The 3 Swimmers You Can Learn Most From

During my noon-hour swim today, my mind wandered back to my age group days.

The swimmers I trained with. The swimmers I raced against. My heroes growing up. And the resulting big box of ribbons and medals collecting dust under my bed.

Over the years, I realized, I’d learned a lot from a lot of different swimmers.

Here are the big three and how you can make an effort to apply the lessons from them to help you swim faster.

The greats

We all have our heroes in the pool.

Michael Phelps. Katie Ledecky. Caeleb Dressel. Penny Oleksiak.

The Olympic-championing, gold-medal-winning, world-record-championing greats who continually redefine what is possible in the pool.

We recognize our heroes in the pool not only because they are fast, but because of the exceptional things they do in (and out) of the water.

Things like:

Hero worship is what amateurs do in the pool…

Learn from the greats and apply it to your swimming so that you can unleash the greatness within you.

The teammates and competition

Watching the fastest swimmers on the planet strut their stroke and swim golden swims can feel… distant. Far removed from where we are.

Which can make it difficult to soak up their greatness and learn from them.

This is why you should make a point to recognize the lessons you can learn from your teammates and competitors.

These lessons can often be the most profound because these are real people you swim with or compete with on the regular.

  • A teammate that shows up to every practice, rain or shine
  • A competitor who always finishes his race like a boss, head down and on a full stroke
  • A swimmer in your group, who is constantly working on her technique at practice, refining and sharpening her stroke

The gold medal-winning heroes are great for inspiration…

But the teammates and competition can show you that if they can do it, so can you.

The swimmer in the mirror

Finally, there is the swimmer who has the most to offer you in terms of teaching you what it takes to be successful…


After all…

Your successes provide a long list of lessons, a rolling testament to your hard work, dedication, and abilities…

  • The commitment you showed when you didn’t miss a practice for a whole cycle of training
  • The last swim practice where you felt like giving up, but didn’t (and almost went a best time off-the-blocks at the end of the workout)
  • When you made a decision to start going to bed an hour earlier, getting more sleep and feeling more recovered each day

These lessons are CRUCIAL because once you truly learn them, you can replicate and integrate them across your swimming.

There are lessons to be found in our failures, too:

  • The time you took a race out too fast and crashed and burned on the last 50
  • The time you ate a large pizza twenty minutes before practice
  • When you set a goal so ambitious that your motivation crashed and burned after just a few days

Failures reveal weak spots but, more importantly, act as feedback, revealing opportunities for improvement.

Embrace and LEARN the lessons, good and bad, to improve your technique, be more consistent, have a better mindset, and ultimately, you build a powerful feedback loop.

By learning from your own experiences, as well as those of your teammates and heroes, you will always have a plentiful supply of opportunities to improve in the water.


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month logbook for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High-Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.


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3 months ago

As far as I know, Penny Oleksiak has never broken an individual world record (LCM) let alone won an individual gold medal at the World Aquatics Championships.

Anything but 50 BR
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
3 months ago

I agree that Oleksiak is not on the same level as the other three, but maybe the author is Canadian and finds Oleksiak inspiring? It’s not like you can’t learn anything from a swimmer who only has one individual Olympic gold…

Reply to  Anything but 50 BR
3 months ago

yeah he’s Canadian thats why

William Williamson
3 months ago

Where are the 2025 rankings?

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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