Swimming Towards a Gold Medal

Blue Ocean Strategy helped Mina Boström Nakicenovic win a Gold Medal

By The Blue Ocean Strategy Team

Nobody wants to swim in red oceans. For Mina Boström Nakicenovic this metaphor became a daunting reality when the former swim champion enrolled in the Swedish National Masters Championship. After a 27-year long break, and with limited time available to train, she saw no chance to compete with those participants in better shape. So she turned to blue ocean strategy to help her find a way to make the competition irrelevant. With both a gold and silver medal to take home, her blue ocean strategy turned out to be a winning one. The Blue Ocean Strategy Team spoke to Mina about her incredible journey.

Congratulations on winning these medals! Especially since you’re not a top-level swimmer anymore. What encouraged you to enroll in this competition in the first place?

Once upon a time, I was a swimmer. I was a good swimmer. At the age of 14, I was the Serbian youth champion in breaststroke swimming. But at the age of 15, my priorities had changed, and I stopped swimming. Time passed, and I focused on other things in life. When my kids started swimming, watching them compete triggered thoughts about my own swimming. After a break of 27 years, I decided it was time for me to swim again. Just training was not enough for me though; I wanted to get some medals!

Mina Boström Nakicenovic

Mina Boström Nakicenovic with her golden medal.

Winning medals means beating the competition. But in your case the competition was way ahead of you, right? So how could you compete?

When I enrolled in the Swedish National Masters Championship, I knew it would not be easy. I was up against a range of swimmers and former athletes who were in great shape and had plenty of time to train. I on the other hand, with three small kids and a full-time job, could not afford to train more than two times a week. So I knew it was impossible to beat them by being better at what they were doing. The only way for me to win, was by finding my blue ocean.

Getting ready to compete.

How did you shift your focus away from what the competition was doing? And what was the result?

I found that really good swimmers are all focused on the same kind of competition: swimming short distances, in a freestyle manner. I couldn’t beat them here so I quickly eliminated these categories from my strategy. Instead, I started looking at longer distances. The 200m backstroke was a category that most great swimmers did not invest in. This was my chance.

A key element in this category was the backstroke turn. If you don’t turn correctly, you get disqualified. So instead of training hard and trying to get into the best possible shape, I invested my 2-hours a week in perfecting my backstroke turn. As you can see this strategy turned out to be a winning one. And I truly hope I’ll be able to swim in my blue ocean again soon!

Mina was chosen as a model for the “Swim Sweden” movement.

Mina was chosen as a model for the “Swim Sweden” movement.

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