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Episode 105: Rhyan White Shares Her Story of Olympic Success Swimming Her Way to a Silver Medal

Rhyan White is a Herriman native who is now among the best of the best in competitive swimming in the United States. That’s because Rhyan won a silver medal in the women’s 4x100-meter medley relay at the recent 2020 Summer Olympics. She also placed fourth in both the 100-meter backstroke and the 200-meter backstroke.

On this episode of the Supercast, Rhyan White takes time out of her busy schedule at the University of Alabama to talk about what it takes to become an Olympic athlete. Rhyan shares her experience at the summer games in Tokyo and talks about coming home to a hero’s welcome in Herriman.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Today we talk with Rhyan White. She's a Herriman native who is now among the best of the best in competitive swimming in the United States. That's because Rhyan won a silver medal in the women's 4x100-meter medley relay at the recent 2020 Summer Olympics. She also placed fourth in both the 100-meter backstroke and the 200-meter backstroke. On this episode of the Supercast, Rhyan takes time out of her busy schedule at the University of Alabama to talk about what it takes to become an Olympic athlete. She shares her experience at the recent summer games in Tokyo and talks about coming home to a hero's welcome in Herriman. 

All right. We are here with Rhyan White, silver medalist from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and we're really excited to have her on the Supercast. Rhyan, I know you're busy with school. Thank you very much for joining us.

Rhyan White:
Yeah, of course. I'm super happy to talk to you guys and just let you know my story and I really appreciate you guys reaching out to me.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now you swam for Herriman High School for a year, is that right?

Rhyan White:
Yup. That's right.

Anthony Godfrey:
And now you are an Olympic medalist. How does that feel?

Rhyan White:
It's pretty crazy. Some days I wake up and I can definitely feel the excitement and some days I just remember I’m another swimmer. It's definitely exciting and I'm super grateful.

Anthony Godfrey:
As I was Googling your various accomplishments, you have a lot of medals in your life. You've held up medals of various colors over the years. Tell me a little bit about some of your other accomplishments.

Rhyan White:
I've been an SEC champ, I think it’s been two years in a row for backstroke. In high school I was swimmer of the year a couple of times. I've just grown up swimming and I really love it.

Anthony Godfrey:
What drew you to swimming initially?

Rhyan White:
My older brothers. I have three older brothers and an older sister and my parents kind of just had us all doing some summer league. Me and my sister kind of fell in love with it together, and so we continued on to do more competitive swimming. I just kind of stuck with it.

Anthony Godfrey:
At what point did you realize, ‘Hey, I might be better than some of the people around me.’

Rhyan White:
I think I first kind of talked about maybe being an Olympian, and that my goals were to do that and my dreams were, I think I was maybe 11 or 12. I had like a state record or something in the 50 fly. Then I think it really hit me that I could maybe even swim in college and really do this thing probably when I was 12 or 13. I swam at some meet in Salt Lake City, I swam a 100 back and my underwater had just developed so much that year and my coaches were super excited. I think I was always in love with the sport, but I think at that time I realized that I could really go somewhere with it.

Anthony Godfrey:
And you're 21 now. 

Rhyan White:
Yep

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me about your training schedule. How many hours at the peak, how much time have you been training a day?

Rhyan White:
The NCAA rules are that we can’t be required more than 20, I'm pretty sure. Like we have voluntary practices that ended up going over that and they're kind of voluntary, but I mean, they expect us to be there. If you want to get better, you show up. So let's see we practice, I do doubles Monday, Wednesday, Friday for swimming.

Anthony Godfrey:
I do doubles, but they're double cheeseburgers. It's a different thing. It's not a regimen at all. Tell me again, start that sentence over.

Rhyan White:
So we do doubles Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Our swim practices are typically two hours long and then Tuesday and Thursday, Saturday, those are like the single days. Then I lift three times a week and I usually do dry land twice a week. Dry land is just more like cardio. We do a lot of stuff on the assault bike. We have a Versaclimber here and rowing machines, things like that. 

Anthony Godfrey:
The assault bike. Sounds like a high level of energy expended on the assault bike.

