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Meet Abigail Bergman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Abigail Bergman.

Abigail, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to swim. I joined the swim team in middle school because my friends were in it and it sounded like fun. I didn’t really enjoy it for a while: getting into a cold outdoor pool after school and early in the mornings and not having as much free time as I was used to. I didn’t really know anyone on the team except for my classmates – but they dropped out one by one. I went to my first swim meet and I wasn’t very good, but I finally understood the purpose for all the training I was doing and the link between “if I work hard and practice, I will get better at the meets.”

At the beginning of high school, I joined L.A. County’s Junior Lifeguard Program and found my passion in the ocean. As a junior lifeguard, I learned how to be comfortable in the ocean, no matter what the temperature or conditions. I also loved the changeability and the freedom of the ocean.

Along the way, I picked up Lynne Cox’s autobiographical book “Swimming to Antarctica.” Ms. Cox was completely relatable to me, and I saw that her accomplishments were not entirely out of my reach. I started to dream about crossing the English and Catalina Channels.

When I was looking at universities, I discovered that the head coach at Smith College, Kim Bierwert, had coached six women to successful English Channel swims. When I got on campus, I marched into his office and told him I was going to be his next Channel swimmer. I became part of the swim team, and eventually team co-captain in my senior year, and August 1, 2017 I successfully swam the English Channel in 13 hours, 15 minutes.

Since then, I have completed many other marathons swim challenges including finishing the Triple Crown (English Channel, Catalina Channel, Circumnavigation of Manhattan Island), and the California Triple Crown (Anacapa, Catalina and Lake Tahoe).

Now at age 24, this summer I focused locally thanks to COVID and became the fourth person to swim across the 27 mile Santa Monica Bay.

When I’m not in the water, I am a research professional at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I have my M.A. from the University of Chicago and am working on my PhD applications. I am interested in studying the intersection of beliefs and values and consumer behavior.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This year alone, thanks to COVID, has been full of challenges and thwarted plans. I came home to California to work remotely, canceled all of my planned swims, and instead swam tethered for hours in my parents’ tiny backyard pool.

Each swim has its own unique challenges both physical and mental. Additionally, I have the challenge of balancing my busy full-time work schedule and demanding training schedule. My training schedule consumes 20 hours a week.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am most proud of my ability to set a goal and then work out how to accomplish it, even when it is more difficult than what I have done before.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
As a child who grew up in a city, one of my favorite childhood memories is splashing in an icy mountain stream and building rock towers with my little sister.

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Image Credit:

All photos by Natalie Bergman

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