The near-universal pool shutdowns in the wake of the pandemic — and the uncertain timeline of their reopenings — left Olympic champion swimmer Kelsi Dahlia on dry land.
"As a full-time professional swimmer, [the closures] just completely rocked my training and everything," says Dahlia. "I haven't competed since March, and I don't know exactly when I'll get to compete again. So from my livelihood standpoint, my life changed a lot."
Dahlia, the first woman in history to swim the 100-yard butterfly in under 50 seconds and a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, was preparing for the 2020 trials. Left without a pool to train in, she stayed as fit as she could, but biking and weightlifting just weren't cutting it.
"You can't imitate a really good pull or a really good kick on land," she says. "The feel of the water is just something you can't replicate."
Dahlia turned to the internet in search of a small pool that would allow her to swim in place. Unable to find something she liked, she sent out a tweet asking her followers for their suggestions.
"One of my teammates that's coming in as a freshman said she found this pool and had been training in it, and it was awesome," Dahlia says. "So my agent reached out to FitMax company, and the next day they sent out an iPool."
It took about a week for the iPool to be shipped to her Louisville home. Dahlia's husband and a few friends leveled out a space in the backyard and put in the proper chemicals. Within a few days, Dahlia began training.
Unlike Endless pools, which produce an adjustable artificial current, iPools utilize a dual-harness system to hold swimmers in place. Resistance levels can be adjusted by changing the position of the harness.
"I've swam in Endless pools before, but that's the opposite effect — you're swimming against a current," Dahlia says. "This time, the cord is pulling you back. I had done parts of practices with a resistance cord, but not an hour of practice with a resistance like that. But I was able to do just about everything I needed to do."
The 2020 Olympic trials and Tokyo Games have been postponed due to the global pandemic, but Dahlia has managed to find a silver lining.
"I'm getting a lot more sleep. I'm enjoying being home more. I can't remember the last time I didn't fly for this long, so it's really weird not traveling...and as swimmers...the longest time we don't compete is about a month every year, maybe two months. So I'm enjoying having kind of a forced off-season without missing out on anything, just being able to slow down a little bit."