US Olympic Swimming Team: 10 Things You Need to Know About Rebecca Soni
Rebecca Soni is the best American swimmer who doesn't get nearly enough recognition.
A three-time medalist at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Soni is once again a strong contender for multiple medals in London.
Here though, we'll look into the world of an Olympian where there's much more outside of the pool. Yes, some of her career accomplishments will be known, but Soni's an important part to the U.S. swimming team because of her influence as a person.
Ahead, let's check out what makes Soni such an interesting athlete to watch for in the 2012 Summer Games.
She Speaks Hungarian
Not only does Rebecca Soni speak Hungarian, she's "almost fluent" as mentioned in her Arena International profile.
And in an interview with NBC Olympics, Soni stated:
[My parents] taught us Hungarian because they were still learning English. I think it was just when I started to go to school that I was taught English. We picked it up pretty easy, being so young. But I still have a little bit of Hungarian in me. I probably can understand it better than I can speak it.
Just from a diverse perspective, having a second language is quite impressive.
It's hard enough to be a competitive swimmer and enjoy success in and of itself. But possessing another language simply makes Soni a rarity in sports.
Not to mention it would be cool to speak to her Hungarian opponents at any swimming competition.
She's a Spokeswoman
In August of 2010 Rebecca Soni joined the Girl Up campaign, which displays her willingness to act as a positive influence for a younger generation.
From a press release on the Girl Up website:
“Through my partnership with Girl Up, I’m excited to encourage American girls to channel their energy and compassion into becoming powerful forces for change in the lives of their peers in developing countries,” said Soni. “Where you are born should not dictate how big you can dream.”
And what is Girl Up?
Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation, gives American girls the opportunity to channel their energy and compassion to raise awareness and funds for programs of the United Nations that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. Through Girl Up’s support, girls have the opportunity to become educated, healthy, safe, counted and positioned to be the next generation of leaders.
Campaigns like this are excellent ways to make life better for anyone, and having an Olympic athlete such as Soni only enhances the awareness. Considering that she competes basically around the world, Girl Up will continue to become even more known through time.
She's a Graduate Student
Rebecca Soni should just also become a professional juggler, because she's doing so many things in addition to being an Olympic swimmer.
Joining the aforementioned Girl Up campaign is important, and now we learn about graduate school.
As mentioned on her official website:
Rebecca graduated in 2009 from the University of Southern California with a major in Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication. She is now back in school working on a graduate degree in topics of science and nutrition.
So, Soni is an Olympic athlete, philanthropist and graduate student.
There's honestly no superlative to justify how impressive this juggling act is. The only thing we can hope for is that athletes of her stature (regardless of sport), continue to follow a similar path in being positive role models of society.
She Used to Suffer from an Irregular Heartbeat
As if we need to be any more impressed, Soni underwent a surgical procedure called cardiac ablation because she was suffering from an irregular heartbeat.
Starting when she was 16, Soni experienced episodes once or twice a month in which her heart would beat very rapidly during exercise. Toward the end of her freshman year at U.S.C., the episodes became more frequent.
She had the procedure done in July 2006 in Los Angeles. A catheter was inserted in her groin and electrical energy was used to destroy areas of abnormal tissue in the heart that were causing the rhythmic disturbances.
Soni said her heartbeat has been normal since the procedure.
Now look at everything Soni has accomplished in an out of the pool.
Considering her dominance prior to the procedure, Soni's success thereafter is a legitimate foregone conclusion. It clearly limited her ability despite the talent, but since, Soni has taken even further advantage of her opportunities.
It's an inspirational story, because it simply means that anyone can overcome any obstacle en route to enjoying Olympic success.
She Holds 2 Short Course World Records
One of the few athletic endeavors are Rebecca Soni's two world records.
At the Duel in the Pool in December of 2009, Soni went back-to-back on the short course women's 100- and 200-meter breaststroke.
In the 100 she finished with a time of 1 minute and 2.7 seconds, which was three-tenths of a second faster than the previous world record. As for the 200, Soni swam it in 2:14.57 and broke the record by .85 seconds.
Interestingly enough, both records were recently set by Australia's Leisel Jones just a month earlier in Berlin, Germany.
Her out-of-the-pool pursuits are great for defining Soni as a person, but there's no denying the credibility she holds in being a dual world record-holder.
She Is the Current 2-Time Defending Swimmer of the Year
Not just in America, but the world.
For 2010 and 2011 Rebecca Soni was named Swimmer of the Year for America and the world.
Talk about the best and utmost athletic recognition for one sport in such a short time-frame, Soni is also only 25 years old.
Therefore, she's in the midst of her prime form and will likely remain for at least another few years. So now combine her previous success with the potential of her immediate future, and it's quite possible for Soni to win this award at least once more.
Soni was the first U.S. swimmer to win the award in consecutive years since Janet Evans (1989, 1990) and winning it once more would tie her for the most all-time for women.
She Began Swimming Because It Was More Convenient
Looking at Rebecca's Soni's natural talent from an overall perspective, she could have easily just done as well as a gymnast.
But, Soni decided to take the swimming route because of her older sister. As mentioned from her official website:
When Rebecca was growing up she preferred gymnastics and only joined her older sister Rita’s swimming club because it was a better option than the alternative of having to wait for Rita to finish her class. So at age 10, Rebecca started swimming, with no idea that she would eventually win an Olympic Gold medal.
So to some extent, Soni's swimming career began out of spite and the impatience of having to wait for her sister after gymnastics.
In turn, we can only imagine Soni's career had she stuck with gymnastics. And although time machines haven't been invented yet, given her swimming accomplishments it's reasonable to say that Soni would have done just fine on the gym floor.
She Has Many Hobbies
One appealing advantage to being an elitist within your respective sport are the fun opportunities life presents.
And because of that, Rebecca Soni takes complete advantage by having many hobbies in addition to her schooling, philanthropy and competition.
Listed on her website, Soni is a fan of hiking, yoga, reading, cooking and biking. Obviously family and friends are part of this and having these hobbies simply makes the Olympian a little more down-to-earth.
When someone does as many influential things as Soni, it's easy to get carried away by her bigger-than-life image as opposed to seeing her as just a good person with fun interests. Not to mention that hiking, yoga and biking could be another way to get a workout in as well.
She Has the Same Coach from College
Since 2007 Dave Salo has been Rebecca Soni's swim coach, per Soni's London 2012 profile.
Salo is the head swimming coach for USC and has coached other U.S. Olympians, so it's not surprising to see Soni continue training with him.
One fascinating aspect of any sport that often goes overlooked is the importance of a consistent coach. When you think of team sports like football and basketball, the most consistently successful programs (regardless of level) have a consistent coach.
Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots and Mike Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University basketball are two of the most prime examples. Well, Salo is just that when it comes to swimming after having coached under Peter Daland.
And for as much overall talent, potential and success Soni has enjoyed, a big part of that comes from her coach.
Her Parents Are Immigrants
We previously learned that Rebecca Soni speaks Hungarian, and quiet well at that.
Well, the core of where Soni's second language derives is from her parents, who emigrated to America, as listed on her USA Swimming profile.
In short, learning the Hungarian language relates to having a sense of ethnic pride and it's obvious this importance comes from her parents. Additionally, Soni also considers them her heroes and the most influential people in her life, per her London 2012 profile.
It is quite amazing how much one can learn from their parents.
Soni has taken that to heart and her all-around impact as a swimmer, student and philanthropist can be traced back to the folks.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.