The smell of chlorine fills the air inside the Allan Jones Aquatic Center, home of the University of Tennessee’s men’s and women’s swim teams. But, it doesn’t bother Kate Ziegler, a two-time United States Olympian who has spent the vast majority of her 27 years on this planet around the pool.
Since January, Kate, a former world-record holder in 800m and 1500m freestyle, has called Knoxville home. Emerging from an almost three year hiatus from the sport following the 2012 London Olympics, she now trains full-time at the aquatic center with a newfound rejuvenation, energy and purpose.
During her time away from the pool, Kate realized that she doesn’t want to be remembered by records or accomplishments or medals. She wants her impact to be greater than what can be measured in competition. And, even if her sights are set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil next summer, qualifying or not qualifying for the U.S. team will not be what defines her resurgence.
Recently, I sat down with Kate to talk about her time in Knoxville, her trajectory as a competitive swimmer, and the lessons she’s learned that she hopes to pass on to girls throughout the country.