Serious Sisu: Hannah Wilson
Who is Hannah Wilson and what is her story?
My name is Hannah Wilson, and I am 26 years old. I have represented Hong Kong in Swimming at the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games. I have won two Gold medals at the World University Games in 2009 in Belgrade, Serbia. My main events were 100m Freestyle and 50m Butterfly. I also competed in the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games in Doha and Guangzhou, respectively.
What are you doing now?
I am a swimming teacher and coach. I still swim occasionally myself, but mainly I love being able to impart my knowledge and experience on to others to help them learn and improve.
How much of your success do you attribute to hard work and how much do you contribute to natural talent?
I think talent can only get you so far. You need to work really hard. I think when I was younger it was mostly talent, but as I got older, hard work was far more important and fundamental to a successful performance.
When you were in the peak of your training, what did an average week look like?
I swam nine times a week, did a weights session twice a week and either a spinning or pilates class twice a week. Although I was training 12 times per week, I still managed to have Sunday and Wednesday off :)
What’s the one aspect of being an Olympian that no one tells you about?
I think this varies for each individual. For me, it was that it isn't always a glorious experience. You don't always perform as you expected, and there are plenty of setbacks and disappointments.
Looking back, what was your greatest standout memory in swimming?
That's hard! Performance wise, it would be winning my two gold medals in the World University Games in 2009. Away from performance it would be winning the NCAA Championships in 2009 and 2011 with my university in the USA. The team atmosphere was incredible.
And what about your lowest?
My lowest point would be the World Championships in 2011. I underperformed massively. It is the only time I have ever wanted to leave a competition early. I was so so miserable. I struggled to perform for over two years; now that's a long time to maintain motivation, and to get up for training at 5:30 am!!
What do you think it takes to be an Olympian?
A lot of sacrifices, but those sacrifices are not hard to make if it is a passion. It takes a lot of determination, commitment, and mental toughness to push through the low times and to keep moving forward in achieving a goal. It is important to be able to see the big picture, but it is also important to just take one day at a time and do everything to the best of your ability at that moment.
How do you deal with self-doubt?
Managing my self-doubt took me a long time to master. I had to learn to appreciate the journey. I had to hold on to the great things and remind myself that I had done it before. I would remind myself that all the training I had done meant I was adequately prepared.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Don't let a bad performance or mistake define me or my career. To use the mistakes as learning tools for improvement. I've also learned that I am capable of a lot of things I initially thought I couldn't do. Mental toughness and perseverance can help you overcome almost anything.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
To have fun and enjoy what I'm doing. If I follow that advice, I perform at my best.
What is something that you know now that you wish someone had told you when you started your Olympic journey?
The importance of self-confidence, not only in a race but also in training. To believe in myself and stop doubting myself and comparing myself with others. To stop comparing myself with the best in the world, as I earned a spot there too.
What makes you wake up each morning?
Tough! Apart from HAVING to train, the thought of achieving a goal and knowing I have to get up to achieve that goal.
Who inspires you?
Natalie Coughlin was a huge inspiration through my swimming years. We trained together and ended up becoming good friends. Watching her do what she loved with such conviction every day was awesome. We both went through challenging times, but by supporting each we both made the Olympics in 2012.
Finally, who do you think has serious sisu?
Natalie Coughlin. She didn't quite achieve what she hoped at the Olympic Trials or London 2012, but she is still a professional swimmer who adores the sport. I just love that she's managed to rekindle her passion and love for Swimming.