Olympic Swimmer Elizabeth Beisel Has Music Dripping From Her Fingertips


The internal beat that serves as Beisel’s metronome in the pool, enabling her to maintain the right tempo and rhythm in all her strokes in the 400-meter individual medley, also moves her toward any piano she spots, be it in an Omaha hotel lobby or an Amsterdam train station. She will sit down and play a concerto by memory.

After all, before she was a 15-year-old Olympian in 2008 or a 2012 silver and bronze medalist, Beisel was a violin and piano prodigy with lofty aspirations.

“It was always a dream of mine to play in the Boston Pops and to do stuff like that,” Beisel said. “Maybe one day.”

First things first. Beisel, 23, will try to improve upon her second-place finish at the London Games in the 400 I.M. when she races on Saturday at Olympic Aquatics Stadium. At the United States trials in June, Beisel finished second to Maya DiRado despite being hospitalized with a stomach ailment in the days leading up to the event.

Her premeet illness, and a broken left pinkie finger she sustained in a collision in the warm-down pool during the trials, reminded Beisel that her sports career, like a piano chord, is sweet but short. It eventually will peter out. But not her love for music.

“The longevity of playing an instrument is your entire life,” Beisel said, adding, “I always knew that if anything went wrong, I could go back to the violin or the piano. I have such a passion for the arts that not many people know about.”

Beisel, a Rhode Island native, began playing the violin at the age of 3 after being drawn to the instrument at a birthday party that featured a musical troupe. She began swimming a year later, and she was introduced to the piano as a 5-year-old.

She became the youngest student of a violin teacher who followed the Suzuki method, a form of instruction that values nurturing a love of music. Early on, Beisel’s mother, Joanie, said, “She was a better musician than swimmer.”

She added, “She was always tapping on something with spoons; she never sat still. And she had amazing rhythm. Anything she picked up, she could play.”

Beisel’s musical training and her swimming development were in perfect harmony. At Bluefish Swim Club, where she trained under Chuck Batchelor, Beisel valued her team relationships as much as she did her individual results. At 13, she separated herself by making the United States national team. Two years later, as the youngest member of the United States Olympic swim team, Beisel finished fourth in the 400 I.M. and fifth in the 200 backstroke. She improved two places in both in 2012 to twice grace the awards podium.

– The New York Times, USA

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