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July 29, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State rising junior Alyson Ackman (Montreal, Quebec) represented Canada in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, from July 24-28, helping the team to a silver and a bronze medal. Ackman participated in the 100-meter freestyle, the 200-meter freestyle, the 4x100-meter freestyle relay and the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.
Ackman helped her 4x200-meter free relay squad to a silver medal performance, clocking in at 7:51.67 in the finals. The junior was also a member of the Canadian bronze medal 4x100-meter free relay group, which recorded a time of 3:40.00.
Individually, Ackman placed eighth in the 100-meter freestyle finals, touching the wall in 55.47. She also competed in the 200-meter freestyle event, posting a time of 1:59.86 in the preliminary heat.
The Commonwealth Games, first held in 1930, is an international, multi-sport event that takes place every four years. The games involve athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. For more information, visit the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games website.
As a sophomore at Penn State, Ackman garnered First Team All-America honors with a fifth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships. She set a Big Ten record in the 200-yard free at the NCAA Championships and a program record in the 100-yard freestyle event at the Big Ten Championships. She was also named a First Team CSCAA Scholar All-American.
Next, Ackman will compete in the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships from Aug. 21-25 in Gold Coast, Australia.
GoPSUsports.com caught up with Ackman about her experience competing internationally:
Q: Describe what it felt like to know you swam fast enough at the Canadian Trials in April to qualify for the national team.
A: Honestly, my first reaction was to the fact that I had finally gone under two minutes for the 200. My reaction when I saw my time was one of the proudest moments of my life. I wasn't actually sure if I had qualified for the team until later since it is only the top person that is guaranteed a spot. I was so emotional after the race that I didn't realize I had won a medal until a woman started leading me towards the podium. I didn't allow myself to assume I made the team because I knew it was possible that they wouldn't take me depending if other swimmers were ranked higher internationally, but also because I had other races to focus on. I ended up coming third in the 100 free, also making the team for both relays and for the individual events.
What has your first experience as a national team member been like?
The Junior Pan Pacific Championships gave me some insight on what it means to swim internationally, but I was a very different person back in 2010 and it shows. I was facing homesickness still and was not prepared to give up my summer to race. This year has shown me that I am ready. Even if I do not race to my (rather high) expectations, I am proud of myself for an amazing year and I will walk away from these trips with so much experience to learn from. Now that I am more comfortable with who I am, I am able to socialize with the team and bond with them. Knowing that we were going into this meet as one team, representing an entire country was such an awe-inspiring feeling.
What is it like to represent your country on an international level?
Walking around an athletes' village wearing my Canadian team gear is such an incredible feeling. Having other athletes from around the world and from other sports is walking around with us is very intense. There were boxers outside our house early practicing and it was really neat to watch another sport when we are always so focused on ours alone. I am hoping to get some time to watch some different sports and cheer on some fellow Canadians, but we are leaving right after the swimming to allow for time to prepare for Pan Pacs.
How did Penn State help prepare you for this experience?
The biggest thing that Penn State helped me with was my shoulders. Having the staff allow me to slightly alter the training has had such a big impact. This is the first year in almost a decade where I haven't had to take time off or kick for more than a few days because of an injury. I was actually able to train properly all year long. The second biggest thing Penn State did for me was giving me everything it had. Training as hard as I can while also taking on a four-year major is unbelievably tough. It has basically been two years straight of non-stop work. This is the longest I have ever been out of school. Now that I only have swimming to focus on, it has made me appreciate the amount that I am pushed during the school year to make this time so much easier.
Explain what your travel schedule has been like this summer. You have been all over. What has been your favorite place so far?
I left Canada with some other Quebec swimmers on July 12 for an eight-hour, overnight flight to Sabadell, Spain, and trained until July 20. We took two short flights with a very long layover in London to Glasgow. We were greeted by Scottish dancers and a lot of Commonwealth Games decor which got us all excited! After the sixth day of competition here, we are all flying back to our respective homes. I am flying to meet my family in Moncton, New Brunswick. I will stay with extended family for three days then drive all day back to Montreal for another week and a half. On August 12, I am flying to Gold Coast, Australia for Pan Pacs, which is a four-day competition. I will be flying back to State College halfway through the first week of school. So far Scotland is my favorite, but it might just be the awesome atmosphere of the Commonwealth Games. I have always wanted to go to Australia so I am very excited about that!
What was your training like leading up to the Commonwealth Games? What is the plan from now until Pan Pacs?
I was a little worried about training with different coaches this summer, one from Montreal (Martin) and one for the team (Nicholas). Switching coaches so much can have a negative effect on your performance. However, I found both Martin and Nick helped me get excited and gain some confidence. We went to Sabadell, Spain for our staging camp from the July 12-20, where we kept our training tough enough to maintain our fitness. I continued my weight program throughout the week. We slowly decreased our mileage until we traveled to Glasgow. Then we stuck to shorter practices and focused more on quality efforts.
Are there any types of things training-wise you will look to add into your training at Penn State next year?
I plan to increase my training with my arms. I can slowly build up strength in my arms and the power in my pull. I think will have a huge positive affect for my racing and it gives me confidence for my potential for future national teams and college swimming.