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The birth of a Haitian Olympian Swimmer Naomy Grand’Pierre

Honestly the 1st video I ever saw of her was on Facebook, when Naomy talked  about her preparation to the Olympic . After that I kept on finding a lot of articles written about Naomy Grand’Pierre the 1st female ever to represent Haiti in the Olympics. I was like who is she? I need to find more about her, and I did lol. In all honesty the Olympics are  not my thing but during the olympics I did try to keep up with everything that was going on. I was mostly proud of Naomy Grand’Pierre for becoming the 1st ever female Haitian swimmer to represent us in the Olympics. Watching her coming in 2nd place was really gratifying, I was like what a great way to end such amazing journey. It’s was really great for a change to see Haiti being represented in a positive light. Can I just say how gorgeous, talented, humble this girl is ? I mean, she graciously accepted to be feature in my blog right after coming back from her Rio long but beautiful journey. So I hope you’ll found her story as amazing as I did.

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Who is Naomy Grand ‘Pierre?
I am 19 years old and a Second Year Psychology Major at the University of Chicago. I was born in Montreal, CA to Haitian Parents (Mom: Pestel, Haiti & Dad: St. Marc, Haiti). I began swimming competitively when I was 10 years old and have been swimming ever since. My hobby is photography and I love the fashion industry. After graduating college, I’d like to go into Business Marketing and Advertising.

How did it feel to be the first Haitian female swimmer representing in the 2016 Olympics?
Being the first ever female swimmer to represent Haiti in the Olympics feels empowering. It’s amazing to know that I have helped pioneer a sport in Haiti and I am inspiring young Haitian children to take on their dreams. To have competed in the sport that I love while proudly wearing the colors of the Haitian flag is a gift and I am so proud to be a part of Haiti’s history. I cannot wait to continue using this platform to uplift Haiti and the sport of swimming to new heights.

What made you decide to become a professional swimmer?
After having experienced what it’s like to compete on an international stage for Haiti, I decided that after I graduate college, I would like to devote my time to competing professionally for Haiti leading up to Tokyo 2020.
I know that you are attending University Chicago, what is your major and why?
I want to go into business marketing and advertising after graduating so I am majoring in Psychology and will be taking Marketing Classes at the Booth School of Business through the UCIB program on campus.

Even with having such a wonderful but yet demanding career, what made you continue to go to college?
I think it is important for me to finish college despite having the opportunity to just stop and swim for Haiti because I do need to have a fallback plan once swimming is over. I can’t swim forever and once my career as a swimmer is over, it will be important for me to have finished college and have something else to do. My parents have made me see the importance of education so although I will continue to competing for Haiti, I will also be attending the University of Chicago and swimming for the varsity team.

How do you manage school and training and does it sometime interfere with your personal life?
One of the skills swimming teaches you very early on is how to have good time management. Because you have practice both before and after class, 20+ hours of your week is taken away. So as a student-athlete, you have no choice but to use the rest of your time as efficiently as possible. For me, balancing academics and swimming has a lot to do with priorities. I often make to do lists and schedules to help me organize the things I have to do by importance. I’ve found that to be the most useful way of making sure my priorities are correct and that balance between swimming and academics is met. With that being said, school and training take up the majority of my time so it does end up interfering with my personal life. There are a lot of things that I can no longer do just because I don’t have the time; it’s just one of the sacrifices I have to make.
While I was training at school, there were a lot of parties and events I had to skip out on. Even when I get to go home, time with family and friends is cut short because of training. With training and school at the top priority, my personal life is put on hold sometimes.

For how long do you usually train each day or a week?
I train anywhere between 3 to 5.5 hours a day; it depends on the schedule and whether or not I am in school. If I have a doubles day (swim practice in the morning and afternoon), then I swim 2 hours in the morning, have a 1 and a half hour weight room session then swim for another 2 hours in the evening. Light days call for just one 2hr swim session and maybe a 1.5 hour lift. During the summer, I have more time to focus on training while during the school year, time is a lot stricter.

