By Emily Sampl
BOULDER, Colorado, January 10. BILL Barrett's swimming career began in much the same way as any ordinary swimmer: he was five years old, lived near the beach, and tagged alongside his older sister, who was already swimming competitively. Little did Bill know that he would eventually experience great success in the sport.
In competitive swimming, the Olympic Games are the ultimate pinnacle. At the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials in Irvine, Calif., Barrett qualified for his first Olympic Team by winning the 200 IM and finishing second in the 100 breaststroke. But because of the United States' boycott of the Games, Barrett was unable to make his Olympic debut.
Although the boycott denied him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it didn't dampen his spirits or drive to win. Just two years later, while swimming at UCLA, Bill's Bruins took home the NCAA Division I men's title. To this day, that meet and college swimming in general remain his favorite swimming memories.
"Many people view competitive swimming as an individual sport," he said. "One of the reasons college swimming is so fun and rewarding is it brings the team element into the sport."
Barrett continued to train for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, hoping to redeem himself after the boycott of 1980. He performed admirably at the highly competitive U.S. Trials, but was unable to make the team. Following Trials, Barrett hung up his suit and goggles and would not return to the sport for more than 20 years.
"I had thought about it (coming back) for a couple of years, but did not return to the sport until the summer of 2006," he stated. "My motivation for returning to the sport was to mix up my workout regime, as I had been running and lifting weights to try and stay in shape."
Barrett now swims Masters, though not in competition. He says he's not ready to handle expectations concerning times and prefers to focus on the friendships and bonding that occur during training.
"I really enjoy the camaraderie associated with training with other Masters swimmers and have made some good friends and acquaintances while training," he said. "There is a common respect amongst people who will get out of bed at 5 a.m. and swim outside in 40-45 degree temperatures from 5:45 a.m. to 7 a.m."