Interview Numero 3 – Ismael Ortiz

Once upon a time when I was still a swimmer and training at Pine Crest, Ft Lauderdale (MUCH hotter than Aberdream!), I was fortunate enough to be training in one of the best facilities you could imagine….it was a public school as opposed to state school, so a lot of money went into the building of it.

It was JUST like the movies!


(one of the high school buildings)


(the football stadium)


(this is maybe one quarter of the gym..!)


(the diving pool)


(the short course pool – 25yds)


(the long course pool – 50m)

Anyway, while I was there, I was training with some pretty amazing guys! The head coach has been introduced into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame, a lead coach was a 2-time Olympian who once held an Olympic record in freestyle, the head dive coach was a high dive world record holder, and a few of the athletes were Olympians (my room-mate Catherine was not only a swimmer but also a L’oreal model) so it was one surreal experience!!

One of my best friends while I was there…Olympian Ismael Ortiz. He swam in the Athens Olympics for Panama (sprint freestyler) and, since then, became a country celebrity and was even on their version of DANCING WITH THE STARS!!!



(he is a MASSIVE poser 😉 but you have to have an ego to be a great sprinter, right?!)




SO, I Skyped him recently and told him he MUST answer some questions for me! Here they are:

What is your greatest sporting memory?

Has to be teaching a blind girl how to swim.


Favourite place you have trained/competed?

Favorite place was Chile because I made my Olympic cut there for 2008 (edit by Deb: Despite qualifying with a 22 second 50m freestyle, domestic political circumstances prevented him from competing in the Games, causing a small public outcry in Panama…)


What would a typical day have been like for you at the peak of your career?

Sh*t hahahhaah I wake up at 7, train for 2 or 3 hours, rest , lunch, rest, train for 2 or 3 hours, sleep hahahah not that complicated.


What was your diet like?

I eat everything because i burned it all on those days hahahaha!


Did you find time for a social life (I already know the answer to that from your mental nights out…I was sadly underage 😦   )?

At the beginning i didn’t  have any because I though it will distract me from my performance, but my nature is to be social so when i grew up i find time to perform and be social!


Any regrets?

Losing focus at college swimming but I learned from it, so i don’t know if it is a regret!


What were your pre-race superstitions?

No superstition i will always think im going to win no matter what hahahah 😉


3 pieces of advice you would give young athletes?

Follow your dreams

Everything is possible

Do not disappoint your parents!


What made you choose swimming?

I flooded the house when i was a kid and my parents decide to put me in swimming!


What was it like seeing your face on the billboards when you went home (Ish trained/lived/studied at Drury University in Missouri and didn’t go home often)?

It was fun but I actually see my face more on billboards now than back then because of DWTS hahahahah


Did you feel like you’d made it when you went on Dancing with the Stars?

DWTS was so much fun… But it was a full of emotions at the same time hahahah can you imagine?


Who/what inspires and motivates you?

There are different types of people that surround me. I try to learn from everyone!


What is on your bucket list (doesn’t have to be swimming related!)?

Hahahahahhaaha none
I will have to make one after this question!


Don’t you miss Debbie soooooo much?

I miss Debbie!! We Skype a lot and her accent is fun!!! (edit by Deb: he spent a good hour a day asking how to say different things in my accent! And he taught me some interesting phrases in Spanish too!)

There you have it! Despite being from Panama (not really known for it’s swimming), Ish’s crazy personality, generosity, intelligence (he conversed no problem with the Italians, Czechs, Brazilians and French athletes while they had to speak English to me…I hate how ignorant we are expecting everyone to speak English. Deduct cool points from Debster. Anyway…), speed and energy made him a celebrity over there! Not only that, but since retiring from the sport, he is now a successful artist!


(how cool is this?!)


(I got a good tan when I stayed there!)


(told you he was crazy!)



(and the above 2 are of my roomie, Cat!! A French-Canadian beauty!)

Ish I miss you (I’m sure my Mum does too since he made her chat to him on Skype to laugh at the Scottish twang!!) and Cat I miss you as well!!! It can be a small world but it can also be too big to organise reunions 😦 !!

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