2017-11-02 / Around Town

Former Olympian Shares Skills, Passion at YMCA Swim Clinic

By Brooke Constance White


ABOVE: Seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard addresses an Oct. 26 swim clinic at the Newport County YMCA. INSET: Beard flanked by YMCA Wahoo Swim Coach Randy Doiron (L) and Leland Merrill, YMCA board president and BankNewport executive vice president. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Beard) ABOVE: Seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard addresses an Oct. 26 swim clinic at the Newport County YMCA. INSET: Beard flanked by YMCA Wahoo Swim Coach Randy Doiron (L) and Leland Merrill, YMCA board president and BankNewport executive vice president. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Beard) It was a dream come true for 10-year-old Ella Bard. Four-time Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard was standing less than 40 feet from her on Oct. 26 at the Newport County YMCA pool to teach a swim clinic. As soon as Bard caught a glimpse of the the famed swimmer, her face lit up.

“Is it her?” she whispered to her friend Ella Werbecki, also 10. “Oh my gosh, is that Amanda Beard? She’s here. I can’t believe she’s actually here.”

The two budding swimmers, who had been released from school an hour early and had come down from Scituate with Werbecki’s mother Kelly, were among 30 or so other children from YMCA swim teams throughout the state who attended the clinic.

Beard, now retired, won seven Olympic medals over her tenure but remained down to earth at the event, reminding the kids she had been just like them at one time. She said she first fell in love with swimming after watching her two older sisters on a swim team.

“I had to do everything they did,” said Beard, now 35. “I’m pretty clumsy on dry land but when I first dove into a pool, it just felt so right and natural. I just kept wanting to go back.”

Beard, who was in the area to speak to the New England Women in Banking Conference in Newport the next day, explained how in the weeks and months leading up to the Olympics she had swim practice and weight training six to seven hours a day. She then passed around a few of her medals for everyone to see.

As a former world-record holder in the 200-meter breaststroke, Beard focused most of the clinic on helping the kids improve their breaststroke. She got in the pool and kept things fun and mellow, making sure all the swimmers could see her and were able to keep up.

Back at home in Seattle, Washington, Beard and her husband Sacha Brown recently opened a swim school called Beard Swim Co., so she’s well versed in helping young swimmers improve their skills in the water.

“I do clinics like this to inspire them to continue swimming and to pursue sports and a healthy lifestyle in general,” she said. “It’s hard work but I want them to know that they should have fun and enjoy the process.”

Newport County YMCA Board President Leland Merrill stopped by to meet Beard and chat with her before the clinic. As Executive Vice President at BankNewport, which is a sponsor of the New England Women in Banking Conference, Merrill jumped at the opportunity to bring Beard to the YMCA. A former swim team coach and Wahoo, Merrill said he’s invested in making sure each swimmer has the opportunity to interact with positive role models.

“Amanda is the ultimate positive role model for these kids,” said Merrill, adding that Beard competed first in the Olympics at 14, younger than some of the kids at the clinic. “Any of these swimmers are capable of going on to the Olympics one day and I think it’s great to bring in someone who can show them what you can do if you love something and work hard enough.”

Newport County YMCA Wahoos Coach Randy Doiron said Beard is the third Olympic swimmer to offer a clinic at the Y in the last year. Olympians Elizabeth Beisel from North Kingstown, and Tyler Clary from Redlands, California, hosted clinics last winter. Previously, swimmers had to pay to attend the clinics but for Beard’s clinic, Doiron said he asked for donations, which will benefit the Wahoos.

“If it’s not an Olympic year, you don’t hear about swimming that much,” he said, “but we think that learning to swim and teaching our kids how to be strong swimmers is incredibly important. Amanda is a strong role model [and] we’re so grateful that she made the time to be here with us.”

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