Get Acquainted With A Canadian Olympic Swimmer; Martha McCabe

Martha McCabe

Martha McCabe

Martha McCabe who hails from Toronto has a second home in Vancouver.

The Canadian Olympic Swimmer and World Championship bronze medalist also has a degree in kinesiology and health sciences from UBC. It’s there that the student athlete swam for the varsity swim team and there that she prepared for her first Olympics. The Swimming Canada High Performance Centre at the university’s Aquatic Centre is one of three across the country and has proven to be a formidable training ground for young Canadian athletes – McCabe reached 5th place in the 200m breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Martha McCabe

This Olympic season, she finds herself training back in Vancouver and reunited with coach and “breaststroke master” Jozsef Nagy. In between training camps and races time was found for BC hikes, a trip to whistler and catching up with old friends.

Now, coming off a silver finish at the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games, McCabe is using her experience and momentum going into Rio 2016. The Thunderbirds alumna claimed her ticket in April with a second place finish at the Canadian Olympic Trials which were held in Scarborough, ON.

McCabe has also been named as a team captain for the Canadian Olympic swimming team along with Victoria’s two-time Olympic medallist Ryan Cochrane. A leadership role is nothing new for the veteran swimmer as she was Captain of UBC’s varsity swim team in 2010/11. We wanted to learn more about Canadian athlete and top female swimmer Martha McCabe and caught up with her during her final preparations and lead up to the summer games:

What inspired you to be a competitive swimmer?

I grew up in a family that was very athletic. We loved spending time outdoors and being active so being involved in sports was pretty natural. I played most sports – hockey, soccer, basketball, running, synchronized swimming – before I started competitive swimming. When I was 12 years old I switched from synchro to competitive swimming and never looked back! My two older sisters were swimmers and my older brother was a runner… those ended up being the sports I also seemed to enjoy most.

What are the “McCabe Olympics”?

The McCabe Olympics was an event that my parents hosted up at our cottage when I was about four years old. We loved watching the Olympics on TV up there and so they decided it would be fun to host our own mini version! They hosted an opening ceremony for us, as well as events like sand castle building, swim to the raft, a long run and a short run. They also had ‘medal ceremonies’ after each one. We did it with our neighbours up at the cottage and it was just a fun way for us to get together and enjoy each other’s company! They would do staggered starts in some of the running races so that the competition would be a bit closer. Being the youngest, and only about four years old, I would always start much closer to the finish line than my older siblings. It was a fun time, and watching videos now is hilarious!


How do you and your Canadian rower cousin Conlin McCabe motivate each other competitively?

Having my cousin Conlin McCabe as my Olympic cousin and friend is a very special thing for both of us. We chat sometimes comparing sports, but most of all we have an understanding about what each other are going through on a daily basis. Most people have no idea what it really takes to be an Olympic athlete. Many sports require different things, but rowing and swimming are similar in the way they require endless hours of painful training, in the early mornings and nights… twice a day most days. Having a family member share that experience with me is awesome. Even though we don’t see each other much (because of all the training) we keep in touch.

I always feel like Conlin and the rowing guys are rooting for me, and I hope he feels that from me as well. I know Conlin is a workhorse and not afraid of pain and the daily grind which motivates me to do the same. It is especially fun at the Olympics when we are both done our sports, we get to enjoy the rest of the Games together!


How are you using your past World Championship and Olympic experiences in preparation for Rio 2016?

My past experience is vital to my preparation for Rio. I am older now, and a lot has changed. My outlook on racing, training and just everyday life has changed from when I started competing at the international level. I need to use this to my advantage. Use the wisdom that I have learned from previous experiences and apply them to my daily routines now. I need to use all that has worked in the past and change some things that might not have worked. These experiences help me to keep cool, calm and collected in times where many athletes feel immense pressure. I thrive with more pressure, and this stems from experiencing all different kinds of it throughout my life as an athlete.


What is your goal as a professional athlete?

At this point in my career my goal is obviously to improve upon what I did in the London Olympics. Improve my time, and in turn hopefully improve or maintain my final position. Every day I enjoy going to the pool and working with my coach Jozsef Nagy. Especially in the last year I have learned to enjoy the journey because you can only control what you do every day and not what your competition does.

As an older and more experienced athlete, I am still learning every day from swimming and ensuring I am putting my very best foot forward daily so that I can walk away from the Olympics happy no matter what happens. I am also very eager to help inspire the next generation, which I think comes with the territory of being an experienced athlete. Following the Olympics I will do as much as I can to reach out to athletes, young people, coaches, and all people across Canada.


What advice would you give to the next generation of aspiring Canadian athletes?

My advice to the next generation of athletes is to make sure you love what you do. Find your passion and work at it every day. If you enjoy trying to get better at what you are doing you will be the most successful. Ask questions, be coachable and learn from everyone around you always. You control how you feel, what you do and who you surround yourself with, so make these all positive aspects of your life. Lastly, every successful person has hardships that they have overcome. Fall down a lot, but get back up each time. Do not be afraid to fail because learning how to persevere through failure is perhaps one of the most important lessons of all.

Follow Martha McCabe’s Olympic journey on Twitter and Instagram



Photos: Canadian Olympic Committee
Interview by Amar Mirchandani @amarmirch

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