Swimming superstar Ivy “Ivysaur” Richter has always been able to turn bad luck into good, succeeding in her sport despite frequent setbacks.
“I think I’m just prone to them [physical issues],” the 17-year-old Hong Kong International School student said.
“I’m constantly battling some sort of injury, like tendonitis or pinched nerves. With that comes a lot of frustration and, at times, I get really down about it and think negatively about the situation. But overall, it’s really increased my passion, grit, and determination.”
Her spirit has undoubtedly paid off; following the best swimming of her career last year, she received a scholarship to swim for a Division One American University – Miami University, in the US state of Ohio – next year.
“That was probably the proudest moment of my career,” Ivy said of getting the scholarship. “I had been dreaming of swimming at a collegiate level since I was 12 years old, so for it to actually happen was really exciting.”
Ivy has been swimming since she was eight. “I just love the way it makes me feel,” she explained. “There’s something euphoric about gliding through the water, completely on your own and just being in your own world, whether it’s for a two-hour practice session or a 30-second race. I just love how empowered I feel in the water – and how in control I am.”
Her passion is accompanied by a tireless work ethic. “I train eight times a week in the pool, three sessions before I go to school. Each session is around two hours. I also do weights two or three times a week, and do some additional running.”
Like other student athletes, balancing training and school work isn’t easy.
“The hardest part is not falling asleep while studying or doing homework, because I’m always tired. However, it’s given me a perfect routine and great time management skills.”
The sprint swimmer has had a great six months, finishing in the top 10 in the Fina World Cup Hong Kong in October in the Girls’ 100m backstroke, and coming second in the Singapore National Swimming Championship in the same race two months later, improving her time by nearly two seconds.
“There was a lot of adrenaline and excitement when I saw my time,” Ivy said. “Months on end of training leading up to one swim that only lasts a minute or two, then to have my personal best time was a surge of joy.
“And it shows I’m just going to keep getting better,” she said.
Ivy says her biggest inspiration is her big sister Camden “Cricket” Richter.
“She was the one who first got me into the sport, and she is just such an impressive athlete,” Ivy said of her sister. “She is a collegiate level runner and Hong Kong National Triathlete member, so watching her grow into the athlete she is, and seeing her level of work and determination really inspired me to become great.”
Ivy had some candid advice for young swimmers in Hong Kong : turn the difficult times into something and be prepared for the “rollercoaster” that is a swimming career.
“There are going be lots of ups, but also lots of downs. What makes a great swimmer is their ability to get through the downs to reach those ups again – personal records, achievements, etc,” Ivy said.
“The most important thing is to stay tough, and good things will come.”