Swimming to Win
Nov. 19, 2007
Washington State Athletic Media Relations
By Erica Beck
Things are more familiar this time around for sophomore swimmer Michaela Ahlin. A little over a year ago, Ahlin had just arrived from Sweden to join the Washington State swim team. Coming from Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, to the small town of Pullman was quite the culture shock, but Ahlin adjusted and put together an impressive freshman season for the Cougars.
In her first season in the crimson and gray, Ahlin swam her way onto the WSU all-time top 10 list in the 100 and 200 butterfly and as a member of the 400 medley relay. She earned a NCAA 'B' consideration standard time of 2:02.21 in the 200 butterfly, placed fourth in the 'B' finals of the 100 butterfly at the U.S. Spring National Championships and was a member of the second-place 400 medley relay team.
'Michaela has just started to show her potential,' said WSU Head Coach Erica Quam. 'Last season was a learning experience for her, and I believe she also knows she can compete at a much higher level. We didn't expect the versatility she has shown and that has been such a factor in making our team stronger.'
Ahlin started her swimming career at a young age. Sweden didn't have school teams and to get swim lessons, she had to be a member of a club team. Ahlin swam for the same team until 2003 and then transferred to a better club with more training potential called the Police.
'Since I was a little kid, I was always playing in the water. I remember my first meet,' said Ahlin. 'I dove in and dropped my goggles on the bottom. Instead of continuing to swim like I was supposed to, I dove down, picked them up and then continued to race. My swimming career just kept getting more serious from that point on.'
Before Ahlin focused solely on swimming, she knocked the ball around on the soccer field for awhile. She also played ping pong for a couple years and participated in some tournaments. Once she decided she was better at swimming, Ahlin dropped soccer and ping pong when her number of swimming practices began to increase.
During her club career, Ahlin enjoyed the successes of a young swimmer. In 2003, Ahlin was the Swedish youth champion in the 200 butterfly. She continued to swim into the top six places the rest of her prep career at the Swedish short course and long course championships.
'Back home, we did a lot of yardage garbage - swimming to swim,' said Ahlin. 'The coaches here are much more involved in what we do and the practices have a lot of quality work. Here, it is a group thing. If someone is slacking, you encourage each other and it is more fun that way than the individual involvement at home.'
That team spirit is a new factor for Ahlin, and she is enjoying it. Last season's dual with Oregon, a meet WSU narrowly lost, sticks out in Ahlin's mind as an exemplary moment of the team acting as a team.
'Everyone was screaming for each other,' recalled Ahlin. 'Like everyone, I want to race and win. Some practices can be fun but when you stand on the blocks at a meet you've been training for the entire year with your team supporting you, that's just awesome.'
Ahlin is an only child and spent a lot of time with her parents while growing up. With no other siblings, Ahlin's parents drove her to meets and practices and had the time to support their daughter as she worked her way up the swimming ranks.
When Ahlin decided to continue her swimming career in the United States, her coach and parents supported her through that decision as well. In February, Ahlin's parents were able to make the journey to the Palouse to visit their daughter in her new environment.
'I always wanted to come to the U.S. and I had friends who had gone on to college,' said Ahlin. 'I emailed some schools and Erica Quam responded quickly. When I was offered a scholarship, I accepted; you don't say no to that.'
Motivating herself for each practice can be a challenging point for Ahlin. Sometimes, the desire to go to practice and half-heartedly swim is strong but Ahlin's motto, 'if you're there, you might as well do it right,' is one she sticks closely to.
Quam has noticed Ahlin's dedication. 'She does a great job of challenging herself in the pool. She is one of our strongest kickers and once she learns to utilize that as a weapon, she is really going to reach a whole new level.'
Ahlin's focus is set firmly on her goal of competing at the NCAA championship in the spring. Her goggles are in place and there will be no more diving to the bottom to retrieve them, only a continual march to the post-season meet.