Brooke Bennett is a three time gold medalist for swimming, but she is wife, a mom, a coach, a fan of Disney movies (but I do not know who is not a fan of Disney movie), and a woman of change. In fact her determination and perseverance to be the best she can, outwork others, and make a difference is a big reason why she is the winner of three individual Olympic Gold Medals.
Bennett has been swimming since before she could walk. At the age of just 16, she won the gold medal for the 800 meter freestyle at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. In 2000, at the Sydney Olympic Games, she won gold in the 400 and 800 meter freestyle. Unfortunately in 2001, after the 2000 Olympics, she had surgery on both of her shoulders and finished 3rd at the 2004 Olympic trials in the 800, keeping her from the Olympic team.
It has been 12 years since then and the question is if Brooke Bennett will compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. One concern is the cleanliness and safety of the open water swimming event, especially now with the virus creating more health concerns. There are a lot more risks with marine creatures.
As a mom, Bennett’s main responsibility has changed. There is no definite answer yes or no after the birth of her first son who is now16 months old, 28 pounds, and very active. Bennett was actually on bedrest the entire pregnancy and could not train so after the birth of her son, she had to start over with training. Another concern for Brooke and her husband is that they are considering a second baby. The training and focus has changed and continues to change.
Brooke stated, “The biggest change in demand may be life, but the training routine has remained the same.” She has worked with American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) Hall of Famer, Peter Banks for 18 years. With Banks, Brooke has always felt she can still compete because she has trained so hard over the years. She said, “Size wise I was always one of the smallest and so I needed to have that confidence. I knew every time I raced, that I trained harder than everyone else. That was in my mind that I outworked and out trained everyone else”.
For Brooke swimming has changed more out of the pool then in the pool as she gets older. At age 16 - 20, life for Brooke had one dimension. She just had to focus on swimming. Brooke trained six days a week and usually had completely off on Sunday. She had 10 swim practices a week and an average of 4-5 hours a day of training. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday were often doubles, Wednesday morning she had off, and Saturday she was done by 10 or 11am. On a typical 5 hour day of training she had two hours of training in the morning, two in the evening, and an hour of dry lands. She had her parents and was dependent on them, instead of focusing on her own family, housing, etc. As she got older, Bennett notes that “her life has become less about her and more about others.”
At the age of 33, Brooke is far from done changing the sport of swimming. She is currently in the direction of being a working athletic mom so there are a lot of things on the table. Regardless what has changed, the main focus is family and moving forward. She has established a swim program in Brooke Bennett Swimming Academy partnering with Clearwater City, FL Brooke said, “The longevity of the sport is growing but it still does not change that we do see young athletes competing at the Olympics game.” For instance, she recalled that Janet Evans, World champion, world record-holder a four-time gold medalist was 17 at her first Olympics. Katie Ledecky was the same age going into her first Olympics in London and is now just turning 18 this spring. She is already a gold medalist, nine-time world champion, and hold three current world records, topping women in the last 30-40 years.
According to Brooke, “you see men and women competing well into their 30s and some female swimmers like Dara Torres competing in their 40s. However swimming is not only growing for women, but for all athletes. There is more sponsorship money available and more people out there that are able to make a living out of playing it.”
Brooke has been fully engaged in helping to grow the sport of swimming to motivate swimmers the same way she was inspired as a young swimmer. Brooke was motivated by her grandfather and has him to thank for pushing her parents to get her swim lessons. He wanted all of his grandchildren to know how to swim. She says, “She was a little fish from the very beginning, before she could even walk. It was again her grandfather who encouraged her mom to get swimming lessons because she could be good. Swimming helped Brooke with her “off the wall energy”, as she says, and by 5 she joined her first swim team.
“My grandfather was my biggest supporter and I always looked up to him.” Bennett remembers being roughly 10 years old and overhearing her grandfather telling one of her mom’s sisters some inspirational words. At the time, her aunt was one of the only woman struggling in the fire department in the mid 80’s. She was dealing with being mistreated and confusion about whether the fire department is the right track for her. He said, “Michelle this is what you want to do and this is who you are. We don’t quit.” Bennett’s aunt ended up working 30 years, met her husband through the department, and went through the program to become a fire captain.
Bennett followed the same path with swimming. Her grandfather always said, “no matter what you started, you are going to finish. It doesn’t mean being at the top but going through and even if it is not your best, still go through it to the end.” Unfortunately, her grandfather passed away before she competed in her Olympics, but in the back of her head, she said, “I always think about him and if he would be proud. He was even my motivation with swim academy.”
Bennett considered coaching and even worked in broadcasting for five years. Many people consider coaching after playing at any level. She said, “My husband has the coaching ability. I always think the best coaches do not have to be the best athletes. I did swimming lessons for family friends on and off since 15 and started with my son when he was 11 weeks old. I thought this makes sense for me so I can be with my son, work around where I wanted to be, and do something that makes a difference and a huge passion of mine.” Bennett works with water babies from four months to level six of swimming. After that they are ready to join competitive swimming.
“I work on stroke work, turns, dives, etc. I see the biggest gap is that every coach cannot give swimmers technical training. I am not recruiting and do not have ties to any club teams so I can work with any kids that need help. I work with all levels from national to beginners, triathletes, moms and dads who have never learned how to swim. At all levels there is something for everything. I want to be the feeding academy for competitive swim teams. In addition, I work on performance on getting through ups and downs of swimming through my own experiences to help other swimmers become better performers. First, I want to first tackle Florida and build three academies in the Tampa bay area, but I do want to expand beyond Florida.”
Swimming trainers and stroke coaches are becoming more popular for working with clubs. Not every coach has the time to give 60 kids help on their stroke every day, but now additional training can start helping the sport grow and be more efficient in the sport. Brooke Bennett is continuing to train for the 2016 Olympics, but also is continuing to expand her influence on sports and her family. Top of FormThe three timeThe three time gold medalist has overcome a lot of obstacles to lead a successful life, but she is nowhere near done yet. Brooke Bennett is still leaving her stamp on swimming.
Issues with Open Water Swimming in the Eyes of Brooke Bennett
Open water swimming is a new addition. The first time it was an event was in the London Olympics of 2012. In the Olympics of Beijing in 2008, Open Water Swim was used as an exhibition event, but London was the first time it was a medaled event. Open Water has the greatest potential of growth in this summer’s Olympics, but unfortunately with the circumstances right now it is very uncertain about the safety of the swimmers. Athletes can’t even focus on the event and sport itself. The main concern is the health of the athletes. Actually, the athletes, spectators, swimmers, and anyone that is attending may be at concern with the virus breakout.
Dry Land Training 101 with Brooke
Dry Lands are any types of training outside of the pool. This includes but is not limited to any weight training, strengthening, yoga, cycling, and anything outside.
Did you know?
You have read the statistics and details on the successful career of Brooke Bennett. However do you know her movie idea for a movie about her? Three words... The Little Mermaid. If anyone made a movie about her, Brooke said it would be similar to the concept of the Disney Classic because she can relate to a lot of Ariel’s life except she has the opposite problem. Ariel wanted to walk on land more than anything in the whole world, but for Brooke she would rather be in the water all day every day.