By Rachel Hoeing
It’s not every day that someone from our own area participates in the Olympics! This year, local swimmer Kathleen Baker not only participated, but came home with a silver medal in the 100 meter backstroke, and a gold medal in the in the 4X100M medley relay. Go Team USA! Kathleen’s sister, Rachel, was willing to coordinate an online interview with us where our reader’s children submitted questions that both she and Kathleen answered. Thanks to the Baker girls for giving us a glimpse into their lives. We hope your children are able to be inspired by their answers below!
Kathleen baker is from Winston-Salem, NC. She started swimming for the Forsyth Country Club Crazy Ducks at age 5, started swimming year round with STAR Aquatics at age 8, and her club team now is SwimMAC Carolina in Charlotte. She went to Forsyth Country Day School from Pre-K to 10th grade, and was then homeschooled in order to better train in Charlotte. She was diagnosed with Chron’s disease in 2010, but it has not gotten in the way of her fulfilling her dreams. Kathleen qualified for the Olympics in early July and took off to Rio just a month later. She is currently a sophomore at The University of California, Berkeley, where she’s swimming and studying Public Health.
Kathleen’s Interview Questions:
- What was the best part of your trip to Rio? … Callahan, age 8
Well, swimming and winning a medal was amazing, but I really liked hanging out with Team USA. The girls got along really well and we had a lot of fun together, by the end it felt like a family!
- Who was/is your role model? … Anna, age 11
My parents are my biggest role models. They have sacrificed so much for my Olympic dream, and taught me so much about how to be strong, have faith, and dream big.
- What do you do on the days when you just don’t feel like going to swim practice? … Parker, age 7
Swim practice is always my favorite part of the day, but I like going to the lake and hanging out with friends when I have some free time. I also like to play golf.
- When you do long-distance races, what do you think about to keep you motivated and pushing through? … Lauren, age 15
When I have a long race, I normally get in a groove and just try and keep my pace up the whole time. You can block the race in your head by thinking about it as 4 50’s instead of a 200M, or finishing those first 10 laps, not all 20. It goes by faster and seems a lot more doable. I like to focus on the first half of my races and take it out really fast, odds are you’re going to finish!
- How has Crohn’s disease affected your swimming career? … Ansley, age 12
Having Crohn’s makes swimming and racing hard sometimes, but it’s really made me realize how lucky I am everyday that I get to compete. Crohn’s has made me appreciate swimming more, and if you love what you’re doing, I think it has a huge impact on how well you do!
- What was the first thing that went through your mind when you realized you were going to get a silver medal? … Jacob, age 11
YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it, I definitely had a moment, I was so excited!
- What words of encouragement would you offer kids in any sport in order to keep them focused and determined on being the best they can be? … Heath, age 13
I would tell them to follow their passion, and surround themselves with people that support them.
- How has your life changed since qualifying for the Olympics? … Abby, age 9
My life hasn’t changed all that much. It was pretty crazy when I first got home from Rio, because I’ve never been recognized or had to sign autographs like that before! But now the biggest difference I notice is the number of Instagram followers I’ve gained haha. I’m back at college and back to a normal routine.
- What are your plans for the future? … Rebecca, age 10
After I’m done swimming, I hope to go to nursing school.
- What is the best tip one of your coaches ever gave you on perfecting your stroke that you think made a difference? … Kelly, age 17
I have spent years trying to perfect my technique, and have gotten countless tips. But overall the best advice a coach has ever given me was “enjoy the process.” You can’t swim your whole life to make the Olympic Team, because it comes down to hundredths of seconds, and if that was your only goal you will most likely be disappointed. But you can set little goals along the way, and enjoy every practice, every best time, every new meet, and all the friends you make.
Rachel’s Interview Questions:
- What was your favorite part about going to Rio? … Maddie, age 7
Besides Kathleen’s swims, I loved going to other events. We got to watch gymnastics, water polo, diving, and beach volleyball, and it was great to see other American athletes win medals, and so fun to see all the different people from other countries.
- What about Kathleen makes you most proud? … Carter, age 13
I’m most proud of her work ethic and determination. She’s faced some pretty big obstacles but never let anything derail her from her dreams.
- What’s your favorite thing about swimming? … Hannah, age 6
I love the team aspect of swimming. My “swim friends” are some of my best and long-lasting friendships. And it’s even more fun to have a team in college swimming! I know my best friends will be there to push me during a hard practice, make me laugh at 6 am, and cheer for me during every race!
Best of luck to both of the Baker ladies in their academic and athletic endeavors! Thank you for being great role models to our children and for taking the time to answer their questions today!