Gergely Csurka, FINA Media Committee Member

One of the best Finnish swimmers, Hanna-Maria Seppala just said good bye to competitive swimming, here, in front of our eyes. After 19 years in international swimming, a fine career ended in Windsor.

It was the final touch, or better to say, the last one at the wall, in the morning heats, as the anchor of the Finnish medley relay.

The effort – 53.62 – is still a sound one, belongs to the better splits in the entire field, though the quartet was not fast enough to have another swim in the finals. So that was it: a final wave to the crowd as the presenter also announced the legend’s farewell... Then, the last walk back to the team preparation area, changing the dress, getting off that tight suit for the last time after a swim at an international event... And... Tears? Yes, of course.

“At the pool it was just the usual finish. Then, in the backstage I had a talk to my teammates. At the end we were crying... You know, we are girls after all...” she said in the iZone, now smiling.

Seppala’s journey was full of success.

“The best moment was my gold medal in Barcelona 2013, in the 100m free. Becoming a world champion was an amazing experience. Another one was my fourth place finish in Beijing, at the Olympics. I missed the podium by just a small margin, still, it was a great success for me. And my dream came true four years later when I could bear my country’s flag at the opening ceremony in London 2012.”

And we could add the loads of silverware Hanna-Maria collected at the short-course events, her specialty was the 100m medley, a typical 25m pool event where she earned silvers at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in 2006 and 2008 and had a four-year winning streak at the s/c Europeans between 2005 and 2008.

Now comes the hardest part, the transition period. Swimmers are told to be living in a kind of bubble, where everything is planned beforehand, practices at home, then in training camps, strict frames, starting then, finishing then, meet at this time, travelling to competitions, warm-up, heats, warm-down, lunch, rest, bus to the pool, and so on... Now, all of a sudden, you are no longer part of that, the regime is up to you.

Actually, I don’t have any worries, though it’s going to be definitely strange to be outside of these frames” Hanna-Maria says.

“I finished my studies in physiotherapy and sport management so I have things to do, in fact my calendar is full until next May.”

Well, a good physiotherapist or a manager could be any time welcome beside the Finnish national team...

“This is in my plans, though I would think of something different, not just plain physiotherapy or other kind of trainings, even though I have the qualification to do those as well. I’d like to help our swimmers in other ways, too, and hope that sometimes I can return to all these meets with the Finnish team.”

Well, Hanna-Maria, can’t wait for the moment we see you again at a FINA event!