Larson’s grandmother, Joan Davidson, said her granddaughter is not just a champion, but a sweet, compassionate girl.
The Larson family lived in her grandparents’ home while the couple was serving an LDS Church mission in Africa, and Davidson said Larson became well-known among the ward as she regularly visited five different elderly women who lived alone, just to sit and talk with them.
Larson also recently worked as a lifeguard at a swimming pool in an Indian reservation and would spend extra time with the kids because, her grandma said, she knew how much it meant to them.
Larson’s mother, Marni Jo, said her daughter’s success has come from her strength, her drive and the influence of her first coach in Arizona, Brad Hering. “He opened her mind to her possibilities,” Marni Jo said. “He taught her to break down the walls of ‘I can’t.’”
Marni Jo said when her daughter first started training she would whine and moan, and the minute she said “I can’t,” Hering would pull her out of the water and make her do push-ups. Eventually, Larson stopped saying it and realized she could do whatever she wanted.
Though Larson has only been swimming for the last three years, her accomplishment has come at no small price.
“Her freshman year she would call me from Texas A&M and say, ‘Mom, I can’t lift my hand up to eat my food,’” Marni Jo said. “The height of training is very hard for her, but the glory at the end of swimming and winning makes it all worth it.”
Larson has to keep a strict schedule. She is careful with her diet and takes good care of her body.
“It’s hard to train in general,” Larson said. “I wake up, eat, swim, sleep, then wake up, eat, swim and sleep again. I stay in on weekends to get enough recovery and rest.”
Larson said this determination came from her first real job at a Subway sandwich shop when she was 16, where the restaurant trainer had a big influence on her.
“She was really hard on me and never let me slack off,” she said. “I worked so hard because I wanted to pay for my braces. I would work as many hours as I could trying to get a raise. I think that is where my work ethic started.”
Her advice to young girls in pursuit of their dreams is to do what makes them happy.
“If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, then why are you doing it?” she asked. “You only get one life on this earth. If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, go do something else.”
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