Our interview with the swimming idol: Leonie Kullmann
Leonie Kullmann is a swimmer from Dresden who discovered her passion for swimming at the age of 5. In 2016 she took part in the Olympic Games in Rio and has qualified for the next Games in Tokyo. We are very excited to have her as our Ambassador!
In an interview, Leonie tells us what she does to keep her motivated, what her alternative dream job is and what she would like to change about swimming. She also tells us how her preparations for the Olympic Games in Tokyo are going and what she did to prepare for the qualification.
- Do you remember your first swimming lesson?
I think I was 4 or 5 years old, my grandparents were on vacation with me: a week on the island of Fuerteventura. My parents gave them the task of teaching me to swim that week. I practiced diligently in the hotel pool, my grandma pulled me by a net, my grandpa was in the water next to me. As a swimming test, my grandparents gave me the task at the end of the week to cross the pool twice, without a landing net and without a board, so without any help. I probably almost drowned, according to what my grandma told me, only my mouth and the tip of my nose looked out of the water. Nevertheless, I made it and got a medal made out of a paper plate as a reward.
- How about your exercise routines? How often do you exercise? How long? Do you also integrate other sports into your training (yoga, weight training, jogging, ..)?
My training is pretty much the same all year round, with small differences in the competition and build-up phase. As such, I have 10 units of water every week. I swim between 40 and 60 kilometers per week, depending on which training phase I am in. When we start again after the summer break, we also do a lot of training on land, i.e. jogging, strength circles or stability training. When we are in the specific competition phase, I generally do less on land, now and then some speed strength, yoga or swimming-specific exercises.
- Do you follow a strict diet? If yes, which?
I try to eat a balanced diet, I don't follow a diet. What I have found out for myself is that I should have a bite to eat immediately after training, otherwise my regeneration will take too long.
- How do you like to spend your free time when you are not in the swimming pool?
I like to be outside when the weather is good. I recently got a couch on the balcony, so I like to read (or do something for university).
- Tell us about your biggest setback and how you survived it.
My worst setback so far was the 3 years at the 2016 Olympic Games. I did not swim a best time and had the feeling that I was not improving despite hard training. I think anyone who is ambitious and has high goals can understand this constant disappointment. It is important to have clear goals, a trainer or a team that stands behind you and also to celebrate the small steps. A master has never fallen from the sky.
- What is driving you forward? What gives you the motivation kick you need?
I know that my potential has not yet been exhausted. My motivation is to get closer and closer to the “perfect race”.
- Speaking of motivation, you will be qualifying for the Olympics next month. How are the preparations going and what obstacles has the corona pandemic put in your way?
The preparations are going well, as far as I can tell. You don't really have a comparative value; the first competition this year is for us directly the Olympic qualification. Usually we had already done 3-4 competitions, a sun and an altitude training camp. We were in Brandenburg for two weeks to prepare for the qualification.
- You are an idol for many girls and women. Who was or is your idol?
For me it was a highlight to swim with Britta Steffen in training on a lane. I didn't dare say anything to her, I almost stopped so I wouldn't make her waves on the track.
Meanwhile I look up to a lot of swimmers and athletes. Examples are Katinka Hosszu for her stamina. Caeleb Dressel for his way of respecting and belittling the sport. Michael Phelps for his power to dream. Mike Tyson for his sake. The list is endless and just keeps growing.
- What is your “second” passion or what job would you do if swimming didn't exist?
I am studying industrial engineering. I don't have a dream job yet, but I could imagine something in the direction of architecture.
- What advice do you have for the girls / women who look up to you?
I have a note in my locker. There is the following quote on it: Confidence surpasses Genius. This is from the book "The Mindful Athlete".
What I interpret in there is that there is always someone who is smarter, more talented, or, in short, “more suitable” than you are. The crux of the matter is believing in yourself, trusting your abilities and knowing that self-confidence in combination with work ethic has a higher priority than supposed talent.
in the picture below, Leonie pictured with Kathrin Demler - both are Jolyn Europe Ambassadors.
- If you could change one thing about professional swimming, what would it be?
I would televise it! Swimming is one of the coolest sports. You can take such interesting underwater shots, it's nicer to look at than anything else. You could research background knowledge about the individual athletes and make icons out of us athletes. This is already partially taking place through the ISL, now it only has to be advertised in Germany.