Katie Hoff shares ‘Blueprint’ for a unique swimming career in memoir

Katie Hoff
Getty Images

From making her first Olympic team at age 15, Katie Hoff was labeled the U.S.’ next swimming superstar and spent the next decade authoring a distinct career.

Hoff’s memoir, “Blueprint: An Olympian’s Story of Striving, Adapting, and Embracing the Suck,” was recently released and is available here. Here is an excerpt:


Go on. Blink your eyes.

How long do you think that took? A fraction of a second, for sure, but what fraction? A quarter of a second? A fifth? A “split” second, whatever that means?

Google it. Google it and you’ll find that for the average person, a blink takes about a tenth of a second. Pretty fast, in other words.

Now let’s put that tenth of a second in context. Say you’re in the Olympics, a swimmer, and you’re racing for a gold medal. The race is 400 meters long, eight lengths of a 50-meter pool, and you’re swimming freestyle. At the last turn, with one length of the pool to go, you’re ahead, by about a full body length, which at the Olympics is a lot. Thirty meters from the finish and you’re still winning, but the swimmer in second place has started to close the gap. Ten meters out, your lead continues to shrink, but it still looks like you’re heading for gold. Five meters.

Four. Three. Two. You stretch. You reach out for the wall. But you’re not the only one reaching for the wall. The swimmer two lanes over, the British girl, the one who has been closing that gap, is reaching for it, too. Blink now, and you’ll miss the most important part.

Katie HoffThat race, of course, is not hypothetical. It’s my race. The year is 2008, and the pool is at what they called the Water Cube, the blue bubble-sided swimming venue for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Everyone who follows swimming even a little bit remembers that Olympics because it’s the one where Michael Phelps won eight gold medals, breaking a record that had stood for 36 years. Some in the media called me “the female Phelps,” because I was supposed to come home from Beijing with a bunch of gold hanging around my neck, too. I didn’t discourage the label. Mine may not have been a household name like his, and I wasn’t going to win eight gold medals, but winning four wasn’t out of the question. Or now three, as the day before this race I finished third in the 400-individual medley, an event I was favored to win. The swimmer who won that race broke the world record I had held. Third place means bronze, and bronze is nice, but it’s not gold.

The 400-freestyle is not my best event, and in this one I’m not the favorite. And yet when I do my flip turn and push off the wall for the last time and head into the final 50 meters, I’m ahead by enough that it looks like I’ve got this one.

At the finish, if you watch a video of the race, you can’t tell who gets there first. But the wall—the high-tech wall with its state-of-the-art micro-sensors—the wall knows. And it’s not me. I touch second, by seven hundredths of a second, or less time than it takes to blink.

Finishing second at the Olympics means you win a silver medal, and for most people, winning a silver medal at the Olympics would rank high among the greatest achievements of their lives. But if people are calling you “the female Phelps,” in the eyes of the world, all finishing second means is you lost.

I’ve only watched that video once, and that was by accident. Why don’t I watch it? Because I don’t have to. I know what happened. I live with what happened every day of my life. It’s changed my life, but for worse? For better? At the time I was sure it was for the worse. But now, I’m not so sure.

You can dive off into your life with the most precise blueprint for how it should unfold, but things don’t always go the way you planned. At least for me they didn’t.

This is my story.

Phelps, who for a time was a training partner, endorsed the memoir: “I have so much respect and admiration for Katie Hoff as a person and an athlete. She helped push the progression of women’s swimming and now courageously shares her insights and challenges in and out of the pool in Blueprint. Through it all, Katie’s mettle is gold.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Summer McIntosh breaks 400m individual medley world record, extends historic week

Summer McIntosh

Canadian swimmer Summer McIntosh broke her second world record this week, lowering the 400m individual medley mark on Saturday.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old who trains in Sarasota, Florida, clocked 4 minutes, 25.87 seconds at the Canadian Championships in Toronto.

She took down Hungarian Katinka Hosszu‘s world record of 4:26.36 from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Saturday, McIntosh had the fourth-fastest time in history of 4:28.61.

“It’s always nice to set world records,” McIntosh said.

On Tuesday, McIntosh broke the 400m freestyle world record, becoming the youngest swimmer to break a world record in an individual Olympic event since Katie Ledecky in 2013.

McIntosh also this week became the fourth-fastest woman in history in the 200m individual medley and the eighth-fastest woman in history in the 200m butterfly.

In each of her four races this week, she also broke the world junior record as the fastest woman in history under the age of 19.

She is entered to swim the 200m free on the meet’s final day on Sunday. She is already the eighth-fastest woman in history in that event.

McIntosh, whose mom swam the 1984 Olympic 200m fly and whose sister competed at last week’s world figure skating championships, placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympic 400m free at age 14.

Last summer, she won the 200m fly and 400m IM at the world championships, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

This summer, she could be at the center of a showdown in the 400m free at the world championships with reigning world champion Ledecky and reigning Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia. They are the three fastest women in history in the event.

Around age 7, McIntosh transcribed Ledecky quotes and put them on her wall.

MORE: McIntosh chose swimming and became Canada’s big splash

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Hilary Knight leads new-look U.S. women’s hockey roster for world championship

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight headlines a U.S. women’s hockey roster for this month’s world championship that lacks some of the biggest names from last year’s Olympic silver-medal team. Changes have been made as the U.S. looks to end losing streaks to Canada, both overall and in major finals.

The full roster is here. Worlds start Wednesday in Brampton, Ontario, and run through the gold-medal game on April 16.

It was already known that the team would be without stalwart forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, who plans to return to the national team after having her first child this summer, and Brianna Decker, who announced her retirement last month.

Notable cuts include the No. 1 goalies from the last two Olympics: Alex Cavallini, who returned from Christmas childbirth for the tryout camp this past week, and Maddie Rooney, the breakout of the 2018 Olympic champion team.

Cavallini, 31, was bidding to become the first player to make an Olympic or world team after childbirth since Jenny Potter, who played at the Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 as a mom, plus at several world championships, including less than three months after childbirth in 2007.

Forward Hannah Brandt, who played on the top line at last year’s Olympics with Knight and Coyne Schofield, also didn’t make the team.

In all, 13 of the 25 players on the team are Olympians, including three-time Olympic medalists forward Amanda Kessel and defender Lee Stecklein.

The next generation includes forward Taylor Heise, 23, who led the 2022 World Championship with seven goals and was the 2022 NCAA Player of the Year at Minnesota.

The team includes two teens — 19-year-old defender Haley Winn and 18-year-old forward Tessa Janecke — who were also the only teens at last week’s 46-player tryout camp. Janecke, a Penn State freshman, is set to become the youngest U.S. forward to play at an Olympics or worlds since Brandt in 2012.

Abbey Levy, a 6-foot-1 goalie from Boston College, made her first world team, joining veterans Nicole Hensley and Aerin Frankel.

Last summer, Canada repeated as world champion by beating the U.S. in the final, six months after beating the U.S. in the Olympic final. Canada is on its longest global title streak since winning all five Olympic or world titles between 1999 and 2004.

Also at last summer’s worlds, the 33-year-old Knight broke the career world championship record for points (now up to 89). She also has the most goals in world championship history (53). Knight, already the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player in history, will become the second-oldest American to play at a worlds after Cammi Granato, who was 34 at her last worlds in 2005.

The Canadians are on a four-game win streak versus the Americans, capping a comeback in their recent seven-game rivalry series from down three games to none. Their 5-0 win in the decider in February was their largest margin of victory over the U.S. since 2005.

Last May, former AHL coach John Wroblewski was named U.S. head coach to succeed Joel Johnson, the Olympic coach.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!