An Olympic Perspective on Water Safety with Elizabeth Beisel

Meet Elizabeth Beisel

Hint: You may already know her.

Elizabeth Beisel is an accomplished athlete and Olympic swimmer who competed in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. She is a three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist with Team USA. In 2008, she competed in both the 400 IM and 200 backstroke as the youngest member of Team USA. 

After retiring from competition, Beisel now travels the country offering swimming clinics for young athletes. She began swimming lessons at the YMCA as an infant and now visits YMCAs to discuss the importance of water safety programming and introductory swimming lessons in addition to providing motivation and encouragement for our swim team athletes. 

In honor of Water Safety Month which takes place in May, she graciously sat down with us to answer a few questions. 

May is Water Safety Month. Why is learning about how to stay safe in the water and around the water important to you?  

Beisel: Swimming is the only sport that can save your life. It's a skill as well as a sport. It doesn't matter what age you are, introduce kids to the water as soon as you can. You have to know how to swim in order to be [at the water] safely. Drowning is preventable.  

I’ve never been officially taught to swim, but I can survive in the water and do a very basic stroke. Do I need to learn about water safety?  

Beisel: Yes! Everyone does. 100%. It doesn't matter who you are, you need to learn about water safety. Even at the highest level, at the Olympics, we have lifeguards on deck. The water does not discriminate against your age, how skilled you are. It's something that every single person needs to know and educate themselves on so that you but everyone you are accountable for is safe around the water.

At the YMCA, we have swimming lessons for kids as young as 6 months through adults. We also feature a free Splash Programs which focuses on Safety Around Water for community kids that cannot afford swimming lessons, we have one coming up in June. This program is paid for through our Financial Assistance program and donations from the community. What are a few safety tips that everyone should know?

Beisel: You need to have eyes on everyone at all times. That's the number one rule. Drowning is not an act of splashing and screaming. Drowning is silent, you need to know how to look for it and what the symptoms are. The water can take anyone. It's never too late to learn how to swim. 

We appreciate you answering some questions for us. Is there anything else you’d like to add or share with the community about learning how to swim?

Beisel: I learned how to swim at the YMCA at six months old and that's why I'm here. The Y was my first team and they really instilled the love for the water that I have. I encourage anyone and everyone - age six months old to 80 years old - get into the water. Get to the YMCA. It's going to change your life. It's going to change your loved ones life. And, it just might save your life. 


Learn more about YMCA swimming lessons.