Name: Tristan Slater
Age at time of interview:
Who do you represent:
Represent Great Britain and Millfield
Did you go to university?
If so.. Where did you go, what did you study and how did you do?
University of Tennessee (2011-2015), Studied Finance and Accounting. Graduated with Magna Cum Laude Honours as well
Was it necessary in hindsight to what you’re doing now?
I went to the University of Tennessee to compete in the collegiate system in the USA. The huge number of successful swimmers, not just Americans have gone through the system. The collegiate system in the USA taught me lessons within my sport that I would not have learned in Britain. Also, there is life after swimming and it was necessary for myself to complete an education at University.
What pressures do you think many twenty-something’s are faced with?
There is a lot of uncertainty within your twenties. People are unsure whether they’re are in the right profession and they unsure about what the future holds. There is also a lot of pressure to be successful at what you do.
When did you realize you wanted to be a professional swimmer?
I originally started swimming in Vietnam. I broke my arm whilst playing football there. There were no good physiotherapists at the time in Vietnam, so my mother was instructed to throw me in the pool to gain back the mobility in my left arm. It all started from there, but my swimming took off whilst I was living in Australia. That was where I decided I wanted to be a professional swimmer.
What were the initial steps you took to pursue this career?
My mother took a key role in helping me pursue my dreams. She enrolled me in Millfield School, a school renowned for its success within swimming, producing numerous Olympians. There, I completed my secondary education and then enrolled at a top 15 swimming university in the USA, the University of Tennessee, on a swimming scholarship. They too, knew what it took to produce not only Olympians but also Olympic Champions. After I graduated I returned to Millfield to train under my old coach as a professional swimmer.
What are the biggest challenges you’re faced with choosing to be a professional swimmer?
I think the biggest challenge is the actual decision to become a professional swimmer. There is not a huge amount of money within the sport but it is something I am deeply passionate about. The hardest decision was to withhold my career and continue swimming as a professional.
What is the dream?
The dream has always been to be the best at swimming at the biggest stage in sport, the Olympics.
Who did you seek advice from and who really helped you in the early stages?
My mother helped me in the early stages in terms of getting me to the right club for swimming. But normally I seek advice from my coaches, my psychologist in Tennessee and my mother. My psychologist in Tennessee helped greatly with the mental side of the sport. I learnt a lot from him, including techniques that help me to get the best out of training and a race.
Do you ever doubt yourself?
There is always doubt. I told myself in 2015 as I was ending my collegiate career if I could not see myself making the Olympics to potentially rethink my future. That changed at the World Championships Trials where I jumped from 9th in the nation to 3rd.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now in order to pursue this profession?
I try to live by a quote now with my swimming after going through a dark time in my life, “Success won’t bring you Happiness, Happiness will bring you Success.”
What is a daily routine like for you to train before a big competition (include diet/training)?
Training for nine times a week in the pool for two hours each time, two yoga sessions, two pilates sessions and two weight sessions. I have to carefully watch my diet throughout the week, making sure I get the right things down my body to fully maximise my recovery from practice. Normally each week, I have what I call a cheat day where I allow myself to indulge in a sweet or two.
What do you have to do to qualify for the Rio games this year?
My aim is qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio. The trials are in April. I will have to either win the event or come second with a certain time to qualify for the Games. The time to qualify is essentially what it will take to make the Olympic final in Rio.
Any mishaps pursuing this profession?
There are always setbacks or hurdles you have to deal with in sports. I have had to manage a few injuries in training. In these cases, its important not to find the negatives in the situation but the positives.
What advice would you give to other twenty-something’s looking to pursue sport professionally?
If you are looking to pursue sports professionally do something you are incredibly passionate about. You will find it a lot easier to be successful if you are happy. At the end of the day talent alone will not help you reach your dreams. Your character or attitude will determine this.
What are the next steps for you in the lead up to Rio?
The next few steps for me in the lead up to trials are to remain healthy, fit and injury free. My coach worries about the program, and what I need to do to be at my best at the trials. I will follow his guidance and then mentally prepare myself for race day.
What has been your best moment for you in your career?
My best moment in my career was coming third at the World Championships trials in April 2015. I had just swum a huge career best and won my first open national medal!