Jeanne Carlsen: a true swimspiration

I have been a swim coach for quite a long time: I have coached more than 1000 swimmers, maybe as many as 1500 swimmers. I have been inspired by the swimmers I coach every day for the past 42 years so it was hard for me to write about any one particular swimmer. But this season one swimmer has inspired me to put more energy in my coaching and my own swimming than ever before and that swimmer is Jeanne Carlsen. Some of you might say that Jeanne is not even from BC so should not be mentioned here. Here’s what I think about that: over the last few seasons Jeanne has taken part in more meets in BC than most BC masters. And since she usually swims more metres in one meet than I do all season long I think she can qualify as a BC swimmer.

Jeanne is an incredible swimmer: I had the pleasure of coaching her at the training camp in Hawaii last year and saw first hand how hard she works, day after day. No wonder she breaks so many Canadian and even world records. I clearly remember when Jeanne broke her first world record at a meet in Vancouver (the EBSC meet): she was determined to swim the time needed to break the record and swam every lap of that 1500 as hard as she could, with success! I also remember a couple of 200 flys where the proverbial piano hit her hard in the last 50 of the swim: she came out of those swims disappointed but quickly recovered and was able to laugh about it, telling herself she will do better the next time.

Jeanne has not been racing this year: she was diagnosed with cancer in October and has been using her incredible stamina and fighting spirit to deal with her illness. Jeanne has a blog where she shares the ups and downs of her days filled with treatments and appointments. But what’s incredible is that her days are also filled with workouts of all kinds: she swims, lifts weights, walks, hikes. And she did all of this in Calgary: for those of you who weren’t keeping track, the thermometer did not go above -20 for most of the winter in Calgary, with snow banks at least 10 feet high all this time. Just getting out of the house in Calgary this winter was an accomplishment.

Last year, at Nationals, Jeanne had one of those “piano” 200 fly and wondered why it was happening as she had been training harder than ever. Unbeknownst to her, the cancer was probably already doing its thing. One could certainly not know that by looking at the 2013 World Rankings: Jeanne placed first in the world in 7 events last season.

Most days this year Jeanne has been writing on her blog, and every day I look forward to reading it as I find her posts so uplifting, full of energy, making me want to go out and coach/train harder than ever. I know too that she has the same effect on all the people around her. Every summer, Jeanne swims the Across the Lake race in Kelowna. She has won the women’s category many times, she also holds the women’s.record for the swim. In the Kelowa 5km swim she even came first overall (ahead of all the men) a few times. She signed up for the ATLS event again this year. This summer’s swim will be slower but might also be her best ever: more than 18swimmers have signed up on Team Jeanne, many of those first timers in an open water event, as well as 7 support crew!They will keep her company for the swim – good luck keeping up with Jeanne is what I say to those swimmers!

Jeanne is a true swimspiration.

Submitted by Danielle Brault


3 Comments on “Jeanne Carlsen: a true swimspiration”

  1. Rob Charland says:

    That’s a great story Danielle, thanks for sharing. I have had the pleasure of getting beat by Jeanne in the across the lake swim. My heart breaks to hear of her struggle with cancer. I wish her the best and a fast recovery. Oh Jeannie!

  2. Brent says:

    Danielle. Thank you for writing this heartfelt story. Jeanne’s tenacious focus and steely determination inspires all of us–be it in the water, fighting cancer, or both. Let’s cheer her on at Provincials in Kelowna!

  3. Rod Craig says:

    Thanks Danielle. I too have had the pleasure of getting my butt kicked by Jeanne in the 5km swim in Lake Okanagan!! She is fast and we wish her an even faster recovery! Can’t wait to join forces with “Jeanne’s Team” this summer…thank god we are on the same team!
    You truly are a swimspiration!!

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