My Olympic Story: Samantha Cheverton

BSB's Olympic preview continues today with the story of Canadian swimmer Samantha Cheverton. One of the best athletes in program history, the OSU alumna talks about overcoming her small stature to become a world-class athlete as well as what it took to get the confidence required to perform at the highest level in sport.

Previous editions:
Katie Bell

Samantha Cheverton is one of the major reasons for the turnaround of the fortunes of the women's swimming program, helping lead Bill Dorenkott's program to a top-20 standing in the nation and top-three status in the Big Ten before completing her eligibility in 2011. An OSU Scholar-Athlete, Big Ten Medal of Honor finalist and 2011 graduate, Cheverton continued to take classes and train at OSU after completing her eligibility before heading overseas.

Hometown: Lachine, Quebec
Events: 200-meter freestyle, prelims/semifinal July 30, final July 31; 4x100-meter freestyle relay, July 28; 4x200-meter freestyle relay, Aug. 1
How Qualified: Cheverton took second at the Canadian trials in her hometown of Montreal in the 200-meter freestyle event in late March, finishing in 1:57.98. That qualified her for London, where she will also compete in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
Medal Chances: Cheverton's Olympic qualifying time places 27th in the world this year. In a deep field, world record holder Federica Pellegrini (1:52.98) of Italy will be competing along with American record holder Allison Schmitt (1:54.40) and rising star Missy Franklin (1:56.79). Canada does not have a top-10 relay in either team event.
Ohio State State Career: Cheverton immediately burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2008 at Ohio State, qualifying for the NCAA championships as a freshman. She was the best swimmer on the team each of her four seasons, breaking five school records as a sophomore in 2009 and posting three top-five finishes at the Big Ten meet in '10. Her crowning achievement in scarlet and gray came in 2011 when she came from behind to win the 200 freestyle at the Big Ten meet, OSU's first title at the event in six years.
In Her Own Words: "I have an older brother (Craig), and he was a swimmer, so naturally I wanted to get into it. I was already doing swimming lessons because every kid does, but you always want to be like your older sibling. I did a few other things, like girly sports because I'm not that athletic, so I did gymnastics and stuff like that. I did ballet and dance and I was OK, but I got better at swimming, so I think that's why I stuck with it.

"I had really good coaches my whole life, and I remember I had this one coach probably from the ages of 10 to 13, and he would always tell me, ‘Oh, you have so much potential.' But at that age, you're like, whatever. You don't really know what that means. Then when I was 14 I switched clubs to a more serious club, and that's when I started to realize. I started improving a lot and I was like, ‘Oh, OK, I could be OK at this.'

"Honestly, I didn't really know it would lead to this. I mean, I'm not a pessimist at all. I feel like I'm a realist, and I've had goals, but I feel like realistic goals. When I was little, I was never really like, ‘I'm going to the Olympics,' or anything like that. I wanted to do well, but I didn't like, go crazy.

"Being from Canada, I had no idea about the U.S. college recruiting process. It's a big thing for swimmers to go to the States for college because it's a really good opportunity and the college athletic system at home is not the same. So what I did was this recruiting program where you give all your information and they send it out because my family and I didn't know what to do. All of a sudden, whatever that day is, like July 1, they can start calling you. It was ridiculously crazy. I was not prepared for it at all. I was completely overwhelmed. It was stressful but exciting at the same time.

"When I was choosing Ohio State, I was happy to have chosen here because it wasn't far like Texas or in the South where it could have been a really strange adjustment. I really enjoy the Midwest and I really love Ohio. Before I started recruiting, I only knew about like Cleveland, Ohio, and that's because of ‘The Drew Carey Show' because he would say it in the song. I never heard of Columbus."

"I actually took a sports psychology class one of my years. That was pretty funny, taking something where you're like, ‘Wow, that's me.' To then apply it to my life, that was pretty funny. It teaches you tips and tools of how to handle things. Like a big thing with me are just nerves. When I was younger, I had issues with nerves. I threw up before every single meet, like embarrassingly so. So I actually feel like I've been able to use what I've learned.

"I joke around with my coach back home. I remember my freshman year telling him after college that I was done. There was no way I was swimming any longer than that. Then obviously as things went on, I realized, ‘Oh, maybe I should keep swimming.' He always teases me about that."

"I've always been short (5-foot-3), so that's always been my shtick. It doesn't seem that weird anymore, but it's true, it's definitely a disadvantage. If you're taller, you dive in and you're further in the water, so you have to make up for it in other ways. I think one of my strengths is, technique-wise, in the water, I think I make up a lot of ground. So I don't think about it too much. It is kind of funny if you're in the final heat and you're walking in and it's like, tall person, tall person, and then short person. I'm sure people are thinking it's hilarious, but it's kind of fun, I guess. It's fun if you beat someone who's really tall. It's just something I've done my whole life, so I tend not to think about it, but I do enjoy to prove people wrong. I feel like if someone sees me, they're not going to think I'm tough competition, so to be able to step up there and race and beat them, it's satisfying. I guess it's a motivating factor. I'm aware that maybe I have to try a little bit harder than some other swimmers."

"Having qualified in March, I have had some time to let the fact that I am going to the Olympics sink in, even though I still have times where I am just like wait, what?! When I think of how I am an Olympian for life and it is something I will be able to tell my children about, I get goose bumps! As for anything changing in my life, it has mostly been business as usual. I had a week or so of celebration after trials, then it was back to school and back to work. I think having been training at school, rather than at home where perhaps I am more of a "hometown hero" (laughs), has helped me to keep focus and away from distractions.

"The first Olympics that I actually remember watching on TV, and understanding what they were, were the '96 Olympics in Atlanta. I remember watching the opening ceremonies and swimming events. I also remember being an 11-year-old, going to the 2000 Canadian Olympic trials, and getting autographs of the swimmers who had made the team. I was in awe and starstruck by these swimmers, and it's trippy to think that I am now in the same position as my heroes were at the time."

"I am excited to tour around and explore the city of London. I have been to England before for a competition and we only had one day to tour around London, so I am really excited to have two weeks to really be able to explore. I also have family in London, so I am excited to have a mini family reunion as well.

"When I am away from the pool, I am basically a big nerd. I love going to see movies and plays (I usually drag my boyfriend to go see musicals with me when they are on tour in Columbus) and also enjoy reading. The one thing most people probably know about me is that I love Harry Potter. I went to most of the midnight releases for the books and movies, and that is another thing I am excited to do while I am in London, go to the Harry Potter studios! I think it is just outside of London."

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