3-time Olympian (2008, 2012, 2016)
Silver medalist, 400 IM, 2008 Olympics
Bronze medalist, 200 back, 2008 Olympics
Bronze medalist, 400 IM, 2013 World Championships
2013 NCAA champion, 400 IM
2012 NCAA champion, 200 back
While it isn’t unusual for female swimmers to have an impact on the international scene as teenagers, it’s not so common for one to be consistently in the medal hunt for a decade.
Elizabeth Beisel has.
The Rhode Island native made her first national team at age 13, swimming at the 2006 Pan Pacs and made her first Olympic squad two years later, qualifying for Beijing in her bread-and-butter events: the 400 IM and 200 back, finishing fifth in both. The following summer, she earned bronze in the 200 back at the 2009 world championship meet.
That early success also meant she had to grow up fast. “Maturity came quick for me because I had no choice,” Beisel told USA Swimming in 2016. “I was always on a team with older people, and I had to fit in and make friends.”
With the Olympics and World Championships on her résumé, the Bluefish Swim Club athlete and Chuck Batchelor protégée was one of the most prized college recruits of 2010. She chose the University of Florida, where she made an immediate impact and was named the SEC’s freshman swimmer of the year under the tutelage of coach Gregg Troy. At the 2011 NCAA Championships, she finaled in all three of her individual events, taking second in the 400 IM and third in the 200 back and eighth in the 500 free. That summer, she earned her first World Championship gold medal in the 400 IM.
Beisel had an even bigger sophomore season, winning her first NCAA championship in the 200 back and taking third in the 400 IM. That summer, she showed her 2008 Olympic performance was no fluke, qualifying for London in the 400 IM and 200 back. This time, she brought home hardware: a silver in the 400 IM and bronze in the 200 back.
She faced her first real setback in 2013 when she suffered a groin injury while training for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia. She missed the finals in both her events, a first for her.
One thing she didn’t expect: “Injuries are hard physically, but mentally, they take a toll on you that I had never experienced before.” It also made her contemplate something she hadn’t really thought about yet: life after swimming. Then she came to her senses.
“(I realized) Nothing had changed for me, and I was still in the swimming world,” she told USA Swimming. “I quickly realized how lucky I was to still be in the swimming world, especially after my friends had told me how rough the real world is.”
Beisel graduated from Florida in 2014 with a degree in communications, which she hopes to parlay into a broadcasting career someday. Just not quite yet.
For now, she’s enjoying life as a professional swimmer and being one of the elder stateswomen in U.S. swimming. She made her third Olympic team, qualifying for Rio in the 400 IM despite breaking a finger in the crowded warmup pool.
Although she missed the podium, she managed to shine in another capacity. She was named a team captain in Rio. “It’s intimidating for young girls to come to the team. I was in their shoes when I was 13,” she recalls. “You don’t have ‘friends’ when you’re 13. You have people who look after you. I’m giving back to what was given to me 10 years ago.”
Through her new role as a Fitter & Faster athlete-instructor, Beisel will have more chances to give back by working with hundreds of young swimmers.