When Season 5 of Netflix’s hit real-estate reality show Selling Sunset dropped on Friday, comments by the show’s newcomer, real estate agent Emma Hernan, claimed that she was an Olympic-qualified swimmer in her past. Hernan is one of the stars of an ensemble cast on the show, which centers around the luxury real estate market in Los Angeles, California.
While meeting with one of her clients, Micah, during episode 3 of the show’s 5th season, Hernan dropped that she had once swum a time that qualified for the Olympic Games. Hernan didn’t delve too deeply into her swimming accolades while discussing the sport with Micah, but she has discussed them before in previous interviews.
In 2020, she went on the show Life Stories with Joanna Garzilli and made a similar claim regarding her success in the pool. In the interview, she said that she “ended up getting a time that qualified for the Olympics.”
When she said that, she was discussing her childhood and how she began swimming in Scituate, Massachusetts. She explained that her involvement in the sport was a result of her mother, Stephanie Hernan (née McAdams), who had also had success in the sport.
“My mom was this famous swimmer in our town, broke all of the records. So she put me in it at six and it was 8 & Under so I was at the younger age and I came in and I took right after her, was like a fish in the water, and started breaking all of the records at 6-years-old. And it was really important for me because my mom was so proud of me, she was there right with me.
She had all of the best times in backstroke and that ended up being my stroke as well, which is crazy. So I started, like, people would come just to watch me swim. As I got older as well, I had all the records, I ended up getting a time that qualified for the Olympics” said Hernan during the interview.
She told the host of that interview that she stopped swimming at age 16 to become a model in Paris. Given that timeline, she would have stopped swimming sometime around 2007.
It’s unclear exactly what Hernan meant when she said that she swam a time that qualified for the Olympics. In order to qualify for the Olympics as an American, you must first qualify for Olympic Trials and then in order to qualify for the Olympic team, you must place within the top two in an individual event at Trials while also swimming under the FINA A standard.
But even on a more generous interpretation of that standard, we were unable to find anything even close.
We have tried to locate Hernan’s personal best time, but have been unable to locate any records of someone named ‘Emma Hernan’ racing in USA Swimming competition in the United States. No results appear when you search first name: Emma, last name: Hernan in the USA Swimming database, the swimcloud database, or the swimrankings database. We also couldn’t find her in old results of the Massachusetts High School State Championship meets from that era either.
We also checked with some local coaches in the area surrounding Scituate, Massachusetts, but none recalled a swimmer with that name from around the time when Hernan would have been a junior athlete.
“I don’t recall any 18-Unders by that name in NE Swimming… I’d also likely recall the few standout HS kids who didn’t swim club… And I’d 100% know her if she was from from that area back in the 2004-2008 days” said one coach.
At the same time that Hernan would have been a junior racing in Massachusetts, multi-Olympic medalist Elizabeth Beisel was also getting her start in the same state. Beisel, who is roughly one year younger than Hernan, broke the national age-group records at age 10 in the 100 backstroke, 200 IM, 500 freestyle yards, and 200 free, 400 free, 100 back, and 200 IM in long course meters in 2003.
Hernan wouldn’t have needed to be as record-breaking as Beisel was in her early days to have qualified for the Olympics later on in her career, but Beisel is a good example of what the upper-end of the elite junior swimming looked like in Massachusetts in the early 21st century.
So while Hernan probably did swim somewhere, we just can’t find any evidence – and certainly not the kind of evidence that would exist for a swimmer who had times that qualified for the Olympics by age 16.