LONDON – As the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Everyone knows who Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte are, but there are many more American swimmers that most Olympic viewers never hear about. These are citizens, born and raised in the United States, but swimming for another country.
Margaux Farrell, a member of the French Women’s 4x200m relay team, is a unique story. Farrell graduated from Indiana University this past spring where she won three Big Ten swimming titles. Her mother, Slyvie Farrell, is a former swimmer for the French national team that missed qualifying for the Olympics by one one-hundredth of a second. In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Farrell swam a leg in the semifinal race for the 4x200m women’s relay, in which later that night her team won the bronze medal. From living in the Olympic Village to swimming in the pool, Farrell talked about her Olympic experience and her bond with her mother.
Colin Brown: What is it like to be an American student swimming for an international team?
Margaux Farrell: It’s fine. A lot of swimmers go to school in thE US, so there are many foreigners that I recognize from NCAA meets. I’m fluent in French though and have spent a lot of time in France so I feel just as much French as I do American.
CB: Do you live with the French team in the village?
CB: Are you friends with some of the American athletes? If so, do you hangout with them at the games or mainly your French teammates?
MF: Yes I am, but I stayed mainly with the French.
CB: What have you learned from your mom about swimming on a national level?
MF: I’ve learned to cherish the experience more than anything because in the end that is what you’ll remember most.
CB: How close are you and your mom when it comes to swimming?
MF: My mom and I are close when it comes to everything. She’s really my best friend. People always say that we are the same!
CB: What kind of advice or tips does she give you before swimming?
MF: She tells me to relax and that I’m going to be fine and that no matter what she loves me.
CB: I saw that you swam the semifinals for the 4×200 and in the finals the team got bronze, so as a leg of the qualifying team, do you receive a medal?
MF: Yes I did.
CB: I was told that you were initially in the Olympics as an alternate, is that accurate?
MF: No, it’s called that I guess but most major teams bring 6 people so they can put up the most rested relay each time. I was always going to swim though.
CB: Describe the feeling you had when you were told that you were going to be competing for the team. What kind of emotions were you experiencing?
MF: I was excited, but it didn’t fully hit me until I left IU and went to Europe because I had so much other stuff going on like school and graduating so I didn’t focus on my qualification at first.
CB: When you walked in to the natatorium for the 4x200m race, what emotions were you feeling then?
MF: I honestly don’t remember much. I know I was nervous in the days leading up but calm on the day of. I tried to just look at the pool and not up at the stands, it was just another 200 like I had done before and that is what I had to keep telling myself.
CB: Describe any added pressure that you felt that you hadn’t experienced in past races at any point in your life.
MF: Well this was swimming for my country on the biggest stage of athletics so I obviously had to do well but the people I trained with and swam with were supportive and encouraging so I felt ready to do my job for the team.
CB: Competing for your school is a big deal, but what is it like to compete for an entire country?
MF: It’s a lot of pressure. I had a lot of people counting on me and I had a lot at stake so I needed to be focused and determined but it ended up working out just fine. I imagined that moment for years and trained hard for that so I had confidence in what I was going to do and when I dove into the pool I just had to have faith in my training and my abilities to not have any regrets and just go for it!
Nicholas Schwab, an upcoming senior at Indiana University, represented the Dominican Republic as the team’s only male swimmer. Schwab swam in the 200m Freestyle where he won his heat with a time of 1:53.41 and qualified 36th overall in the event. He talked about what an amazing experience he had swimming for the Dominican Republic.
Colin Brown: What’s it like being an American student swimming for another country?
Nicholas Schwab: It’s a wonderful experience. I get the best of both worlds. I am proud to be American, and I am proud to be Dominican.
CB: How did you end up swimming for the Dominican Republic?
NS: Last summer I applied for dual citizenship through my mother. We went to the Dominican Republic and I swam in their national competition. It was great! I decided that I wanted to gain international experience so the best chance for that at this point was to swim for the Dominican Republic.
CB: What were the qualifications like?
NS: I was entered into the games through the universality rules, meaning one guy and one girl given the times are fast enough can be approved to go without FINA A or B cuts. Being the fastest Dominican, and with a 1:53.8 in the 200 free I was able to qualify for the games.
CB: What is it like living in the Olympic Village with all of the other athletes?
NS: Really cool. I’m surrounded by amazing people. I’ve been meeting huge athletes—even WR holders. It’s a great experience, really helping me to grow as an athlete.
CB: Do you live with the DR athletes or fellow American athletes?
NS: I live with some of the Dominican coaches and medical staff.
CB: Do you hangout with a lot of the Americans in the village?
NS: Not really. I have some friends from Suriname, actually; it’s been great to spend time with them.
CB: What is it like to be the only male swimmer for DR?
NS: It’s a pretty special feeling. I am a unique person, it just adds to my personality. It encourages me to represent the country as best I can. Not only am I representing the DR in the games, but I am also representing the entire sport back at home in the DR for all of the athletes there!
CB: What about the female swimmer, Dorian, who is also from the US? Are you both close? Do you have a special bond being the only swimmers?
NS: Dorian is a great girl; she is very, very talented in swimming and will continue to grow in the sport with the years to come. I look forward to seeing her success. We are friends but we live in different states so we don’t see each other very often. She has a great family and we all get along very well!
CB: How does swimming at Indiana help you with the pressures of International swimming?
NS: In all honesty, it seems to be the other way around. The international experience and swimming in the Olympics has really helped my college career out. This exposure to such high levels of competition has helped me put things into perspective, and really have fueled my motivation for college swimming, especially going forward.