All athletes have different strategies for dealing with nerves. For some, it’s breathing techniques. For others, it’s talking to coaches. For swimming world champion Maisie Summers-Newton though, pop music is her secret to success.
“I try and relax, so I just like listening to pop hits or anything like that to sing along to,” she reveals to GiveMeSport Women.
“I suppose it helps you take your mind off it [racing] and you can listen to the lyrics instead of thinking of your race.”
This tactic proved successful at this year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo, as the British swimmer stormed to gold in both the women’s SM6 200m medley and the SB6 100m breaststroke.
The 19-year-old says the feeling of being a Paralympic champion took a while to process but having spent days responding to congratulatory messages, the reality is finally beginning to hit home.
“I mean it’s definitely sunk in a little bit compared to when I was out in Tokyo. In the moment I didn’t really have time to process it and I don’t know if I ever fully will to be honest, but as I’ve come home I’ve had a few days to process it.”
For the teenager, the initial goal was just to make it to Tokyo, but after winning gold in the SM6 200m medley at the London World Para Swimming Championships in 2019, she began to feel as though Paralympic success was in touching distance.
“I suppose in a way I felt I could do it in the IM because I had the European and world gold so I really did want to add that one to my collection.
“For me personally though, my goal ever since I was little was to be at the Paralympic Games, so just to be there, that was my goal achieved for me.”
While Summers-Newton stresses that winning two golds was just a bonus, it undeniably made the difficulties of dealing with stringent restrictions and time away from family all the more worth it.
This was different to the Paralympic experience she had envisaged growing up, but the Brit says she embraced every minute of it nonetheless. Being around other athletes that weren’t swimmers was something Summers-Newton particularly enjoyed and she admits it made her a bit starstruck at times.
“I saw Will Bayley and Jonnie Peacock,” she exclaims. “It’s just mad to think I’m an athlete on the same team as them.”
The swimmer says she benefitted especially from being in a flat with good people and having a great support network around her.
“So I had my best friends on the team and in the flat with me, so we had such a great laugh and that definitely relaxed me.”
Summers-Newton competes in the same class as five-time Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Simmonds and she has long considered her compatriot an idol. The Brit remembers watching Simmonds for the first time at the British National Championships and being slightly in awe at first.
Now though, racing against her swimming hero has become second nature and Summers-Newton has gotten the better of Simmonds on more than one occasion. Given her own success and achievements, the Brit hopes she can inspire the next generation in the same way Simmonds inspired her.
“After a few competitions with her and knowing what she’s like to race against, it’s definitely become something that’s normal.
“I find it really weird to say that because I’ve always seen her as such an inspiration and such a role model.
“But yeah I hope I can just help people get into the sport because I know how important sport can be for people physically and mentally and just the happiness it brings as well.”
The journey isn’t over for Summers-Newton by any means. Next year is the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham with more medal opportunities, while a second Paralympics in Paris is also on the agenda.
For now, however, the plan of action is rest and recuperation. Having worked so hard over the past couple of years, it’s time to celebrate with friends and family. After that though, it’s time to start all over again.