The heart of a champion: Olympic gold medalist shares inspirational message with HCISD swimmers


What does it take to be one of the best swimmers in the world? Discipline, hard work, and determination are what got Breeja Larson a coveted spot on United States Olympic Team and subsequently a gold medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

As Larson spoke to Harlingen High School and Harlingen High School South swim teams at the Aquatic Center on Thursday, August 24, she recounted the time that she felt like giving up.

She had just joined the Texas A&M University Women’s Swim Team, and unlike many of her teammates at the collegiate level, she had only been swimming competitively since her senior year of high school.

“One morning I went for breakfast, and I was so tired that I couldn’t lift a spoonful of oatmeal from the bowl to my mouth,” Larson said. “I texted my mom this sad long message. Mom I’m going to die. You have seven children today; tomorrow, you will have six. I can’t make it. I’m too tired.”

Her parents simply responded, “This is what feels like to be a champion.”

This powerful statement sent ripples through Larson.

“It just hit me. Does Michael Phelps go to bed every night feeling rested? No, he is dog tired. The work is exhausting,” she said. “In any profession, the best in the world work hard.”


Larson told students about her journey and all the sacrifices she had to make to achieve Olympic gold. She expressed to them that no matter what they set their minds to, it takes hard work to become successful.

“Don’t listen to anyone else who tries to tear you down. Swimming is such a different sport in the fact that size doesn’t matter. You can achieve anything,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work and sometimes it gets a little lonely because you must choose to make the correct decisions when other friends decide to go out on the weekends or skip practice to do something else. Those who stay dedicated end up making it far and I just think that’s the beautiful thing about swimming.”

As she reflected on her parents, the swim moms, and coaches that have helped her along the way, she said she hopes to inspire swimmers as others have inspired her.

Larson spent the day holding clinics for students at the Aquatic Center and speaking to various groups of student athletes at HCISD.

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