EXPLORING THE LIVES, LOVES, AND INTERESTS OF #MINORHISTORIANS

KIM VANDENBERG

Kim is a writer, artist, and Olympic swimmer living in north Brooklyn. She develops content for Excelle Sports, a media company in New York covering women’s athletics. She teaches swimming in clinics and in private lessons, and she strives to find a healthy balance in life, both in and out of the pool. 

[caption: Kim in Greenpoint, enjoying a cortado from Ovenly.]

In her own words:

“I'm originally from a small town in the Bay Area, Northern California. I grew up with a backyard pool and spent summers racing my brothers and friends. Some of my earliest memories are in the pool being surrounded by my favorite people. I think that's why I love the sport so much.

It's wild to think that I have been competing in swimming for over 25 years of my life. I qualified for my first Olympic trials at age 16.

[caption: Kim’s interest in photography puts her on both sides of the camera. Her apartment is filled with prints from photo shoots with friends. Above, an underwater portrait of Kim by Lance W. Clayton.]
Ten years ago, I was in full time training again for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. I was working out up to five times a day, a couple times in the water, along with weight training, yoga, and dance. I qualified for the relay and we won a bronze medal in the 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay.
But making the Olympic Team was bittersweet for me because I missed the team in my favorite event, the butterfly. I was devastated to miss my best event but equally thrilled to be on the Olympic team for the relay. I had no regrets because I gave it my all and feel so thankful that I even had that opportunity. I don't define myself by the success I had in swimming. I like to define myself by how I reacted to failure.
[large quote: I learned more about myself by failing than I ever did by winning.]

I've been competing for the New York Athletic Club for years now. It’s a private club, founded in 1868. It was once an all-men’s club but in the past few decades they have welcomed women. One day, I hope to see a woman as the President of the NYAC. For me, it's been a privilege to compete for a club with such a rich history, but especially as a female swimmer.

I studied history, specifically World War II, at UCLA and I find that time period incredibly fascinating. History repeats itself and that is clear today, as we live in a world filled with division, hate, and violence. I think human nature in general fascinates me, the capacity people have to both destroy each other and to love one another is remarkable. My curiosity in that is never-ending.

After the Olympics, I trained in Europe for a few years, competing throughout France, Sweden, and Italy. I moved to Brooklyn to explore my passions outside of swimming. I am still highly involved in the swimming world, but I have dedicated more time to exploring other passions like writing, art, and meditation. I love the creative energy here. I find it constantly inspiring to be surrounded by such talent. I’m always fascinated to hear people's stories. 
My perspective has changed over the years. I’ve been searching for more balance in my life in terms of training, work, and travel. I would like to spend less time on airplanes and subways. I want to get back into nature. 
I try and stay healthy by getting enough sleep, ideally 8 hours, but it's not always possible every night. I stay hydrated. I eat relatively clean - lots of veggies, eggs, and fish. I stay active with swimming and yoga. I feel like I’m rewiring my brain and body for different expectations. I have explored different forms of meditation which have helped me destress and relax. I like to host meditation gatherings with my meditation teacher Ralph de la Rosa - on the weekends a bunch of my friends will come over and we meditate on the floor of my apartment.
[caption: Healthy bites at Littleneck Outpost.] 
[large quote: More and more, I am gravitating towards the creative side of myself.]
I have always loved to write. I go to poetry readings when I have time - usually Dia:Chelsea's Readings in Contemporary Poetry. I like the honesty of the space. Everyone is always in a rush in New York and constantly on-the-go so, to me, it's peaceful and inspiring to be in a room full of (mostly) strangers sharing emotion and listening to beautiful words. Most recently, I enjoyed the work of Sylvia Mae Gorelick and Cole Swensen.
[caption: Kim in Under The Blue by Rebecca Handler.]
I'm always exploring photography in some capacity. I enjoy taking photographs of my friends and setting up photoshoots in Brooklyn. Every summer, I work with a conceptual photographer Rebecca Handler on underwater photography and together we have shot some beautiful underwater art. 

Art has always been a good balance to my athletic side. It’s therapy to me!

The past ten years have been a rollercoaster of intense experiences, so I am just trying to find calm in the chaos.”
WHO’S YOUR HERO? 
Junko Tabei - the first woman to climb Mount Everest and ascend all seven summits by climbing the highest peak on every continent. The ultimate badass.  
DREAM DINNER GUEST? 
Louis CK
FAVORITE ARTIST? 
Helmut Newton
LAST BOOK YOU READ? 
The Spy by Paulo Coelho
DRINK OF CHOICE? 
Fernet, rocks.
[caption: At Glasserie in Greenpoint.]
Kim is an ambassador for Up2Us, a sports-based youth development program dedicated to transforming the lives of inner city children by providing coaches and mentors and to Kids Play International, a non-profit that uses sport to promote gender equity in countries impacted by genocide. She is also a mentor with Rise Elite Athletes, a unique program that connects Olympians with athletes through individualized mentoring. 

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