BUDAPEST, Hungary — Missouri rising senior Hannah Stevens has found a new favorite method of transportation: water taxi.
On her first full day in Budapest, the site of the 2017 FINA World Championships, Stevens and American teammates Katie Ledecky and Regan Smith discovered the taxi service when commuting to the Team USA hotel from practice. The trio hopped on the boat and relaxed for 30 minutes as they drifted down the scenic Danube River.
New experiences have become the norm for Stevens since she left for Europe in early July. She’s spending time with the best athletes in the world — Ledecky, for one, is a world record holder and five-time Olympic gold medalist — and swimming in The Duna Arena, Budapest’s sparkling new venue with a seating capacity of 12,000.
Stevens is having the time of her life, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by Team USA veterans.
“(Stevens and Regan Smith) are both just doing incredibly well, and you can just tell they’re really enjoying the experience,” Ledecky said. “And when you see those rookies enjoying the experience, you just know they’re going to swim well because they just are having fun.”
Stevens earned a spot on the U.S. World Championships roster by winning 50-meter backstroke at the Phillips 66 National Championships in June. She is seeded sixth in the event and will first compete in Wednesday’s preliminary races.
The MU star normally specializes in the 100 backstroke but said the 50 sprint requires a different mentality.
“It’s just exerting as much energy as you can at the beginning and not trying to hold anything back,” Stevens said.
Before heading to Budapest, the U.S. team spent a week at a training camp in Croatia. Since starting camp, Stevens has practiced with a group of swimmers from Louisville and Texas A&M under U.S. assistant coach Arthur Albiero. She’s friends with multiple Louisville swimmers and said Albiero, who is the head coach of the Cardinals, offers a sense of familiarity.
“He really trains like (Missouri coach Greg Rhodenbaugh) does back at home,” she said.
Stevens’ favorite part of training with Team USA is seeing the behind-the-scenes operations of international competition. She said the team has had a number of meetings, and she’s enjoyed speeches from the veterans.
One that has stood out was from U.S. captain Elizabeth Beisel, who gave a talk directed to Stevens and the American rookies.
“(Beisel said), ‘You belong here. Don’t think it’s a fluke,'” Stevens recalled. “That really meant a lot.”
Stevens has been with Team USA for nearly a month, and she cherishes the memories she’s making. She’s taking it all in: the water taxis, the Croatian sunrises, the speeches from swimmers she grew up idolizing.
“It’s those little things that I’m always going to remember,” she said.
Supervising editor are James Patterson and Brooks Holton.