South Florida provides the weather and beautiful open water locations for competitive swimmers from around the world. The year round warm weather and ocean access have attracted many international aquatics athletes to train here for important events, especially triathletes and Open Water Swimmers.
Merle Liivand is more than just your normal competitive breaststroke swimmer in the pool. Some will even call her a modern age mermaid. Merle is a 24 year old Estonian National Team breaststroke specialist and Baltic champion in the 100 and 200 breaststroke competitions. She has been a part of many elite international competitions in her career, such as the World Youth Championships, the European Olympic Festival and the World Cup series.
Couple of years ago Merle moved to South Florid from Estonia to pursue her competitive swimming career. ”My first taste of Florida was during a visit with the Estonian Team… we trained in Plantation. I truly felt that I would like to return to Florida to train and live.” Now it has been almost 5 years since she decided to move here to train, which also created a tough calendar traveling in between Estonia and Florida. Not long ago, she was ready to quit swimming… in her recent interview with Swimming World Magazine, she relived the battle that she had with a neck injury that almost ended her athletic career, a competitive career that has been the source of much of her happiness.
But as she recognized, she was still passionate about swimming, therefore she decided to give back more than ever. Only two years ago, she opened back home in Estonia, a company called “SWIMERA.” “Swimera’s mission is to help every person of every age and every size to find the best tools and equipment for the favorite water sport! We truly believe we have the highest quality products for water sports and swimming fans. We are gladly here to help this community to grow. We work closely with the world wide brands whose reputations stand out among their categories, especially in haircare, skincare, mermaid style fin swimming, open water equipment, pool equipment and nutrition.”
While she has her hands-full building a retail business Merle also recognized that there is more to swimming than just competitions. “I found myself quickly immersed in Triathlon contests that Open Water competitions became part of my athletic life slowly. I have had great races like the Miami Men’s Triathlon where I picked up silver and bronze medal. Last year I also won the SWIM MIAMI mile overall.” Motivated by her success in swimming competitions, she has also made it her life mission to give back to her sport and its fans. She is now Ambassador for companies like FINIS, SBR SPORTS, DERMASPORT and Base Performance.
She also became an ambassador for the company “World of Swimming”, where she had to learn a new swimming technique inspired by Mermaids. The training of this swimming style very closely resembles the butterfly quick techniques. She enjoyed this training so much that she has dedicated herself to volunteer programs as part of her overall training work. “ Basically it’s focused on FIN swimming and as I am big believer for the power of butterfly kick, I know that body position provides an excellent swimming foundation for aquatic skills. “ It’s one way how she embraces to become better in the water by having fun.
2016 Olympic Year will be a good Swimming Year
As 2016 began, Merle found herself in a unique situation. She realized that she needs to bring more opportunities to the swimming community back home in Estonia, therefore she started to work hard on a second business concept. “I have increased company revenues 40% this past year and also added swimming pool equipment like lane lines and starting blocks. But as one business started to grow, I realized that there is more work to complement my retail business, so I decided to open up my second business back in Estonia.” Her second company SWIMERA will organize swim meets where people can qualify for Rio 2016 and they will also host this year’s International Nordic Open Water swim meet in June.
As Merle manages the many work streams involved with competitions and a retail business, additional news landed on her plate. Merle is heading this June to represent Estonia at the Olympic 10 km Marathon Swim Qualification race in Portugal. At this significant international competition, only 15 swimmers will qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She is working hard to earn a place among the few Olympic spots available to compete. “I feel honored to be invited to compete for an Olympic opportunity. This once in a lifetime chance to make the 2016 Olympics really motivates me to keep up my intense swim training as much as possible. If it were not for my training in Florida, I don’t think I would have ever discovered Open Water swimming and be this close to realizing an Olympic Dream! And luckily by living here in South Florida, I can combine pool swimming with open water trainings due to a great weather we have. I don’t think I could have done this if I was still in Estonia.”
SWIM MIAMI- For my Birthday celebration, I’ll be preparing for the Olympic Trials
Swim Miami is an OPEN WATER event what will be held this 17th of April in Key Biscayne. It will be for Merle a reminder of the 10km trials she has done in the recent past. To Merle it’s also important day because it is also her birthday. On this race day she will turn 25 years old, making this day the 9th time in her life when she is celebrating a birthday at yet another swimming race. “I am lucky to do something that I love while celebrating one more year of life. But as this is an Olympic year, I am heading to Olympic Trials to represent Estonia, therefore I feel more than excited to celebrate My 25th birthday this year! She adds:” Without the beautiful waterscapes and my dedication to swim training in Florida, I would not have started my career as a Business Woman in swimwear and related products. I don’t think I would have continued swimming, with the chance to represent my country in global competitions. These opportunities fill me with the passion that I have today! I truly feel THANKFUL for these blessings!”
Inspired by her appreciation of her chosen sport, she decided that she doesn’t want just any birthday gift, but instead wants to open a non-profit charity to help kids and children learn to swim as well as all the essential water safety habits that can help save lives. She truly wishes to prevent tragic drownings in Florida!
Thanks to SWIM MIAMI organization, Merle has opened a website for fundraising, where she collects money to help the H20 foundation for Saving Lives.
You also can make your help and have more information here: