Auburn News

Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, a Q&A with the 2016 Olympian

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Three Olympics, one college degree and countless hours of training are just a few of the accomplishments Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace ’12 has under her belt. This will be her third consecutive Olympics after debuting in 2008 in Beijing. Wallace is still the Auburn swimming program record holder in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, and she was the first swimmer from the Bahamas to reach on Olympic final when she made the 50 free finals in London in 2012. Wallace will be heading to Rio in a few days so we sat down with her to chat about everything from her training regime to her favorite snacks.

Q. First, can you tell me a little bit about you, what made you want to start swimming, why do you love it, what do you like to do for fun when you’re not in the water, etc.

A. I was raised in the Bahamas, so being surrounded by water definitely helped, but it was also the fact that my mom was a pretty good swimmer when she was growing up so once she got me started I kind of just fell in love with being in the water. I love being a competitor and learning what will help me go faster and improving over time. It allows the whole experience to be enjoyable because ideally, you are able to see the small day to day work all add up and come to fruition. When I am not in the water I love to hang out with my two Boston terriers Zoe and Jackson, read books, and watch tv. I think a lot more brain power goes into being a great athlete and because of that when I am not working out I am not only physically tired but also mentally tired. So I do whatever I can to unwind and relax between workouts.

Q.How important is goal setting to your training? What is your proudest moment as an athlete?

A. Goal setting is very important, without it, I would lose the desire to do the day to day work that is required. My proudest moment was when I broke the NCAA and US Open record in the 100 Yard Freestyle at SEC championship for the first time. It was just so incredible to achieve the goal I had set for myself my first day I walked in Freshman year, and achieve it my junior year. The amount of time it took made the feeling that much better, and then having all of my Auburn teammates there to celebrate with me was incredible.

Q. The 2008 Olympics were your first Olympics, what was that experience like?

A. I honestly don’t remember very much about 2008 Olympics, and that is to say that it was such a whirlwind experience that it was hard to take everything in. It was so amazing to be involved in such a big thing like the Olympics, surrounded by athletes who are the very best at what they do. I went in knowing that my times weren’t great but I made it my mission to watch the people that were in my events and learn whatever I could from them. How they acted, how the warmed up for the events among other things.

Q. What is an average day like for you right now?


Wallace’s proudest moment was when she broke the NCAA and US Open record in the 100 Yard Freestyle at SEC championship for the first time.

A. An average day for me is usually waking up/ being woken up by my dogs to be fed and walked.
After that I grab breakfast and a coffee then I head to a practice. I usually have a weight-lifting session every other day followed by an hour to an hour and a half swim session. Between sessions, I am running errands or hanging out with my dogs and watching tv. Then back to the pool for another hour to an hour and a half swim session. After all that is done, I am usually back home to grab dinner, read a bit and then I am in bed. It isn’t a glamorous day but I really enjoy being able to be an athlete as a full-time job and dedicate myself fully to going to Rio in a couple weeks.

Q. What are your favorite go-to meals and snacks to eat while your training?

A. I would say that my favorite would be yogurts, I really LOVE ice cream, and while I do treat myself every now and then to it, I have found that yogurt really satisfies the craving and is a lot healthier of an option.

Q. What are you looking forward to most about the 2016 Olympics?

A. I am looking forward to seeing all the people that I have met and grown relationships with but never get to see them. Being an international athlete you are able to meet a lot of other athletes from other countries but only see them maybe every two years. It’s awesome to see them and cheer for them (as long as they aren’t a competitor, who are also my friends, but I can’t cheer for them.)

Q. Is there anyone you would consider a role model, if so, why do they inspire you?

A. My parents are my role models, they worked very hard to give me whatever advantage I could have in life and I know that I wouldn’t be half the person I am now without their sacrifices and guidance. They are incredible because they have always allowed me to make my own decisions (as long as they aren’t incredibly detrimental) without trying to persuade me either way. I think it’s so inspirational for the lives that they lived to get to where they are and then pass whatever they can on to me.

Q. Do you have any pre or post meet rituals, a lucky charm, etc.?

A. I have a certain ritual that I always do just before I race. After I am behind the block, I splash myself with water, shake my arms out, a quick sign of the cross and prayer that God will give me the strength to perform to the best of my abilities and then, unless I can’t, I like to stand on the left side of the block with one foot up. I always to the same exact routine, so much so my Auburn teammates were able to recreate it exactly. I am not sure when or where it started but for me once I have performed those things in that order then I am ready to go.


Wallace ’12 will compete in both the 50 and 100-yard freestyles for the Bahamas in Rio.

Q. What was your favorite thing about Auburn University?

A. What wasn’t my favorite thing about Auburn? I love everything, but if I had to a few things I would have to go with football weekends and seeing our auburn family grow by the thousands on those weekends. Samford Hall and lawn, what’s not to love about that beauty? And last but not least I would I have to say the family I gained in the swim team and staff. Every person on that team had an impact on my life and for better or worse I love them all.

Q. Any advice for other women trying to swim professionally?

A. I think that firstly if that is the goal, then go for it. It may not be financially responsible in the beginning, but sometimes it takes those sacrifices to do something huge. The second is to make sure that it is something you really love and  that you really have fun being a swimmer, professional swimmers aren’t in it for the fame or fortune unless you are a big name (think Phelps or Lochte). So if you don’t really enjoy it, it makes for a very rough experience. And my last piece of advice would be that you should always be surrounded by people that are going to help bring you up, people that you feel like are part of your family and will support you no matter what. There will always be naysayers and haters, make sure none of those are part of your crew.

Make sure to follow Arianna on her Olympic journey in Rio. She is competing in both the 50 and 100-yard freestyles for the Bahamas.