Rhyan White:
I mean, that's what we call it. It's just a stationary bike. That's actually one of my favorite things that we do at dry land. 

Anthony Godfrey:
The dry land workout, so weights, the assault bike. What else is included in the dry land workout?

Rhyan White:
We have a rowing machine, like an Arc, I think that's what it's called. A Versaclimber, which is like, it's kind of like a tall pole and there's some things sticking out the side of it. You just move your arms up and down and your legs up and down. It's like climbing a wall kind of, I guess.

Anthony Godfrey:
No, I know the equipment, I've never used it, but I am familiar with it. With all of that, that is just a ton of time spent. Is your favorite being in the water?

Rhyan White:
I actually really love lifting, it's kind of fun. We get to lift in the same weight room as the football players and some of the other sports teams. So it's really cool to see other players and our coaches, like one of the football coaches. My little brother plays football and my dad was his football coach, so I think that aspect of it kind of reminds me of home a little bit. So I like lifting, I would say I probably like swimming more, but I'm really fond of the weight room.

Anthony Godfrey:
Are you mostly focused on backstroke?

Rhyan White:
Yeah, I mean, I swim the 100 fly at SECs and NCAAs also, but my training is a little bit more diverse. I'm actually in an IM group, so we do a little bit of every stroke. I would say racing wise it’s mostly backstroke.

Anthony Godfrey:
On the backstroke you're underwater for more than you are on other strokes. Is that right?

Rhyan White:
Yeah. I mean, every race you can go to the 15-meter mark, just a lot of backstrokers tend to stay there, because you can breathe the whole time. But yeah, I would say my specialty is trying to get to that 15-meter mark in each of my races. 

Anthony Godfrey:
The 15-meter mark is the farthest that you can go underwater. Do you have to surface by that point?

Rhyan White:
Yeah. Yeah. You get disqualified if you don't.

Anthony Godfrey:
Stay with us for more from Olympic silver medalist, Rhyan White.

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Anthony Godfrey:
Tell us about your Olympic experience from the moment you knew I'm going to the Olympics.

Rhyan White:
So going to trials, it was super crazy to be back because I did go in 2016. It was a much different feeling, I would say, like walking around on deck and just seeing the people that I was seeing. I think I had a little bit better of an understanding of how I was thinking I could perform. Just looking up and seeing that I'd made the team, that I was 2nd in the 100 back and 1st in the 200 back, it was just super overwhelming. So many good emotions. I got to get out and give my coaches a hug and my teammates. I was really lucky that my family was able to be there. They were sitting right on the front row and that was just such a cool thing to just sit there.

I looked up at the scoreboard and I see my face on the big jumbo-tron and I can see my family there. So that was just super exciting. Then I went home and packed for a couple of days. I went to the training camp, which was in Hawaii. It was just super cool to be there with all of these swimmers that, I mean, everyone knows the big names. I'm not a super huge swim fan. I don't usually keep up with a lot of meets that are going on. Some of my friends do and they'll say, ‘did you hear this person with this time?’ And I'm usually just in my own space, in my own bubble, just trying to focus on myself. So actually being there with the people that are kind of too famous to ignore I guess, it was just really cool.

I got to know a lot of them super well, and it's just crazy to think that they're this big, famous person almost. You just go and everyone gets tired, everyone's eating the same thing. I mean, I get to go and practice with them, which is just so cool. And with the best coaches in the nation, so that was really cool. Then just going into Tokyo. The first few days we were there, maybe like a week I think, we were training at their high-performance center, which is basically like the Olympic training center in Colorado. It was so cool. And the whole team USA had kind of, I think they like rented it out or something. There were team USA signs everywhere and that was really, really cool to see how they train their national team and stuff like that.

Then just getting into the village was crazy. I mean, the process of getting in was very tedious, I would say. They had a lot of check marks and things like that, that we had to cross off just to keep us all safe with COVID and everything. It was so crazy. I mean, you're surrounded by all these people from around the world that are at the very highest level of their sport. We had our own building, but we all ate in the same dining hall. Two of my best friends from Bama were there and I have another really good friend. They were swimming for other countries, but it was so cool because my small friend group, I mean, there were three of us, we were friends with everyone on our team, but we're definitely a little bit closer knit. I got to go across the world to see them and compete where they're competing and watch them race again. It was really cool. I'm really happy that they were able to be there. I think they gave me a sense of comfort and just like familiarity being there. I guess the scariest part was definitely racing.