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Do you ever feel like you’re missing out on a “normal college student life”?
Definitely. Training for the Olympics during Spring Quarter at UChicago was really tough. Spring quarter is awesome because the Varsity Swim season is over so you get a lot more free time compared to Autumn and Winter Quarters. You get to sleep in every morning (since there is no early morning practices), enjoy the warm weather outside and attend new events that practice would normally stop you from attending. A lot of my swim teammates would go play basketball, do Zumba or yoga with the new free time. I still had practices to go to so I wasn’t able to go. Even small things like eating lunch or dinner with all my friends was difficult because my schedule was very individualized. I knew that if I was just a normal student, I would be able to enjoy all of these things but because I was training, I had to keep my priorities in check. There were a lot of parties and events I had to skip out on but I was able to make time for a few social events and I made sure to make the best of it!! The sacrifices I made were definitely worth it in the long run though. Looking back, being able to compete in the Olympics made missing out on the “normal college student life” ok.

Were the Olympics always a dream of yours or did it somehow just come about?
The Olympics has always been a dream of mine. When I started competing at 10 and I learned the Olympics served as the pinnacle of a career in the sport, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I remember when I was 15, I got selected to go to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a National Diversity Select Camp and I thought this could really happen; making an Olympic Team definitely seemed probable. But after getting injured running track my sophomore year of high school, my times stopped improving and I didn’t think the Olympics were an option for me anymore. I stopped focusing on the Olympics and made swimming in college my new priority. When the door opened up for me to compete for Haiti in the Olympics, my childhood dream—which had been put on a 3 year hold— was reawakened and it became my new focus.

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What was it like when you found out that you were going to be in the Olympics?
Relief is the best word I can use to describe what it was like to find out I was going to be competing in the Olympics. The qualification process had been extremely difficult and the journey to the Olympics was quite a rollercoaster. I was told I was going for sure one day, then the next, I’d be told the procedure had changed and I had no longer qualified. It was very stressful emotionally. For the longest time, I was training without even knowing what was necessary for me to qualify. When I learned I was going to the Olympics for sure, for sure, I was so relieved. All the sacrifices and training had not been in vain. The risks I had taken weren’t for nothing and everything had worked out. I was so proud for persevering through and doing something that had never been done before. My parents and I were breaking barriers and I was so glad our hard work had paid off.

Out of all the people in your life, who has impacted you the most?
My parents. They are truly the most inspiring people I have ever encountered. I would not be half of the person I am today without them; I would not have accomplished what I have so far if it weren’t for them. Their determination, work ethic, desire to achieve and work excellently has impacted me profoundly. They have taught me to dream big and always reach for my goals. They have proved to me that nothing is impossible as they continue to do impossible things. My parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti with nothing. They are now are both self-employed and are raising 5 kids who all attend private school and swim. Everything about their lives screams impossible yet they wake up every day with a smile on their face and make it seem easy. My parents are incredible and it’s seeing them work so hard every day that pushes me to be the best I can be.

What was it like being a part of something so amazing? I’m curious to know what did you experience and how was the experience being in Rio?
It was very surreal. I kept having to remind myself that everything was real. “Naomy, you are at the Olympics. You are in Brazil. There are other Olympic athletes around you.” It all seemed too good to be true. Like a dream. The whole experience was incredible. Being able to compete for Haiti in the 50m free was so much fun. I had a really great time. My time in the village was also amazing. Trading pins with athletes from other countries made meeting people really easy. My favorite moment was opening ceremonies and my favorite location in the village was the dining hall because that was where all the Olympians would go to eat. It was so incredible. I believe that the Olympics is the most beautiful event the world has to offer and the fact that I was a part of that just blows my mind.

Did you visit any historic places or monuments?
So the majority of the time I was in Rio was spent training and preparing for my race. I did get two days off before I went back home. I was able to visit Copacabana Beach and The Christ the Redeemer Statue. It was really great!

