Sierra Schmidt: Philly-area swimmer dances during Olympic swim trials
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After a COVID delay that pushed the Olympics back for a year, viewers of the swim trials in the United States were made aware of a delightfully entertaining spectacle:
The iconic dance routines of Olympic hopeful Sierra Schmidt from Montgomery County.
Known for rocking her earphones or noise-canceling headphones and getting stuck behind blocks before scaling the platform and diving underwater, Schmidt’s expressive movements have earned her the nickname “Dancing Queen”.
“Everyone has their own pre-race routine,” Schmidt told Billy Penn. “And to me, it’s, it’s dance… Mine is just a little more unique.”
Now 23, Schmidt grew up in Erdenheim, Pa., A Springfield Township community just across Stenton Avenue, less than a mile from Chestnut Hill.
The dance is not new, nor is the attention it has received for it. The athlete and his shimmies featured in a 2015 Swimming World Video. ESPN took note of the then teenage swimmer early 2016, and it caught the attention of Associated Press in its Olympic Trials debut later this year.
The following year, Schmidt joined the University of Michigan swim team. Before going to college in 2017, she attended 21st Century Cyber Charter School in suburban Philly and also swam for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.
His performance in the pool is at least as good – and probably better – than his choreographed warm-ups. She was not on the 2016 Olympic team, but her chances this time around are improving. On Tuesday, she came seventh and qualified for the finals in the 1,500-meter freestyle. This race takes place Wednesday evening.
Between the Olympic trials, Schmidt went on to win medals in national and international competitions and placed in the top 10 national swimmers in the 400, 800 and 1,500-meter freestyle.
A short list of his accomplishments includes:
- Break the Pan Am Games record, set in 1999, for the 800-meter freestyle in 2015
- Gold and silver medals at the world junior championships
- A bronze medal at the 2017 World University Games
- Another bronze and one gold in the relay at the 2019 World University Games
- A victory in the 2021 Big Ten Championship for the 800-meter relay
Does she like the attention her dancing brings, compared to her swimming prowess?
“I like being known for both,” Schmidt said. “One of my goals while dancing, not only to be less nervous, [but] also to show that there are many paths to success. She wants young swimmers to feel comfortable and confident about finding the techniques that work best for them.
“I always encourage people I have the chance to speak with, especially young swimmers, to experiment with pre-race routines,” Schmidt said.
There is a method to his madness. In Montco, she grew up taking ballet, where she developed her love of dance. In 2019, she and her then-trainer Mike Bottom, Michigan, shared how dance uses certain movements that target different muscles, just like more traditional warm-ups.
What comes out of Schmidt’s all-important headphones varies by season and event. She did the top 40 and K-Pop bubblegum.
For her longer runs at the moment, Schmidt said she listens to slower K-Pop, like “Dun Dun” from Everglow. For her shorter races, like the 400-meter freestyle, she turns to a Japanese musical genre called idol groups. She learns choreographed routines and practices them before competitions.
Apart from swimming and dancing, entertainment still guides Schmidt’s goals. The recent college graduate earned a degree in film, television and media, and worked as a video editor and post-production producer at WOLV-TV at the University of Michigan.
Schmidt just moved to Arizona where she is training with his father, Joseph Schmidt, and plans to swim with a team.
When asked if she dreamed of returning to the Philadelphia area, where her childhood was marked by Old Town tours and Rich’s Delicatessen cheesesteaks in Fort Washington, Schmidt said she was a vagabond, so anything is possible.
“For me, wherever life takes me, I will be happy,” she said. “Coming back to Philly is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. “