Israel unrest moves meet for swim star

Kylie Mitchell will face the best — in Hungary

Mitchell at the 2014 Open Water National Championships at Castiac Lake, Calif., where she swam the 5k in 1:00.36.

Mitchell at the 2014 Open Water National Championships at Castiac Lake, Calif., where she swam the 5k in 1:00.36. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

Kylie Mitchell of Hancock repeated and repeated and repeated her routine to prepare for the 2014 Federation Internationale De Natation World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships scheduled for Aug. 28-30 in Eilat, Israel.

The 16 year old would wake up at 4:45 a.m., drive to Keene, swim for two hours, strength-train for another hour, and drive home.

She would nap, and dive back in the water in the afternoon, swimming in Dublin Lake for another two hours. She would eat dinner and fall asleep, starting this routine over the next morning. Nothing would get in the way of he best-laid plans.

Then, a war broke out between Israel and Hamas, a military wing of the Palestinian Authority. Mitchell, a teenager from a New Hampshire town of 1,650, got caught up in a Middle East conflict, even though she was halfway across the world.

FINA briefly canceled the race at the end of July, informing competitors they were pursuing rescheduling it.

Mitchell will now swim off with the best a week later in Lake Balaton, Hungary. She left for Hungary Sunday, and will compete Friday.

Mitchell, a junior at ConVal High School, is one of eight U.S. swimmers under 18 years old competing at the event. She qualified for the U.S. Open Water Junior Team after finishing as one of the two fastest 15 to 16 year olds at the 2014 Open Water National Championships in Castaic Lake, California. This is Mitchell’s first international competition. She trains out of Greenwood Swimming Club in Keene.

When asked if she was nervous traveling to Israel, Mitchell coolly replied, “A little bit. But it was far away from where the race was supposed to be.”

She said, “I guess it’s better that it is in Hungary.”

Eilat and the Red Sea are less than 200 miles from the Gaza Strip. Rockets fired from Gaza have reached Eilat and Ben Gurion International Airport where the athletes would have flow in to.

On July 25, FINA announced they unanimously chose to cancel the event “due to the unstable and unpredictable situation in the region.”

Mitchell said she was “just anxious” to find out where the event would be held. “I’m just glad it’s still happening.”

The race will be a five-kilometer swim in the lake. Open water swimming is a competition held in open bodies of water such as oceans or lakes. A race’s distance ranges from one kilometer to 80. It debuted as an Olympic event in London in 2012.

Hungary will be the farthest Mitchell has traveled for a competition. This is also her first time stepping up to the international stage.

One of Mitchell’s goals is to test out what it’s like to compete against swimmers from all over the world. “I just want the race to feel good. To be in the top, in the front of the pack, and really compete.”

She is also excited to bond with her teammates, and maybe be on a team with them again next year.

Jack Fabian, Mitchell’s coach and the coach of Keene State College’s collegiate swim team, is interested to see how Mitchell responds to competing against an international pool of swimmers. He said competitive swimmers from Europe tend to be more advanced swimmers at a younger age.

Fabian has coached Mitchell since she was 10 years old. He later said he always saw a lot of potential in Mitchell who, as a high schooler, has challenged and beaten collegiate all-Americans.

Fabian said Mitchell’s national team is only one of three in the U.S. that brings swimmers to international competitions. Basically, Mitchell is one of the best dozen or so junior open water swimmers in the U.S.

Fabian hopes Mitchell’s success carries over into the near future. He would like to see her compete more internationally and at the U.S. national championships for open water swimming next year. That competition will be more or less a buildup to the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Mitchell’s benchmarks she is setting for herself are in line with her coaches. She would also like to improve swimming the 10 km race too.

Just before she started lowering the intensity of her training for Friday’s race, Mitchell swam in the New England Championships in Salem, Massachusetts. Jim Mitchell, her father and one of her biggest supporters, said she approached the race as practice.

Kylie Mitchell said, “I wasn’t really going there do anything. I wasn’t expecting anything. It was just practice. I just swam.”

Mitchell finished the race in first.

Benji Rosen can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228, or brosen@ledgertranscript.com.

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