Anthony Godfrey:
What was Japan like?

Rhyan White:
It was really cool. I kinda got to see it from the bus window, so not a lot of exploring, but it was cool. I would love to go back and see the city. There's just, the city goes so far. Like I looked out my window in the hotel we were staying at and they're just buildings everywhere. I mean, it's bigger than any city I've ever been in. 

Anthony Godfrey:
What a great experience and then an odd year to be doing it I know. You said the scary part was the racing. So tell me about the actual competition part of it.

Rhyan White:
So I've only been to one other meet internationally. I went to the youth Olympics in 2018 and it was kind of weird meet for me. It was my first international experience and I think I was a little more naive to being nervous and I didn't really realize those people were like the highest, I guess, 18 and unders that there were at the time. Just seeing the best competition in the world. We're swimming in the same race and seeing them in the ready room and in warm up, it was definitely intimidating. I hope that I could have intimidated them as well.

Anthony Godfrey:
I have no doubt that you did, I have no doubt that you did. What is the ready room exactly?

Rhyan White:
I think it's 20, or maybe 25 minutes before the actual race goes off, you go with your heat of eight girls into this room and they have a bunch of chairs, and each heat kind of sits in a row. It's just so that they know everyone's there. So if they don't show up, it doesn't cause delays. I think that's why they do it. You see the video of us marching out from like this area behind a wall. That's basically the ready room. We're all standing there and they announce our name and the person cues us to walk. You just go back to the ready room with the people in your heat, which in prelims, it's not so bad. As you progress on and on to finals, it's a little bit more nerve wracking I would say. I mean, it gets a little more intense each time.

Anthony Godfrey:
I can imagine I would be a wreck sitting in the ready room for 25 minutes in a chair, lined up, waiting to walk out from behind the wall. It's gotta be quite an experience.

Rhyan White:
Yeah. It is really incredible. It's really nice that the US brings two people from each race. I got to be in there with Regan Smith and Phoebe Bacon and they definitely made it a little easier to sit in that room for so long. 

Anthony Godfrey:
What's your self-talk before you race?

Rhyan White:
I like to listen to music. 

Anthony Godfrey:
I was going to ask you that. I'm a huge music fan. So what do you listen to, what’s your walk up music?

Rhyan White:
I just listen to pop music. I love to just drive around in my car and sing with my friends. I mean, we're not good at singing, but it's super fun. So that's something that comforts me. 

Anthony Godfrey:
You can sing the whole song without taking a breath because you've got swimmer’s lungs. What are some of the specific songs and artists that you like to listen to?

Rhyan White:
I really like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber of course, Dua Lipa. Those are probably my top three artists that I like.

Anthony Godfrey:
You can wear headphones going in there, right? As you're kind of swinging your arms back and forth, getting loosened up, music's flowing. You're getting ready to go.

Rhyan White:
Yeah. You can bring a phone or headphones or your coat, whatever you want.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay, great. And then tell us, so after the race is over, do you look up at the board or do you just know because you have a sense of where everybody is placed.

Rhyan White:
Sometimes you have a sense, but typically it's kind of a close race, especially at that meet. The backstroke is just stacked. There's so many fast backstrokers in the world. So I would say, yeah, I definitely looked up at the board after I raced. 

Anthony Godfrey:
What is it that sets you apart from other swimmers? I know that your, is it your underwater kick in particular? That's really good.

Rhyan White:
Yeah, I would say my underwaters. I like the 200 back a little bit more. I think I can hold on a little bit, like maybe better than some other swimmers, just like with finishing the race. I think in saying that it actually helps my 100 back too, because I have a little bit more endurance. I would say maybe like endurance and my underwaters, I have pretty strong legs.

Anthony Godfrey:
And your endurance. Tell me, what do people misunderstand about the Olympic experience or what might surprise them?

