Summer Rappaport: From Collegiate Swimmer to Olympian
by USA Triathlon
U.S. Elite Triathlon National Team Member Summer Rappaport's path to Olympian in Tokyo with her eyes set on another Olympic Games in Paris 2024 started more than a decade ago.
It was the spring of 2010 and Rappaport had finished a successful freshman season on the swim team at Villanova University. Searching for an offseason activity to scratch her competitive itch, Rappaport found the Broad Street Run, a 10-mile race through Philadelphia, Her coach, Rick Simpson, was OK with her running the race and devoting some of her pool time to running.
That first runnning race — in which she covered the 10 miles at a 6:50 per mile clip — kickstarted her multisport career.
While still a member of Villanova's swim team, Rappaport would go on to join Villanova's track and cross-country teams, leading to two NCAA appearances and recruitment by USA Triathlon's Talent ID Program as a potential Olympic triathlete.
“I was always a competitive child, so it was a good competitive outlet for me,” Rappaport told Swimming World Magazine earlier this year. “My goal was always to go to the Olympics as a swimmer, but I didn’t have the talent for that. So I was really grateful when the opportunity opened up for USA Triathlon.”
Gifted in the Pool ... and on the Run
Rappaport arrived to Villanova with a strong aerobic background, Simpson said, and excelled from the start. She swam at the Big East championships all four years, with an eighth-place finish in the mile her freshman year.
After her Broad Street Run performance, she joined the strong Villanova track and cross-country program, well aware of the program's spirited history.
“It was very intimidating,” she told Swimming World. “The other women on the team were very welcoming, but at the time, they had just won the previous two NCAA championships in cross country. We also shared a locker room with them, and to get to that locker room, you had to walk down a hallway of all the Penn Relays wheels that the team had won. So every day on the way to swim practice, I was very, very aware of the track program’s history of success. I definitely felt a little bit like an imposter showing up for my first practices, but the women on the team were very welcoming and very encouraging.”
After graduating, Rappaport got connected with USA Triathlon's Barb Lindquist — a Stanford Hall of Fame swimmer and U.S. Olympic triathlete — who recruited her to triathlon through USA Triathlon's Collegiate Recruitment Program. The program targets talented collegiate swimmers (and runners) like Rappaport who have the aerobic engine for draft-legal Olympic-distance triathlon.
Rappaport raced her first triathlon in 2013, the summer after graduating. Flash forward to the summer of 2019 and Rappaport placed fifth at the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, becoming the first U.S. triathlete to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
A 14th place finish in Tokyo left her hungry for more. With a switch to a new coach, a move back to the U.S. in Boulder, Colorado — hear her childhood home of Thornton — Rappaport has Paris 2024 in her eyesight.
“I think one of the biggest takeaways is just a renewed sense of excitement and passion for the sport,” she told Swimming World. “I’m definitely coming at it from a different angle than I was a few years ago. I know I have the ability to be an Olympian, and now it’s, what can I do to take those next steps to winning an Olympic medal? And that’s an exciting place to be in.”