Most collegiate swimmers’ careers end at their respective institutions, whether they want it to or not.
Throughout her prep and college career, Beata Nelson has proven she is not like most swimmers.
The 2016 Verona Area High School graduate and former Wisconsin standout will begin her professional swimming career this fall in the International Swimming League.
The club Nelson signed with has not announced its roster yet, and she is not even allowed to tell family and friends which club she signed with. She does know it will be one of the four U.S. clubs in the Americas Conference — New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington D.C.
Toronto is also part of the Americas Conference. The European-Asian Conference is composed of teams in London, Paris, Budapest, Rome and Tokyo.
“It was similar to the college recruiting process where coaches reach out and offer spots on their team,” Nelson said. “Once the NCAA’s were canceled, the offers came flooding in. I talked with a lot of managers, coaches and athletes and finally came to a decision.”
The ISL was established in 2019 and typically has its season split into a regular championship and a final meet. Clubs earn points from participating in matches and the four clubs with the highest number of points advance to the final.
Each club can have a maximum roster of 32 athletes. Twenty-eight are permitted to compete – 12 men and 12 women can swim individual races, while two men and two women can be used as “relay only” athletes. Meets are swam in short-course meters, not long-course meters.
“That’s great for me because I’m a better short-course swimmer,” Nelson said. “It’s an opportunity for me to make some money, travel and race against some of the best international athletes that I wouldn’t see unless I made a senior national team.”
The ISL is in the process of finalizing its “Solidarity Program” — a six-week stretch of training and competition from Oct. 14 to Nov. 17 with Australia’s Gold Coast likely to be the location.
The league announced in April that it will pay all contracted athletes a guaranteed $1,500 a month from Sept. 1 to July 1, 2021 with $11 million set aside to cover wages, bonuses, ambassador payments and prize money in the condensed season.
The payments will extend through the rescheduled date of June 13, 2021 for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials. The trials were originally scheduled to take place last month, but the International Olympic Committee postponed the Tokyo Summer Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nelson said she still has the goal of representing the U.S. at the Games, which the IOC rescheduled for July 23-Aug. 8, 2021.
UW career capped in style
The NCAA announced March 12 that all remaining winter and spring championships were canceled because of the pandemic, six days before the women’s swimming national championships were scheduled to begin.
Nelson was the reigning NCAA Female Swimmer of the Year after winning three individual national titles in 2019 and had her sights set on more hardware as a senior.
The former Verona star won four titles and six total medals at the 2020 Big Ten Championships, making her a nine-time conference champion. She qualified for the national championships in the 200-yard individual medley, 100 backstroke, 200 back, 400 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay.
Despite her collegiate career coming to an abrupt end, Nelson was a seven-time All-American and six-time honorable mention All-American. She was one of 33 national semifinalists for the AAU James E. Sullivan Award, given annually to the nation’s best amateur athlete.
In May, Nelson and men’s track and field athlete Zach Lorbeck were Wisconsin’s Big Ten Medal of Honor recipients for the 2019-20 school year. The conference’s most prestigious award honors those who excel academically and athletically.
“Over the years, I’ve watched UW athletes I looked up to win the award,” Nelson said. “It’s really cool because I’m proud to have competed in the Big Ten. I know I’m biased, but I believe it’s the best conference in the country.”
Nelson finished with a 3.7 cumulative grade-point average and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. The 4.0 GPA she posted in her final semester helped Wisconsin’s women’s swimming and diving team finish the spring semester with a 3.66 team GPA.
Nelson was an Academic All-Big Ten honoree in her final three years in Madison. She also served as the Vice President of Wisconsin’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as a senior.