How did it feel to come in second place?
I was a little disappointed at first because I really wanted to win my heat. But I quickly brushed the disappointment aside. I was proud of myself for finishing the race, making history for Haiti and just competing in the Olympics. I had a lot of fun. I am also proud of coming in second because I knew the Haitian flag came up at my lane during the broadcast so Haiti was given a spotlight! I also talked to the girl who came in first in my heat and she was a refugee swimming under the Olympic Flag so I was really glad she won!

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So now that you’re done with the Olympics, what’s next?
Up next is my trip to Haiti! I am going back for a few days for a few press conferences, meetings, swim clinics, and of course, family time at the beach.
I have also been at the Olympic Training center finishing out my 3 month training scholarship. I will be going back to the University of Chicago late September and will be swimming on their varsity team. School will be the number one priority when I’m back, but I will still be working competing for Haiti and with the Haitian Swim Federation.
Of course long term, the number one goal is for me to qualify for the Olympics in 2020. I also want to grow the Haitian National Swim Team so that by 2020, I won’t be competing in the Olympics alone. Hopefully we will have a relay team competing. While training, I hope to continue to encourage other Haitians to learn how to swim as we grow awareness of swimming in Haiti and increase participation in the sport. And lastly, I hope to encourage the Haitian Swim Federation to reopen up the 50m pool in Carrefour, Haiti

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What are two things people would be surprised to know about you?
Something that may be surprising is that I kept a journal during my journey to Rio manage my emotions better. It helped me stay sane during the rollercoaster of an experience to write out the events of every day. I have over 150 entries.
Another surprising thing about me is after 19 years, I am not lost anymore. Going to the Bahamas helped me find out where I belong. Having been raised in the United States by Haitian parents and being born in Canada made it really hard for me to know where exactly I fit in. I was born in Montreal and spoke French but I wasn’t really Canadian because I didn’t live there. I lived in the united States but spoke French at home and only knew about Haitian culture so I didn’t relate to the Americans I was surrounded with. I was raised Haitian but never lived in Haiti or got to actually live the Caribbean experience. I was lost. Being able to go to the meet in the Bahamas and be surrounded by other Caribbean Islanders helped me finally learn where I fit in. I am so proud to be Haitian and Caribbean. I finally understand where I belong.

Other than swimming, what else do you enjoy doing?
I love photography, hanging out with my family and going out with friends

Have you ever visited Haiti before, if yes how was the visit?
Yes, I’ve been to Haiti and I LOVED it. My family and I got to stay where both my parents are from and then we travelled all over the island. I thought it was beautiful and quite different from the way the media always describes it. My experience in Haiti has also made me really passionate about changing people’s perception of the island.
I am actually headed back to Haiti in a few days with my dad.

It’s a tradition to ask at the end of the interview, if you have one last thought, or message for the readers?
Of course I’d like to start by thanking all the amazing people who have helped me get to where I am now. I am thankful for my parents, family and friends. My coaches. Everyone in Haiti, the Haitian Diaspora and communities in Atlanta, Chicago and Montreal and all of the people who have shown interest in this story and want to be a part of the next step. I am here to listen and hear what people have to say. And I am also here to invite people to join the journey to Tokyo 2020 by either joining the Haitian Swim Team or supporting it in anyway possible!
Nap Mache Pran Yo Tokyo 2020!

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You make me want to take swimming lessons and to actually become a decent swimmer lol. I am really an awe by this young girl for all she has accomplished and  all she will continue to do so. Her humbleness is very nice to see. I admire people who works hard and that never gives up. Naomy, Lady Sergine is totally with you & wish you the best in all of your future endeavors!! Thank you for allowing me to feature you in the blog.

You guys can keep up with her through IG @naomygp; & Facebook Naomy Grand’Pierre (naomygpofficial ). All the Pictures feature on the blog are from Naomy.

Xoxo

Lady Sergine 🌹💋

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