Recent Indian University graduate Ian Finnerty just won back-to-back NCAA titles in the 100-yard breaststroke, but success didn’t always come so easy for the Indiana native.
As Finnerty starts to train for the 2020 Olympic trials, we talked to him about how he made the journey from middling success as a freshman and sophomore to NCAA champion, and some of his answers were pretty surprising.
What are the most helpful ways you prepare to set yourself for success in the water?
It’s something our coach Ray Looze says that I absolutely agree with is, “You’re can’t have success in the water unless you’re finding success in the classroom.” Swimming’s stressful by itself and then you add in classes. You don’t want that worry in the back of your mind.
High school was easy but freshman year was a complete eye-opener. I had to catch up and realize academics are going to be just as hard as swimming. Freshman and sophomore year, as I was in the building phase in swimming, and I was sort of struggling, it was also a building phase in academics. Junior and senior year were a lot more successful in both aspects, and that’s why I experienced such a breakthrough.
When you get to college, fun can be a distraction too, right?
Besides getting your academics squared away, the second most important thing is having fun, is finding a hobby to take your mind off swimming. If you think about swimming 24-7, you’re going to go insane. It is your job at this point, and nobody wants to think about their job 24-7.
I enjoyed hiking, rock-climbing, and outdoor adventures. Having those weekends where I didn’t swim at all was great; it was great for my mental health. Swimming is so mental.
How important is your gear to you?
It’s one of those things where, if you’re thinking about your gear at the competition, you’ve already made the wrong choice. You need to be very trusting of the gear to begin with. You have to use the goggles in practice that you plan on using at meets. Before NCAAs, I would never switch suit companies. I would wear the suit I was gonna wear prior to make sure I liked it. I never want to have that worry in the back of my mind, “What if my goggles come off?”
Tell me about the pink goggles you became known for.
It started when a swim company visited our pool at IU to have us test some prototype goggles. I hadn’t really found goggles that worked for me, and I like clear ones, so these pink clear goggles worked. They weren’t coming out until the following year, so I “stole” them.
I used them for the rest of the year because I actually have a pretty sensitive irritation to chlorine; my eyes get pretty bloodshot if my goggles leak. It’s really ironic that a swimmer has that strong of a reaction to chlorine. So finding goggles that seal is a pretty big deal to me. I like to be comfortable when I train; when your eyes are bloodshot, it’s really hard to be comfortable.
You recently switched to wearing custom-fitted goggles from THEMAGIC5. How did that start?
What do you think of them?
I’ve had goggles where I don’t feel like they’re on until I press them into my face a bit, and they suction. But these, when I’m practicing I never push them down. On a dive, I will push them down to just to make me feel more at ease. But I never have to suction them down, they stay on my face forever, and I don’t have goggle marks anymore after the pool. It’s pretty great.
Which THEMAGIC5 model is your favorite?
They’re mirrored all around the goggles, even on the sides. So they’re super cool—it looks like you have a giant, mirrored windshield across your face, like some kind of superhero.
Considering how much you love clear goggles, It’s surprising you like Blue Magic Mirror Gold.
We swim outside in Indiana a lot, which is great because winter is cold here. The clear ones won’t work because the sun blinds you every morning, so I had to get a mirrored pair for that.
OK, so do you still go back to your pink goggles anymore?
Those actually got stolen at the NCAA championships. I have no idea who grabbed them but there’s no way they didn’t know they were mine! I hope whoever uses them gets some good use out of them. To be honest, I wouldn’t be wearing them anymore anyway. I can only hope that one day, TheMagic5 comes out with a pink, clear model just for me…
TheMagic5 is a SwimSwam partner.