Olympic Swimmer And Haiti’s Golden Child Naomy Grand’Pierre On Never Giving Up On Your Dreams

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By: Paulana L. Lamonier

Naomy Grand’Pierre is up at 5:30 a.m. for a 6 a.m. swim practice. She then grabs a quick breakfast and then heads to her 9 am class. Afterwards, it’s a quick nap, lunch, class from 12:30 to 2:50 and then she heads straight to the pool for her afternoon practice from 3 to 5:30 p.m.

But at the time of this interview, Grand’Pierre is taking her first well-needed break in a year and a half since she decided she’d be the first female swimmer swimming for Haiti in the 2016 Olympics. “I have one more week off and then I start training again for World Championships in July. It’s been nice to take a little break from swimming so I can go back and appreciate it and give it 100 percent effort,” said the 19-year-old Montreal native.

Before becoming an Olympian, her journey to the Olympics started off as a drowning prevention when her mother, who is Haitian, lost three cousins due to drowning incidents when Grand’Pierre was little.

Though swimming in the Olympics has always been a dream for the University of Chicago student since the age of 11, she just didn’t know if swimming for her parent’s native country Haiti, a country that doesn’t consider swimming a sport, was in her game plan or even possible.

A swimmer for the University of Chicago’s Division III swim team, the young go-getter ranked second place in the fifth heat of the women’s 50 M freestyle in the Olympic games finishing with a time of 27.35s, where Grand’Pierre ranked 56 out of 88 swimmers in the games overall.

Now, a year post the 2016 Rio Olympic games, the college sophomore not only proved that she was Olympic worthy, but she also competed in the Federation Internationale de Natacion’s (FINA) 2017 World Champs in Budapest in July, and ushered in a team of Haitian swimmers.

Read on to find out about Grand’Pierre’s lessons from Rio 2016, giving back to her family’s homeland and her words of wisdom to younger athletes.

What I learned from Rio 2016: I would say the most valuable lesson is that dreams do come true. It’s super cliché, but I know when I was 10 years old I really wanted to go to the Olympics. I would tell everybody and would always get negative feedback. People would say ‘You know how hard it is to do that? You’re not fast enough.’ So I learned very early on dreams are super fragile and you only share it with people who are only there to encourage you and share that journey with you. And, to look now nine years later to see that I was able to realize my dreams by persevering, never giving up, and having that attitude I was actually able to make my dreams come true. I just learned whatever it is that I want to do in my life, I can do it and I can’t allow people who are closed-minded or want to hold me back because it’s just a matter of having the right mental attitude and having the connections. Anything that someone wants to do is definitely possible. I learned not to set limits on myself and really to dream big because anything is possible. 

My pre-game routine:  Most of the time before a big race, I have a lot of nerves, so I have a go-to album. It’s Wiped Out by The Neighborhood. It’s a very California chill, vibe-zy album. Before every big race, I listen to the entire album and that’s kind of what really calms me down and gets me in my element to focus on nothing else but what I need to do. And then after that I’d listen to my generic pump up music, but I always go through and listen to the entire album first.

What my coach has taught me: The main thing he told me was to trust my training. Trust your training and not letting the small details psych you out. So, during the taper, which is right before the championship meet start, when you train for anythingyou have very intense practices, weight sessions and right before a championship you start tapering down the amount of practices. It’s actually a very scary and mental aspect of training because you have to hold everything that you have been training.

My workout regimen: I work out every single day except Sundays. Sundays are my off days. I go to the weight room three times a week for about an hour session. I have two dryland practices, where I can do anything from sit ups to running. Then I’m swimming from six to 10 times a week. Obviously, when I’m in school, I’m swimming less outside of school. Swim practice is about two hours and dryland is about an hour and weight room is an hour. I’ll lift in the morning and swim in the afternoon. On Fridays, I’ll just swim in the morning. 

My favorite stroke: My best is freestyle and breaststroke. I really like working on technique. Anything slowing down and working on the details of perfecting your stroke, and being as efficient as I can in the water.

On my cheat days: My cheat days is definitely sleeping in and not having to worry about waking up early for morning practice. I don’t really eat processed foods that aren’t good for you. If I go to a restaurant and I’m getting a really nice dessert, then I’ll do that. On Sundays when I don’t have swimming, I love Haitian food. My favorite is legume with diri (rice and legume) and banan pezé (fried plantains),. I love Haitian hot chocolate because nothing is as ever as thick and sweet as hot chocolate. I love Haitian macaroni or whenever I go to Haiti, I get lumbi and lobster.

 My meals during training season: Strictly protein and only healthy food. In the morning, I’ll eat three scrambled eggs, ham, cheese and tomatoes. For lunch, I’ll have a salad with two pieces of chicken and for dinner, it’ll be pasta or another salad with hard boiled eggs. My meals are always a big source of protein and I’ll add fruit or orange juice. But the centerpiece of each meal is having as much protein as I can.

Bringing swimming to Haiti: My goal is to continue growing the sport of swimming in Haiti and there are three major aspects: growing awareness for the sport itself, getting people to learn how to swim and joining the Haitian swim team. I want to have relay teams, so we’re currently recruiting so anyone that has the talent, we’re more than happy to have them join the team and travel with us internationally to swim meets as we prepare for the 2020 Olympic games. And also we’re trying to start a project to build some pools in Haiti because there are currently no 25 or 50 meter pools. That’s a major problem we’re aware of that we’re working on.

My advice to young swimmers competing: Keep things in perspective. For me, there were a lot of days when I would wake up at 5 in the morning and be so exhausted from staying up late from the night before doing homework. Keeping things in perspective helps you on the days when you lose motivation, you feel like giving up, oryou feel like quitting. On the hardest days, having that perspective really helps you have the will to continue. I’m trying to make a difference in Haiti. I’m trying to qualify in the next Olympic games.

My second piece of advice is to never give up on your dreams. There’s this quote that really spoke to me, ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, then you’re not dreaming big enough’ and that really spoke to me. There’s nothing that’s too big that I can’t do. It’s just a matter of writing your goals down and figuring out what are the baby steps that you need to take in order to achieve what you need to do. It’s funny because for a long time, I really wanted to go to the Olympics and everyone told me that it wasn’t possible and it was something that I couldn’t do and I was able to do the impossible. So, there’s nothing you can’t tell me that’s impossible. It’s just a matter of having that mindset and realizing that anything you want to do is definitely doable.

This conversation has been edited for length.


Paulana Lamonier is a multimedia journalist & edu-tainer who loves to educate and entertain her audience with compelling stories. She loves Jesus, chocolate and still cries when she watches the ending of 'Set it Off.' Check out her latest updates on her new site, Paulana.co.