Both Kasia Wasick and Dylan Carter have cashed in big, staying undefeated at the Swimming World Cup in the 50m sprints after initially starting their international careers as 200m swimmers
There was a brief period in Kasia Wasick’s life when she thought she would never return to the swimming pool.
It was after the 2016 Olympics in Rio - Wasick’s third Games where she was 29th in the 100m freestyle. She had graduated from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and was ready to take on a professional career in the sport, but she injured her shoulder.
In an interview with Swimming World Magazine, Wasick got engaged and moved to Las Vegas after the Olympics, where she got a job doing clinical research.
However after being away from the pool for some time, she had the itch to come back and try it again after watching her teammates compete in international meets. That led to her enrolling on a Masters swim team in Las Vegas, and for two months, she didn’t have any intentions on making a potential fourth Olympic team for Poland. But coach Ben Loorz encouraged her to join the professional team at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Since then she has swum faster and better than ever. Not only did she make her fourth Olympic team for Tokyo, she made it past the heats for the first time in her Olympic career last year, placing fifth in the 50m freestyle final. In 2022, she won her first major international medal in long course meters with a silver at the Budapest World Championships in the 50m.
And just recently, she won the 50m freestyle triple crown at the Swimming World Cup, winning the finals in Berlin, Toronto, and again in Indianapolis. Each win got progressively faster, as her three finals swims across the three weeks were three off the four fastest 50m freestyles she had ever done. Her final time in Indianapolis of 23.10 put her third all-time behind Olympic champions Ranomi Kromowidjojo (22.93) and Sarah Sjostrom (23.00).
Not bad for someone who turned 30 in March.
“I am just really blessed to be here,” Wasick said after her third 50m freestyle win in Indianapolis. “Every time I get a chance to step on the blocks I am really happy and excited to get the chance, but also my family...when I see them in the stands, I always go fast.
“I wish I could go next week and race again, but we still have World Champs and I hope I will be the fastest over there.”
Wasick seems to be almost reborn as a swimmer. At the 2016 Olympics, she was 29th in the 100m freestyle, and in 2012, she finished 27th. Although she didn’t race the 100m freestyle in Tokyo, she is still racing it at the World Cups, but she has put more emphasis on the 50m freestyle than she ever has before.
Admittedly, she ‘hates training’ but has been able to focus more on speed and technique in workouts, with an emphasis on power. Every day in training, she is grateful that she has a pool to swim in and a coach and team that believe her. Because at one point she didn’t think she’d ever be back here competing.
“I just wanted to try it again,” Wasick said of why she came back to the sport. “My grandma always said when you discover your talent, try to take care of it. Like don’t dig it down, so I was just going to give it one more chance and my goal was to make my fourth Olympics in Tokyo and it brought me a little bit further so it’s just been a fun journey.”
It isn’t often that 30-year-olds swim faster than their lifetime bests. But Wasick has rejuvenated her own career, honing in her focus on the 50m freestyle, and she has cashed in big with the Swimming World Cup. Wasick definitely learned a lot about herself during the nine days of competition over three weeks, needing to manage each heat, each final, each meal, each day with precision in order to be at her best, consistently.
“It was definitely an adventure,” Wasick said of learning from each World Cup race. “I had to really take care of my recovery. It was tough - we were traveling and swimming three days in a row, prelims and finals. I definitely learned a lot about my body and about my racing and I think I did a good job of taking something from each race.”
And Wasick wasn’t the only rejuvenated career cashing in big at the Swimming World Cup.
Dylan Carter of Trinidad & Tobago once shared a training lane with Wasick at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Now at age 26, he won the overall World Cup title with nine wins across three weeks in the 50m butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle finals.
Not once did Carter lose a 50m final, collecting three triple crowns.
“It’s amazing! I love watching Dylan!” Wasick said of her former fellow Trojan teammate. “He is so amazing, it just motivates me. We were teammates and training together in the same lane at USC and now he is crushing every 50 of each stroke so it makes me really happy.”
Carter’s success comes on the heels of a self-admittedly good summer - at the World Championships in June, he was fourth in the 50m butterfly. At the Commonwealth Games in July, he was again fourth in the butterfly, and was also fourth in the 50m freestyle. The times were good, but just missing the podium three times was tough.
“I came home this summer after World Champs and Commonwealth Games and I went to my local gym and the amount of people that came up to me to ask me if I was going to retire - I can’t count it on one hand,” Carter said.
“I had a great summer! I swam some good times but people were like, ‘this guy is done and washed up. He’s never going to break through.’ And that really drove me and made me really mad. I think that’s part of the results you see here.”
Carter and Wasick have both switched their event focuses as they reach the twilight of their careers. Wasick made her first Olympics in 2008 for the 4x200m freestyle relay, and raced the 100m freestyle in both at the 2012 and 2016 Games. Carter had been more known as a 200m freestyle swimmer in his junior career and made his Olympic debut in 2016 in the 100m freestyle, where he was 23rd.
But it’s been in the 50s where he has seen the most success recently.
“I was a main 200 guy until I was 23 or 24,” Carter said. “I always wanted to have a bit of a second career in just the 50s because I felt like I had potential. I didn’t know how much potential but I knew I had a good 50 fly and it was always good for a 200 guy, so I wanted to put it all there and see where I could go and I think that’s why I’m seeing some good times because I’ve never trained for them up until now.”
And Carter’s potential in the 50s has been felt.
Training back at home in Trinidad with coach Dexter Browne, he set best times in both the 50m backstroke and 50m butterfly at the Indianapolis World Cup, putting him 11th and 17th all-time respectively. His 50m butterfly in Indianapolis was only 0.01 off his best time, where he sits fourth on the all-time list.
Like Wasick, he has also focused more on the details in his shorter races, forgoing a traditional warm-up routine that he may have done for a 200m freestyle, instead performing a myriad of starts and turns to prepare himself for a 50m backstroke.
Carter, like Wasick, also looks re-born as he becomes a full-time sprinter. He still races the 100m events, racing the 100m butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics, where his highest finish was 22nd in the 100m freestyle.
Carter is happier swimming, not because his events are shorter but because he feels that he is finally reaching his true potential. And making money through the World Cups has helped as well.
“It’s fun. A lot more fun than training for the 200m,” Carter said of his second life as a sprinter. “I think that swimming in a way that is sustainable mentally and you’re happy…that’s when you can see your career stretch out in front of you. I know it’s not always happy days like winning and best times, but the 50s and being creative with it and really fun and really rewarding.”
Carter has taken a lot of pride in his overall World Cup title and knows how much his win means to Trinidad & Tobago, a nation with only one Olympic medal in swimming.
“I don’t think we ever won it. I know George (Bovell) came close,” Carter said of the importance of the win to his home nation.
“At world champs or Olympics, it’s who is the best on that day. The World Cup is who is the best over an extended period of time. It’s really a phenomenal feat and not just fast swimming but endurance and mental endurance. It is a big step for our sport and the Caribbean.”