Rhyan White:
Oh, that's a good question. I think, I mean, to be honest, there's a lot more pressure I think that goes into it that a lot of people don't realize. I think especially without having spectators there, I wasn't receiving any sort of like, I guess, hateful comments or anything like that, but I know that I had friends that were struggling with that a lot. It's so easy to press send, especially when you're saying something that you wouldn't say in person. So I think that pressure and like pressure of, I mean, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, but I think a lot of people don't realize how much pressure we get from outside too. So I would definitely say that.

Anthony Godfrey:
So it's the pressure from social media and that sort of thing?

Rhyan White:
Yeah. I typically delete my Instagram during meets and stuff. Just because I don't even like, I mean, on Instagram, you end up like looking at some random person and maybe comparing or wishing you were doing what they were doing, that kind of thing. So that's just, I don't think that's the best mindset, especially during a big competition. So I'm usually deleting my Instagram and sometimes like Snapchat or Twitter or anything like that.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well the social emotional wellness of athletes has been a big topic lately with a few top athletes choosing not to compete in the Olympics and in other high level sports. So that's part of what you do to stay healthy is to separate yourself from those accounts. 

Rhyan White:
Yeah. I love getting the support, but I had to wait until after the Olympics to read about articles that I was talking to people, like KSL and Deseret News, those types of things. I love them and actually they bring me to tears when I read them now, but I had to wait to read them. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Smart. What was it like competing in an empty venue? Do you normally draw energy from the crowd? Did you have to put yourself in a different frame of mind? How did that work?

Rhyan White:
I think it definitely was different. I wish people could have been there to see all of us race and just make noise. We were lucky that we got to have some spectators at trials. This past season with college swimming has been very similar to the Olympics so we didn't have crowds, but we still had like our whole team there cheering and everybody else has a whole team there where at the Olympics, some countries have two people from their country swimming. So you can't really bank on everyone having this big group of people to cheer for you. We were trying our best to make noise. I'm sure you guys could hear it. I've heard so many people asking me what the horn is and they're saying, ‘when did they blow this horn?’ I was so confused until I realized that it was the other swimmers watching, blowing a horn, trying to make noise.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's great. It's great that they tried to fill the arena for you. Must've been very hard for your parents not to be there.

Rhyan White:
Yeah. I think it was really hard. They had a couple of watch parties each time that I swam. I really just wished they could have been there. I wish everyone's parents could have been there. That would have been so cool.

Anthony Godfrey:
They did a great job of making sure you felt welcomed and celebrated when you came back. Tell me about that.

Rhyan White:
I was so surprised by the welcome home. I was sitting in the backseat of the truck, just talking to my little brother and sister. My parents were asking me what gas station I wanted to stop by, and I was just thinking, ‘let's just go home. Why do we need to stop at the gas station?’ They pulled over and there's this huge truck. They just told me I was going to parade home and I was so excited. I did not know what to do with myself. It was so cool to see all these people coming out of their houses, waving to me and welcoming me home. It was really cool.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, that's well-deserved. A lot of people got a big boost out of watching you compete and cheering you on, and I was one of those. So that's exciting.

Rhyan White:
Yeah. It was definitely something I'll never forget.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now there's a lot of great experiences around this. Do you feel like you're a better swimmer having been in the Olympics?

Rhyan White:
I think I definitely learned a lot about myself and I think I can grow as a swimmer from the experience. So yeah, I think I will get better from this.

Anthony Godfrey:
And are you planning on Paris in 2024?

Rhyan White:
I’m not exactly one to plan, but it's definitely my next goal.

Anthony Godfrey:
I guess, hoping for and setting a goal for Paris in 2024 is a better way to put it. What would you say to girls who are swimmers and who are inspired by seeing you compete and are thinking that they might want to do that for themselves?

Rhyan White:
I would just say to definitely follow your dreams and believe in yourself because you don't need anybody else to believe in you. It all comes from within. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Great advice. Rhyan, thank you so much for taking the time. Good luck with your ongoing swimming career and with school. Thanks a ton for taking the time. It's been a real pleasure to get to talk with you.

Rhyan White:
Thank you. I agree. It was so much fun getting to know you and I really appreciate you guys reaching out.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see out there.

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