After a near drowning incident in a pool while as a child, Gabi Grant made sure her children would never suffer the same experience. Beginning her swimming career at the age of six, senior Rachel Grant found she was quite the opposite of her mother, a natural in the water.
A California native, Grant started swimming on a summer league in Walnut, Calif., alongside her sisters. Her coaches almost immediately singled her out for her talent that exceeded that of normal children her age.
Although Grant had a great aptitude for swimming at a young age, it took being pushed off of the starting blocks to overcome her initial fear.
“In my very first race, I remember being so scared to dive in the water,” recalls Grant. “My Dad knew I was nervous about it so he came over right as the gun went off and pushed me into the water. All I can remember is swimming as fast as I could because I was so scared.”
The real kicker is that Grant wasn’t even supposed to swim that race. She was attending the meet to watch her older sister swim and a member of the relay team didn’t show up. Grant was then chosen to take the place of the missing relay member and the rest is history.
Grant began swimming for a club team at age eight before eventually progressing to two-a-day workouts in Middle School.
“I knew that if I wanted to be good, I had to get serious about swimming,” Grant said. “Getting up everyday at five a.m. in Middle School was not easy, but I would definitely say it was worth it.”
Grant developed her dedicated work ethic and was able to show her true talent, as her competition got a little harder in High School. She was a CIF champion in the 200 medley relay as well as the 500 and 200 freestyle multiple times throughout High School. Grant achieved an invite to Masters her senior year, which is all the CIF divisions combined. While there, she competed in the 200 IM.
It’s no surprise why Grant was sought out by colleges as a senior in High School. Not only was she a talented swimmer with potential to exceed in collegiate swimming, but she had an interesting background that put her a cut above everyone else.
“Ever since my senior year, I have been spending summers in Hong Kong with family,” Grant said. “I also swim on a club team out there called ‘Current Club’.”
Grant’s mother hails from Hong Kong and while Grant spent time living there as a child, her family made the decision to make their permanent residence in the US. However, Grant reaps the benefits of a duel citizenship and uses it to perfect her swimming.
Grant was recruited by USC and University of Washington as well as BYU.
“I came to the recruiting trip for BYU and I really liked the atmosphere,” Grant said.
“This campus offered everything I was looking for so the decision was really a no-brainer.”
It’s a good thing for the BYU swim team that the choice for Grant was so easy because since her freshman year, she has contributed greatly to the success of the women’s team.
Over the past four years, Grant has been accredited with many accomplishments including being a crucial part of helping the women’s team in their three consecutive conference championship titles. She is also a three-time qualifier for the NCAAs, two-time shared title of MWC Swimmer of the Year, four-time All-Conference selection for the 400 IM, 200 fly and three-time All-Conference selection for the 200 IM. This year she added the 400 free relay to her repertoire of conference selections.
This year at NCAAs, Grant recorded a time of 1:57.41 in the 200 butterfly, earning her 18th in the preliminaries. She also placed 27th in the prelims of the 400 IM, touching in at 4:14.37 and 2:00.42 the 200 IM, for 36th in the prelims.
Grant was able to improve all of her times from last year and although the team wasn’t able to go undefeated, she is satisfied with herself for doing her best and not having any regrets.
“When I race, I’m never really thinking about beating fastest times or anything,” Grant said. “I just focus on me and how I push and pace myself in each race. Winning is a great feeling and it comes as a result of really hard work.”
Along with her hard work and focus, Grant attributes her success to the help of her coaches throughout her life.
“I’ve had some really great coaches to help lead me in the right direction with my swimming,” Grant said. “My club coach growing up was a huge help. I would go back and train with him in the summer because I felt that he really knew my potential and helped me out during the times I doubted myself”
Grant also feels lucky to have coaches at BYU that have helped her in all of her successes within her collegiate swimming career.
“Rachel’s contributions to the team have been huge,” said BYU head coach Tim Powers. “She’s extremely talented and has been a great addition to the women’s team ever since she came here four years ago.
“An example of her depth is when we put her in the 500 free, which she usually doesn’t swim, against Arkansas and she beat their All-American swimmer. That just shows the type of swimmer she is.”
While it is obvious that the coaches appreciate her talents and hard work, Grant believes it would have been unachievable without them.
“I’ve been really lucky to have such great coaches here at BYU,” Grant said. “I have a great relationship with all of them and have gotten to know them really well. Coach Powers and coach Crump really push me to better myself and coach Skabelund brings the comic relief when things get serious. It’s a great balance.”
Other than her relationships with the coaches, Grant has developed and close bond with her teammates. As one of five seniors, Grant has had a consistent group of friends throughout the years have supported each other in all their endeavors.
“One of my favorite memories of swimming at BYU is whenever the whole team is working together for the same goal and when we have such a close bond like we did this year,” Grant said. “It’s going to be hard not seeing the girls everyday, I miss them already.”
If she has enough time, Grant would like to work as a fifth year coach for the team and be able to help out with practices and stay close with the team and coaches.
Grant will graduate in December 2012 with a major in psychology and a minor in visual arts.
“Right now, I’m focusing on the next chapter in my life,” Grant said. “It’s hard knowing that swimming is over for now and that I need to put all my energy into school. But just because I’m done swimming for BYU, doesn’t mean I’m done swimming for good.”
If Grant were to continue swimming, it would be for the Hong Kong team and she is currently debating visiting China this summer to compete for the national teams. The Hong Kong team she swims for competes in time trials to determine who swims at the world championships. Although the time trials in Hong Kong have already taken place, Grant is considering attending next year’s try-outs.
“If I do decide to compete seriously in Hong Kong, I’ll probably wait until after graduation and then decide if moving there temporarily is the best option for me,” Grant said. “It would be really fun to be able to continue swimming, but I have a lot to do before then as far as school goes.”
Her coaches agree that while she has done so much in her swimming career, she can also accomplish great things in her academic career.
“Rachel has been able to achieve a lot while swimming for us,” Powers said. “However, her schooling is what she will take with her and it is definitely the most important. Swimming has just been the icing on the cake that makes school a little sweeter.”
With her degree in psychology, Grant would like to travel overseas and work in humanitarian projects.
“I don’t have a set job that I am working towards,” Grant said. “All I know that is that I want to work in a field that I have a passion for and something that has a lot of meaning for me.”
Working with a passion is something that Grant is more than used to, as she has spent her whole life swimming to accomplish all the goals she has set for herself.
“I have loved every minute of swimming at BYU,” Grant said. “I know without a doubt that this is where I needed to be to accomplish all that I did. I have learned a lot but I know I still have growing to do and swimming has given me the perfect foundation for that.”