OLYMPIC-BOUND TT swimmer Dylan Carter has urged up-and-coming regional swimmers to use discouragement and failure as channels to motivate themselves to becoming better.
The 24-year-old issued this open call to over 30 Caribbean youth swimmers during a special online physical training session, on Wednesday, hosted by strength and conditioning specialist, Dr. Dialo-Rudolph Brown and Kaizen Swim Club (Jamaica) coach, Rory Alvaranga.
In his address to the vibrant bunch, Carter reminisced on some of his early career challenges but revealed how he used these obstacles as self-motivators. The 2016 Olympic participant even admitted the current downtime is a bit disheartening due to the uncertainty of full-sport resumption.
“One of the most discouraging times I’m facing is right now,” he said via Zoom. “Other top athletes will also tell you that it’s the most uncertainty we’ve ever faced in our lives in terms of sport. We don’t know when the next meet going to be, if there’s ever going to be a next one.”
“But use this somewhat dismal time to fuel you further. Channel that disappointment and feelings you have and put them to work towards sharpening your sword. Use this time to refocus and reset a little.”
The multiple national record holder also told the junior swimmers of the hurt he felt when he was cut from the TT Under-14 water polo team, a sport he primarily took part in during his early years.
Carter was then taken under the wings of Marlins Swim Club coach Franz Huggins, who promised to improve his swimming technique so he would be better prepared for water polo in the following season. Although emotionally wrecked, he was not deterred.
“Having been told I was not good enough (for the water polo team), was such a vindication. I felt like all my friends who were picked were good enough and I wasn’t. I turned around and showed them I was good at something else though. The very next year I went to the Carifta Games and bagged a bunch of medals. The story goes on. I started swimming from a failure,” he explained.
At age 16, the promising swimmer left TT to pursue his academic studies in Florida, United States. He then joined the University of Southern California (USC) in 2013 and soon became a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion as a member of the 800m freestyle relay team under coach Dave Salo.
At the second NCAA Championships the following year, Carter was a member of two title-winning and school-record relay teams – 400m and 800m freestyle. He then redshirted his junior year at USC in preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
During the 2016-2017 season, Carter impressed by placing fourth in the 200m freestyle and seventh in the 50m butterfly at the FINA Short Course World Championships in Canada. While continued dominance of the American circuit, Carter also proved to be a reckoning force on the world circuit by splashing to silver in the men’s 50m butterfly at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. There, he also set a new national record (48.60 seconds) during his fifth place finish in the 100m freestyle.
Carter copped SwimSwam’s 2018 Central American and Caribbean Swimmer of the Year accolade before participating in the 2019 World Championships in South Korea and breaking the national records in the 100m free and 100m backstroke events. Carter then won his first Pan American medal in Lima, Peru, placing third in the 100m backstroke in 54.42. He also recorded personal bests in the 50m free (22.67, ninth-placed) and 200m free (1:47.78, fourth-placed).
Amidst this lengthy list of top-flight performances, Carter emphasised to the attentive bunch the importance of recovering, mentally and physically, from a bad performance.
“When you have a bad swim and have another race, you need to move on from that past performance and keep your eyes on what’s ahead of you. After the meet, you look back and try and reflect on where you went wrong. Don’t reflect or dig too deep into the details of a bad swim inside a meet atmosphere. Being able to come back from failure makes the right athletes,” he concluded.