Kasia Wasick can swim 50m in 24.17 seconds. In case your jaw isn’t on the floor, that’s blitz fast. Wasick is a four-time Olympian, a multiple European medalist, Polish national champion in the 50m freestyle, an NCAA champion, plus she swims professionally in the ISL for the Toronto Titans—and most of that happened after she retired.
In 2016, after a shoulder injury, Wasick took some time off to recover but with university graduation, a job offer at a clinical research institute, a move to Las Vegas from California, and planning her wedding, life took Wasick in a different direction. “It happened,” she says simply. “I didn’t plan on retiring but life moved me away.” With three Olympics campaigns, NCAA titles, and several records to her name, she could rest easy on her laurels. She got married, started working, and moved on with her life until, in 2018, some of her friends were coming to Las Vegas for a masters swim meet. “I signed up so I could see my friends,” she says. “I was so happy. Seeing my friends, being around swimmers, and I love racing. I swam the 50 free and the 50 fly and for not swimming for a few years, I did really well. Actually, I won overall, even the guys,” she laughs. It wasn’t just that she had won and seen her friends, Wasick had been reacquainted with swimming and she realized the love was still there.
During the meet, Wasick was approached by a local coach from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who invited her to join a professional team he was starting. “The next day I went to train with a masters team to get in shape [before joining the team]. For one month I went to the masters team and they made me fall in love with swimming again. I met so many good people who inspired me. I would set my alarm for 5am and wake up before and be so happy,” she beams.
After two years of retirement, she officially rejoined the world of swimming. Wasick improved quickly and her and her husband starting talking about Wasick quitting her job to swim full time. “I had no support but he was on board,” she says. “But he was asking me: what’s the goal? I want to make my fourth Olympic team, I told him. But what’s the goal, he asked again. He said if you’re going to the next Olympics, you have to think you’re going to win. I started to laugh but he put the idea in my head.”
Training at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, she explains how swimming was different this time. More mature and fueled by pure joy, Wasick says she wanted to be “on top of her game” every day. “Be serious and push myself everyday in practice so I don’t have any regrets,” she says. Within a year, Wasick was swimming faster than ever and by 2020 she was competing in the TYR Pro Series, the ISL, and made the A cut to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics by setting a Polish record in the 50m free. Even through the pandemic without the guidance of a coach, Wasick says she “stayed on the goal,” swimming in her friend’s backyard pool.
"I made my first Olympic final at the age of 29. It gave me a kick. Everything is possible. Even if people don’t believe in you—you’re good but you’re never going to be the best—that’s not true. You can put the work in and be the best.”
As competition returned and the Olympics were going ahead, Wasick says she was a completely different swimmer. “I was ready. I had all my best times. I had the second fastest time in the world in the 50 freestyle short course. I knew I was going to the Olympics not just to participate and have a great experience. I was going to be the best swimmer there.”
“I missed a medal by eleven 100ths of a second and didn’t do my best time,” Wasick says. “I was upset. I woke up with the goal of Tokyo for so many years. You put your heart into it and you have to be upset but otherwise I was really proud. I made my first Olympic final at the age of 29. It gave me a kick. Everything is possible. Even if people don’t believe in you—you’re good but you’re never going to be the best—that’s not true. You can put the work in and be the best.”
Wasick doesn’t regret her retirement. The time away gave her a positive and joyful perspective that powers her through every tough training session, at every competition, and for every dream she has including making her fifth Olympics. “I realized the whole journey is amazing. The chance I have to swim, to meet amazing people, enjoy time in the pool, what I’m doing, working with my body, and having fun. I want to enjoy it while it lasts.”