Last week Anne Mills competed in her last Spanish National Meet in Sabadell, Spain. Although everyone on pool deck – from fellow athletes, coaches to the staff running the ready room – calls me Kate, according to the Spanish Announcers I am Anne (pronounced an-nae) Mills Katherine. Thankfully, only in Madrid do they announce the Katherine at the end.
This meet was the Olympic Trials for the Spanish National team, and there were many butterflies on the pool deck before the first session began. Unlike our Olympic Trials, where the object of the game is to win your event, in Spain the goal is to get a certain cut, called a “mínima”. Therefore, someone could potentially win an event, and even break the National Record, and not accomplish the time standard set by the federation, which has in fact happened. Each federation has their specific way of testing how athletes compete under pressure. Having only truly competed in one system, I am not sure if I can state whether one system is better than the other. The only thing that I know is that in order to make it on any national team, the swimmer must overcome a significant amount of pressure to compete well. In the end, those circumstances are what prepare the swimmers to excel in international competition. Twelve Spaniards punched their tickets to Rio (three of whom are teammates) and a few others will have another shot in May (see here for a list of results).
Although my ticket to the Games in Rio was not on the line during this competition, I too felt the pressure of the meet. I wanted to go as fast as possible to put myself in a good position for Omaha, and also, if I am honest, wanted verifiable proof of the hard work we have put in this year. I did go a few season best times and was able to swim decently well, but not quite as fast as I wanted. I learned a lot about myself and had an amazing talk with Taja to put everything in perspective and am looking forward to the next few steps in our preparation for June. It is rather strange to think that I will not be at the next Spanish National meet. It is even harder to think that I will not be seeing all of my friends on a regular basis, but I know that I will be coming back to Spain, and that we will see one another again, perhaps next with a little less chlorine, and so it is not an “adios”, but rather an “hasta luego”.