- December 30, 2021
Michaela Mattes is a junior swimmer at Cardinal Mooney High. She won a gold medal in the 500-yard freestyle (4:45.51) and a silver medal in the 200-yard individual medley (2:00.71) at the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1A state championship meet, held Nov. 6 at Sailfish Splash Waterpark and Aquatics Center in Stuart. Mattes, who is verbally committed to Florida, has now won the 500-yard freestyle two years in a row.
When did you start swimming?
I started swimming competitively when I was about 9. I grew up in the pool, but before then I didn't really do anything, just splashed around. I always loved watching the Olympics. That's what got me interested in swimming for real.
What is your favorite event?
Either the 400 individual medley or the 400 freestyle, I can't pick. I just have a good feel for those events when I am in the water. I know what I have to do.
What was your biggest challenge this year?
I actually was in the hospital early this summer, before the Olympic Trials in June. I had a plural effusion, which basically means I had water around my lungs. The doctors don't know what caused it but they said it should not recur. It was a scary event in my life but I kept working. The doctors first said I wouldn't be able to swim again for three months. I defied the odds (laughs). I was back swimming again in two weeks and able to compete in the Trials and the high school season and everything.
Was it difficult to swim after that?
I won't lie, it was rough. I was only able to do shorter training sessions. I wasn't able to train for the mile or the 800 like I normally would. We had the Florida Summer Senior Championships here in July. I didn't get the times I wanted to get there, but I was able to remake some of my Trials cuts, so I was happy about that. It showed how hard and how consistently I had been working to get back to form. After the Senior Championships I felt like, 'OK, I got this.' I felt like me again.
At the state meet, when did you know had the 500 freestyle won?
Honestly, I knew before the prelims even happened. I was just pumped for that race. It's always been one of my best events. It's easy to find a groove and it's my shortest sprint event since I'm a distance swimmer. It's just fun.
Why commit to Florida?
The coaches and the girls. Everyone was super welcoming whenever I went to visit. It showed me that I can be the best person I can be (at Florida) in and out of the pool. And, obviously, having Anthony Nesty, an Olympic assistant coach, as my future head coach is awesome. I'm excited about that, especially with all the success the team had in distance events in Tokyo.
What are your current goals?
With the Winter Junior Championships next month (in Greensboro, North Carolina), I'd like to come home a champion in a couple events. I hope my team (Sarasota Sharks) can pull some wins in some relays. We're juiced up about that. And then I have World Championship Trials in April (also in Greensboro), so I'm hoping that me and some teammates will qualify for Russia then.
What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is pasta. There's just so many different combinations. It's what I eat the night before big races.
What is the best TV show you've watched recently?
I started watching the show "Miraculous" on Netflix and I'm pretty obsessed with it lately.
Which superpower would you pick?
I would pick teleportation. I'd use it to go from my room to the kitchen for snacks without having to walk 10 feet.
What are your hobbies?
Usually I'm just watching something with my cat. Her name's Luna. She's a tuxedo cat.
What is the best advice you have received?
The past couple months I've been getting nervous before races because I want to perform well with all the hard work I've been doing. My dad (Jason Mattes) always tells me to trust my training and I really did that at states. I tried not to think about it and to swim how I normally swim. So shout out to my dad for that.
"Finish this sentence: Michaela Mattes is …"
… Outgoing. I'm happy to be around pretty much everyone. I love my friends and family and coaches. Everyone always tells me I'm in a happy mood.