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What Separates Olympic Swimmers From Everyone Else?

What Separates Olympic Swimmers From Everyone Else?

Olympic athletes aren’t only good at what they do; they’re quite literally at the top of their game. Most Olympic swimmers have been partaking in the sport since a young age and have crossed both physical and mental boundaries that most casual swimmers could only dream of.

Image of Michael Phelps viewed from in front of him as he swims possibly breaststroke
Michael Phelps

Image: NY Daily News

Natural physical gifts

Michael Phelps’ double-jointedness and huge wingspan give him a unique physical advantage. According to Scientific American, the eight-times Olympic gold medalist has size 14 feet that bend 15 degrees further than most other swimmers. His flexibility also extends to his knees and elbows and his wingspan is far larger than average. Simply put, Michael Phelps is a born swimmer with naturally formed flippers.

However, natural physical gifts don’t always lead to success and there have been plenty of athletes with far less flexibility and much smaller frames that compete at the Olympic level, such as Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima.

Training programs

Olympic swimmers don’t just train casually, they will work alongside coaches to devise a training program that’s specific to their strengths, weaknesses, body type and schedule. Strict nutrition plans must also be followed to ensure their bodies recover from the intense training and can deliver optimal performance on the day.

In addition to swimming, most athletes will also partake in other sporting activities to maximize their potential. Typical activities include yoga or martial arts for flexibility; weight lifting or callisthenics to target specific muscle groups; and cycling and running for endurance.

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Mental preparation

There’s not one Olympic swimmer out there who don’t live and breathe the sport. A strict passion is a must and something that many casual competitors simply don’t have. Without this passion, the mental preparation will suffer – which is half of the battle.

Full-time training doesn’t just place a strain on the body; the term “no pain, no gain” equally applies to a swimmer’s mentality. It’s simply done or don’t for Olympic athletes; and even during times of emotional stress, they must stick to their program and push through to the very end. Millions of casual athletes spend years and years training, attempting to “break-through” with supplements and more exercise, yet failing to realize where they’re truly going wrong – their mental game.

Olympic requirements

There are certain minimum requirements that athletes must meet to get on an Olympic team. For example, in the USA swimmers must finish either first or second in Olympic trials. In addition, there are A and B level qualifying standards that must be met. If they don’t make the qualifying time, then they may not be allowed to participate. Training for these qualifiers takes just as much training as the event itself.


In short, Olympic swimmers are a combination of natural talent, physical talent and mental talent. However, the fundamental and most important difference is that Olympic athletes train to win and take their abilities to levels of extremity that are nearly impossible to reach; while the average Joe trains for health, enjoyment and self-satisfaction.

If you think you’re up to the challenge and want to start your Olympic journey today, visit Mail Sports, pick up some Speedos and get in the water.


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