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article imageChatting with Sandra Frimerman-Bergquist: Open water champ Special

By Markos Papadatos     Dec 16, 2020 in Sports
Open water swimming champion Sandra Frimerman-Bergquist chatted with Digital Journal's Markos Papadatos about her career in swimming.
She is drawn to open water for a variety of reasons. "The thing I love most about open water is the way I feel when I am swimming without walls, flags, lane lines. I would describe it as peaceful freedom. I feel like I’m breaking free from all of the world and I am where I’m supposed to be at that moment in time. Each swim is different even if it’s the same course and I enjoy the process of problem-solving during the swim to have the most success possible."
On her proudest professional moments in swimming, she said, "In Lac Saint-Jean 32, I ranked 6th women at 36 years old. I’d first heard about this race at the 2011 open water safety summit and I decided I needed to get into this swim no matter what. Never in my dreams did I expect to be able to compete in the professional division. So after setting the course record in the boarder buster 25km in Vermont in 2017 I was able to find out about the FINA circuit and the races in Canada that would accept me as a competitor."
"In 2018 I was accepted into the 10km in st Jean and had my first professional race. The 32km was full. They only accept a limited number of men and women for the ultramarathon for safety purposes. However, there was a spot open for me next year. So in 2019, I got to swim my dream race amongst the greatest ultramarathoners in the world. It’s physically grueling from start to finish and mentally grueling because of the cold. Finishing in the timeline 1hour 45 minutes behind the women’s winning time was beyond exciting. I was so proud of myself I cried when my coach hugged me. I didn’t just do it. I did well," she said.
"Also, Capri Napoli. I have never competed overseas. So it was a big deal to go and be able to attend all activities and do well in the race. Winning ENDWET four times This little race in North Dakota has such a special place in my heart. It’s the first ultra I finished. It’s the first place I went camping. It’s the longest race in North America and always brings in fun swimmers from around the country and world. I’d placed well in the 27-mile swim and fell in love with the river. The first time I did 36 I didn’t finish."
She continued, "Two years later I went back and not only finished but I won by 30 minutes against a fantastic swimmers Jeffery Utch and Sarah Thomas. A huge accomplishment for me and to top it off it is my longest time in the water swimming just under 11 hours. This gave me the confidence to know I’m capable of swimming a very long time at a fast speed. Utch is very fast. It gave me the itch to race for that long if a distance. I have excitedly signed up for the race every year since with the same success."
"St Lucia channel crossing was the hands-down hardest swim of my life and I think I was the most prepared for it too," she said. "The waves, wind, and current were horrendous and never-ending. It was a beautiful experience swimming in the Caribbean s as d being in the center not close to anything but the ocean. Sometimes I got turned around and swam in the wrong direction a few times but that Was part of the swim. My crew and I really bonded and it was fun to have them get into swimming. Being the second woman to have completed the channel and the fastest ever was really special and I fell in love with the island."
On her daily motivations, she said, "With each swim I do doors keep opening up. I’ve accomplished my dream so all of this is such a gift to keep swimming. My trainer Michael Kane is a big motivator because he pushes and believes in my ability in and out of athletics."
"My husband, parents, sister, niece, my in-laws, and their friends, my uncles, and aunts, grandparents, great grandparents, great uncles, and aunts, cousins, extended family all motivate me to become the best version of myself," she added.
She listed the following swims as career defining moments: "Winning el cruce 10k as global swim series world champion seemed to get me notoriety and my name out there. Winning the boarder buster 25k posting a sub six hour 25k helped me get an invitation to lac st Jean. Winning swim the suck is when I started to think maybe I could go on the pro series. ENDWET all years 27 mile x2 when I found ultramarathon swimming. 36 mile x4 winner it’s become something I’m known for winning and doing every year. Finishing traverse du lac st Jean proved that I belong on the circuit and it wasn’t some fluke," she listed.
"Also, Capri Napoli. How I can manage the extra activities and still perform to my capabilities. I was able to participate in the dry side of open water swimming. This was also a good swim. I was able to push myself even though it was the end of the season. I’m most proud because of my placement in this event I'm ranked 10th overall in the series. Each race brings new opportunities and that’s the most exciting thing," she said.
On being a swimmer in the digital age, she said, "It's very different from when I started swimming. You are more informed about your competitors and your information is available to everyone. I’d say it’s more cutthroat because everyone is digitally connected and our community tends to be competitive so it’s hard sometimes to filter out the social media and focus on what’s in your control."
"As an older athlete, it’s kind of overwhelming but exciting. When growing up we didn’t know much about other athletes' training programs besides what was available at clinics camps swimming world and word of mouth. Now it’s overwhelming almost with the amount of information about training programs that you can find an online coach that is specifically for your training. It’s awesome to see so many people willing to share their own ideas for the better of the sport," she said.
"The swimming community has grown with the digital age. We no longer only hear about the top swimmers and future or current Olomouc gold medalist. The average swimmer going to college gets the same coverage," she added.
"The digital age has transformed USA open water swimming. We are able to connect with swim directors and race directors very quickly and the information is readily available online. So it makes planning races much more convenient snd my crew has more guidance as to how to support or get things done
For young and aspiring swimmers, she said, "The mind is a powerful tool that you can use to your advantage. You don’t have to stay in a situation that is unhealthy for you. There is enough space in the swimming world for us all to have success. We all grow differently at different times. Be patient. Trust the process. Focus on the process, not the product. Have as much fun as possible because having fun creates a hard-working environment. Hard work pays off. You're worth coaching."
On the title of the current chapter of her life, she said, "Creating the best version of myself as an adult ultramarathoner."
She defined success as "accomplishing what you set out to do in the best way you can."
To learn more about open water Sandra Frimerman-Bergquist, follow her on Instagram.
More about Sandra FrimermanBergquist, Swimmer, open water
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