On May 7, 2015 Theresa Michalak will celebrate her 23rd birthday – but she won’t spend it with her family in her home-town of Halle/Saale, Germany – Theresa is now a student-athlete at the University of Florida. The last time she saw her family not so long ago because Theresa swam at the German National Championships in Berlin two weeks ago – and there she got her first reward for all the hard practice in Florida because she passed the first two required qualification times in the 200 IM to make the Kazan roster. (The German qualification procedure requires that the swimmers reach specified times in heats and finals at German nationals and an additional swim meet.)
“It was really hard to get into the practice in Florida because in Germany I always swam really long practices, like over 7,000 m, and now we are swimming around 5,000 to 6,000 m – but everything is faster,” Michalak says. “So I jumped into the pool and I had to swim fast all the time. I needed a long time to get used to it, but it is getting better already.”
In Berlin, she won the 200 IM with a 2:13,61 in the final. Michalak is one of Germany’s most versatile swimmers – she also competed at the London Olympic Games in the 800 free relay. But her biggest successes are in the IM: 12th in the 200 m in London 2012, 1st in the 100 IM at the European Short Course Championships 2011, Theresa has 25 German titles between LC and SC so far. Before she moved to the USA, she trained with one of Germany’s elite squads in her hometown – the team includes, among others, Paul Biedermann and Daniela Schreiber, and is coached by Frank Embacher. Her current German swim club is SV Bayer Wuppertal/Uerdingen/Dormagen.
Theresa described her change to Florida:”I think everything has changed as I came to Gainesville, I must get used to the people, the culture, and the food. I think, my whole life changed, my personality changed and I got stronger because I was all by myself, I had no friends and no one is from Germany.” She started studying International Business as her major but lately changed to journalism, she is very interested in advertising and the production of trailers. Besides the chance to reach her professional dreams, she can train with Olympic medalists and World Record holders like Elizabeth Beisel and Arkady Vyatchanin daily.
“They are both very, very nice people,” she says. “Before I came to Florida, I saw Elizabeth swimming and I thought because she is a star that she is on a higher level and would never talk to me – but I was proved wrong. Elizabeth is one of my closest friends now. And she is so good in practice I have to do so much to get even close to her. There is a long way in front of me and I think I’m getting closer and closer and she has to look out for me in the future. But it is awesome to train with her, I love it.” At Berlin’s 2015 Championships Theresa struggled in the final of the 400 IM, but said afterwards that she didn’t really train for it. Despite that, she swam a solid and unexpected prelims time with 4:45,19 – the fastest time in the heats but she only swam a 4:49,55 in the final. She is sure that she needs to work on the 400 IM and will try to qualify for Rio. On her way to the 2016 Olympic Games, Theresa enjoyed her participation at the NCAA’s and was impressed by the team spirit and the very fast races in a yards pool. Unfortunately, she suffered from a concussion shortly before the meet. “My results weren’t so good this time because I had this trouble before with sickness and the concussion,” she says, “but I think I learned something from it and I can do better next year.”
Until the World Championships begin, she is going to train in Gainesville with her coaches Gregg Troy and Martyn Wilby. Perhaps she will join an altitude trainings camp with Spanish swimmers – but she is going to figure out with her Gator coaches what is the best for her. Theresa spent some time in Germany with her family right after the German Championships, but the talk with her has made one thing clear: It is good to be a Florida Gator for Theresa Michalak.