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Rutter Racing into the F-Team

15 March 2019

Jonathan Rutter
USA Swimmer Jonathan Rutter dives into the F-Team.

Former Yale University swimmer, Jonathan Rutter is one of our newest F-Teamers and is ready for another big year of racing. Although he was raised in the US Jonathan competes internationally for New Zealand, most recently at the FINA World Cup alongside fellow Kiwi F-Teamers Daniel Hunter and George Schroder.

After finishing up his degree at Yale, Jonathan has moved to Christiansburg, Virginia for the next stage of his swimming and academic career. We talked to Jonathan about his racing up until this point, what it was like training at a US college and his next big event.

1. How old were you when you started swimming and what got you into racing?

I had just turned seven when I started swimming in Cincinnati, Ohio. I think swimming was just another sport my parents signed me up for in a desperate effort to find something I was good at. Once I realized that racing meant staying up late and winning ribbons, I became marginally more enthusiastic about swimming. My parents were significantly more enthusiastic about my swimming than other sports because I was less awful. They kept signing the paperwork and paying the bills, and here I am today.

2. How did training as part of the Yale University swim team compare to other clubs you've trained at?

Training at Yale was certainly more difficult than what I'd done before, with longer sessions and higher volume, but the biggest change came from the team environment. I'd never trained with people who could keep up with me in difficult sets, let alone beat me to the extent that some of my new teammates could. Furthermore, every race and every meet took on a new importance - winning as a team mattered as it never had before. With this new environment I learned how to swim fast and race the guys next to me every single day, not just at one or two meets a year.

3. What did a typical week at Yale University look like for you? How often did you have to train and how did you balance that with your studies?

Training at Yale changed a little bit each year. In my final year, we were in the water eight times per week, with doubles on Monday and Wednesday. Mondays and Saturdays were typically very challenging aerobically, while Fridays were generally race pace sets. We lifted weights on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and did roughly half an hour of dryland work on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The middle of each day was taken up by class and lab work for one of my two senior thesis projects. Evenings were typically spent studying late at the library or at home, except for Fridays which were notoriously unproductive.

Jonathan Rutter
Geared up and ready to go.

4. How did you find life as a student-athlete at a US university?

Student-athlete life is extremely challenging, but I did not find it significantly more challenging than I had in high school. Balancing training and studies has been a way of life for as long as I can remember. The most difficult part of it for me has been appreciating life along the way. Each year was over before I knew it, though by the end I think I'd learned to look up from my work and enjoy life a bit more.

5. Now that you are graduated where are you training?

I'm training at Virginia Tech in Christiansburg, Virginia. I moved here because I was accepted into Pinnacle Racing VT, a pro training group under Coach Sergio Lopez Miro. It's a very international group that includes a few Olympians and is breaststroke-heavy, so I feel very privileged to be a part of it.

6. Last year you raced at the FINA World Cup events in Beijing, Tokyo and Singapore ? How did it feel to represent New Zealand at those events?

It's a huge honour to represent New Zealand at any international event. I was raised in the states, but always taught to identify as a Kiwi. Racing with the silver fern on my cap seems to validate that part of who I am - it symbolises a nation, a culture, and my own personal history. I was especially proud to compete at the World Cup in Singapore, because my mum's side of the family lives there. At that meet it felt like all these pieces of my background fell into place.

7. What's your biggest achievement to date?

This is a difficult question. One of my most significant achievements was graduating from Yale in the top 10% of my class. I feel like in doing so, I beat the odds by training as an elite athlete while also remaining competitive at the highest level on the academic stage. I am proud that I did this while pursuing two majors because despite the pressures of school and swimming I did not lose sight of what I cared about.

Jonathan Rutter
Jonathan powering through his breaststroke at the Pro Swim Series in Des Moines.

8. What's your favourite stroke and why?

My favourite stroke is breaststroke, but really just 200 speed breaststroke. My breaststroke kick has always been one of my greatest strengths as a swimmer, and there is no feeling I love more than gliding between strokes without losing speed. I have a slightly love-hate relationship with this event because how it feels can be very erratic depending on my condition and what parts of my stroke I'm focusing on. But when it works it feel effortless and like I'm in total control.

9. What's the next big event on your radar?

I'm competing at the Pro Swim Series in Richmond, Virginia in the middle of April. My Pinnacle Racing teammates and a few New Zealanders will be there, so that should be pretty cool.

10. Do you have any pre-race rituals that you swear by?

I am in the process of changing a few of my pre-race rituals as I try to break new ground with my swimming. However, a few rituals have remained. I generally do a version of the same warm-up routine I've done since middle school, behind the blocks I stretch my legs, arms, and jump up and down to try to loosen up. What perhaps sets me apart from many other swimmers is that I always take a few practice strokes of whatever race I'm doing, at the rhythm I'm trying to hit when I start swimming. Finally, on the blocks, I whip my arms just a tiny bit to open up my back.

Jonathan Rutter
Jonathan with his chicken, his pluckiest travel companion.

11. Tell us about your chicken. Does it have a name? What inspired you to start taking photos of it?

My dad got the chicken for Christmas a couple years ago. A few months later I found it and started taking Snapchats with it. My friends said, "This is annoying, you won't bring it back to Yale." So I stole it from my dad and I've had it with me ever since. It has no name.

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