks ago, Swimswam had the opportunity to chat with Fernanda Gonzalez (Mexico’s top backstroker). Last fall, Gonzalez made the decision to leave Gainesville, FL and move to a very different place, Colorado. More than five months have passed and Gonzalez improvement hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Looking for a change in her workouts, Gonzalez decided to reach out to Todd Schmitz, known in the swimming world for coaching Olympic champion Missy Franklin. Todd is the head coach of Colorado Stars, a team who focuses on helping athletes achieve their personal and athletic goals.
Gonzalez is now training alongside Missy, who moved back last summer after competing two years for the University of California. Both swimmers know what it’s like to compete at an international level and are now working towards the same goal, the 2016 Olympic Games.
SwimSwam: What made you move to Colorado to train with Colorado Stars?
FG: I was going through a phase were I wasn’t enjoying the sport anymore. I forgot the reason why I’ve been swimming for 16 years, so I decided to make a change. Missy and Todd always spoke about swimming as the “funnest sport” and that pushed me to contact Todd and ask if I could join them to train for Rio.
SwimSwam:Who have been your biggest supporters through this transition period?
FG: My country, the Mexican Swimming Federation, and the Mexican Sport Commission who have supported my decision. Of course, my boyfriend and family who have given me unconditional support.
SwimSwam: How’s the training environment? What do you enjoy the most?
FG: The environment is very healthy and silly; we all get along very well. We support each other and at the same time we love to joke and be goofy. We are like a family and I enjoy the workouts too much. I enjoy sharing the lane with my teammates; everyday there’s a new story, joke or some Spanish phrase that they want to learn.
SwimSwam: What do you think makes Colorado Stars so special?
FG: I believe Todd and the staff members believe in what they do, always with passion and love for the sport. The most important thing is that they believe in us, the swimmers.
SwimSwam: What has been the biggest change since you began training with Colorado Stars? Both in your preparation and personal life.
FG: Honestly, everything changed! I used to live with my brother and in a Latin atmosphere, in a warm place. Now I live on my own and I’m the only one that speaks Spanish on the team; which has its benefits! Haha. I had never lived in a place where it snows, which has its advantages like making snow angels and disadvantages like it being so cold that your hair freezes after swimming.
Personally, I feel like I’ve grown as a woman, I miss my country a lot, of course my family and my boyfriend. Sometimes I would like to spend a “normal” weekend with him but I believe the distance makes our relationship stronger and it makes me value him more.
SwimSwam: What difference do you feel now that you train in altitude?
FG: I was born and raised in Mexico City so it wasn’t that hard for me to adjust but I did suffer the first few weeks! It is nice when I go to meets at sea level because I have more energy and strength.
SwimSwam: What does it feel to train with such a talented group of swimmers? Especial Olympic champion Missy Franklin.
FG: It’s great! I love being her teammate! She’s an excellent person who works really hard to achieve her dreams and goals while having fun. I believe this is what makes her such a successful person. She’s also very funny, just like the rest of the team.
SwimSwam: What do you think of your coach, Todd Schmitz?
FG: He’s an incredible coach who worries not only about your success in the pool but also about you becoming a better person. Todd is very passionate, you can tell that he loves what he does and has fun doing it. He’s a coach who worries about the proper growth of his swimmers, based on values such as respect, discipline, friendship, team work, cooperation, social responsibility, humility, and of course a healthy and fair competition.
SwimSwam: What are your future plans?
FG: I would love to continue swimming now that I have recalled how much I love swimming. I still have a lot to learn and improve in the pool. I also want to give back and share with kids from around the world the many valuable things swimming has taught me.