‘I can’t believe it’s actually my life’
Medal hopeful Tera Van Beilen is ready to surprise everyone
Tera van Beilen has been getting multiple interview requests a week since she made the Canadian Olympic swimming team four months ago. That was days after her 19th birthday. “People even ask me for autographs,” says Van Beilen, one of UBC’s student-athletes going to London this summer. “It’s all so crazy and surreal, I can’t believe it’s actually my life.”
Van Beilen came to UBC last year to study kinesiology and to swim. Even though she now considers herself a UBC athlete, she will always be a representative of her hometown of Oakville, Ontario. “It’s kind of weird, they kind of just want to own me everywhere,” she says.
Her swim for an Olympic medal wasn’t supposed to happen this year and for that, she credits UBC.
“It’s really all thanks to training with my coach Jozsef Nagy and being in the Aquatic Centre here in Vancouver,” says Van Beilen, who notes that UBC’s reputation as a swimming powerhouse is living up to her expectations.
The life of a world-class swimmer has its ups and downs, as Van Beilen describes her daily routine just weeks before the big event. Four times a week she has practices early in the morning, around lunchtime and in the evening; in between, she naps.
“It’s a lot of hours a week. I don’t bother to count because it makes me feel like I’m crazy.”
At the end of the day, her love for swimming, and seeing how far she has come, helps her drag her feet out of bed every morning. “I have a bigger goal in mind,” she says.
Competing at the Olympic level has given Van Beilen experiences that most people will never have. “Sometimes when I’m on the blocks in Australia, Europe or China, I think to myself: ‘am I actually in this country swimming? I have such a crazy life,’ and then the beeper goes and it is time to focus.”
Now the big event is just around the corner for Van Beilen, who is still unsure whether both her parents will get to watch her living her dream. She has only received one guest ticket to her events thus far.
“When I think about both my swim events being sold out, it makes me a little freaked out,” she says.
When Van Beilen steps into the spotlight in London, it won’t just be the 17,000 spectators watching, it will be the whole world. That’s a lot of pressure for a newcomer.
“I always swim well under pressure. I like the adrenaline. Nobody knows who I am so I can use that to my advantage; I can surprise them all.”