To honor 40 years of swimming and diving at the University of Arkansas, we took some time to get in touch with some former swimmers and divers to reflect on their time at the UA and find out where they are now. Helen Gorman was a member of the swimming and diving team from 1994-97 where she specialized in the 200 breaststroke. She held the school record in the 200 breaststroke from 1995 until 2008. She was also named the State Swimmer of the Year in 1995. She majored in political science while a student-athlete at Arkansas. Gorman is still active in the swimming community, as she and her current teammates hold a 4×100 medley relay masters world record.
What made you decide to come to Arkansas and swim/dive for the Razorbacks?
I met Pete Ward, one of the UA coaches when I was swimming for Great Britain at World University Games in Buffalo, N.Y., and I liked him a lot. There were other Great Britian swimmers, including one of my best friends, at Arkansas already so it seemed like a good choice. Was it hard to leave home and come to Arkansas? How did your parents react?
No, not hard at all. I was 21 when I went so I was ready. My parents found it quite hard as my sister left to go to a University at the same time so they went from having two of us around to no kids in the house. It was hard to keep in touch as email was only invented in my final year, social media didn’t exist and I was never very good a phoning home! What was your most memorable moment while on the team?
There really isn’t just one memorable moment — but I remember a few races in particular and I loved all the Christmas training camps, but the biggest thing for me was the experience of college life in general and living in the USA. It was very different to home, but also very similar because I still spent four hours a day swimming and hanging out with swimmers. How did being a member of the team help you through college?
All of my best friends were swimmers and divers. It felt like we were part of a big family, and we looked out for each other. What was your biggest individual and team accomplishment while at Arkansas?
The school record 200 breaststroke set in 1995 and wasn’t broken until 2008 (I think). I made it to NCAAs in Austin, Texas, in 1995. I remember being part of lots of awesome relay teams. While you were on the team can you discuss the impact it had on you while you were in school?
Being so far from home it was great to be part of something. I was very well looked after by teammates’ families at Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. I made some great friends, who I have seen and kept in touch with since leaving. It was also nice to support the other athletics teams and have a real sense of pride for the Razorbacks. How did being a swimmer/diver at Arkansas help/impact you later on in your life?
Having had the experience of going to school in the USA has helped me massively. It gave me a lot of confidence and now I work with a lot of international clients in the States and it’s cool to be able to tell them that I was a Razorback! Who was your coach at the time and what was he/she like?
I had a few coaches, it was a transitional time for UA! First off Pete Ward, who I loved working with, then Martin Smith, who was the head coach at the time and then Anne Goodman James in my final year. What are you doing now and where do you live?
I run a sports marketing company in Nottingham, UK. Amongst several clients, I work with blueseventy (swimwear), who are based in Seattle, and British Triathlon — so I was lucky enough to be on the finishing line of the triathlon at the London 2012 Olympic Games. If there is anything interesting you would like to add please do so below.
I joined a swim club again last year, 13 years after I retired. I love being part of a team again, and it’s a really diverse club with swimmers aged 11 to 45 in my squad. Last year we set a new world masters record in the 4×100 Medley relay, and I broke six British masters records in breaststroke and medley. I went to the World Masters Championships in Italy but got myself disqualified! I regularly swim against former UA teammate Nicola Atkinson, we have been pushing each other to break records in the 200 and 400IM and have another race against each other in March.
Additional 40 years material:
Tara Blankenship (Reynolds)