Catching Up With U.S. Transplant Games Medalist Asa Keimig

Photo Courtesy: Asa Keimig

BALTIMORE, Maryland, August 15. EARLIER this summer, Asa Keimig participated in the U.S. Transplant Games in Houston, featuring athletes whose lives were changed thanks to a stranger’s organ donation. Keimig, a former lacrosse player at Liberty University, took up swimming after receiving a kidney transplant in 2005 to help him with his genetic kidney disorder.

He appeared on The Morning Swim Show last November to talk about his preparation for the meet.

Keimig came back from the Games with two silver medals and a bronze medals in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events. Now, he’s looking ahead to the World Transplant Games in Argentina next year. Swimming World caught up with him recently.

Swimming World: How did your experience at the U.S Transplant Games match up with your expectations?

Asa Keimig: Before heading to Houston, I was slightly naive about the level of competition that was going to be there. Upon arriving in Houston, I quickly learned that the U.S. Transplant Games were filled with recreational athletes as well as serious competitors. In swimming, there was nothing but serious competitors. (Olympic medalist) Tripp Schwenk was there, Galen Carrington and Kyle Altras. I ended up competing against both Galen and Kyle. I was competing and going head to head against athletes that had been swimming competitively their entire life. The fact that I was able to go head to head with all of them and beat a majority of them is a testimony to my hard work and dedication to the sport of swimming.

SW: Take us through your swimming performances in Houston.

Keimig: I arrived in Houston Friday afternoon and didn’t have any races until Sunday, which gave my body plenty of time to rest after a lot of traveling. Saturday with filled with a light swim practice, a massage and plenty of stretching. It was 100-plus degrees each day I was there and regardless of being hydrated, the sun absolutely drained me.

My first race on Sunday was the 100 free and I was feeling pretty good leading up to it, but once we all got lined up on the blocks I could feel thousands of butterflies trying to escape my stomach. Once I heard, “Take your mark…….BEEP” my adrenaline took over. It was such an adrenaline rush that I barely remember the race. I ended up coming in second place, losing by several seconds.

My second race was the 200 free and I was anxiously waiting to get back up there because I had so much fun my first race, I was ready to do it all over again. I knew that the 200 was going to be all about pace and I thought I paced myself really well. From what I was told, Kyle Altras and I were neck and neck the entire race until the last 50. By the time we hit the last 50, I was absolutely drained. I had kept pace with him the entire race and had nothing left in the tank to keep up with him the last 50. So it was tough taking second in that knowing that I could have very well taken first. But it serves as motivation for the next Games.

My last race was the 50 free and I had been waiting all day for this race. I was ready to sprint it and give everything I had. The 50 went so fast I barely remember it. But I came in third place losing by four tenths of a second, so that was a tough pill to swallow.

It was a long and exhausting day but I was incredibly pleased with how I performed and with the outcome of the races.

SW:Of your swims, which one pleased you the most?

Keimig: I was most pleased with the 50 free. I felt really strong in the water and felt like my technique was perfect. I may have come in third, but I beat the time I wanted to beat and couldn’t be happier with how I did. The competition in the 50 Free was top notch and I was incredibly pleased with the outcome. Especially after a long day in the sun, I was pleased to say it was my best performance.

SW: The community of people who have received transplants is apparently very tight. What was it like to be a part of an event with people who had similar life experiences as you?

Keimig: Outside of this event, I’ve always felt like I’ve stood out because of having a transplant, but then once you’re surrounded by thousands of people who have also had transplant, you become just another person. So it was nice. It was an incredibly welcoming environment and was a fantastic experience.

SW: Did you expect to be picked to be a part of Team USA for the World Transplant Games?

Keimig: I had met with Team USA on Saturday early on in the day and the concern was for me being able to medal in all of my races. So there were members of the Athlete Council at all of my races and it was a little nerve wracking knowing that I had to do well, but I was able to block that out and focus on the swimming aspect and focus on swimming my best races.

SW: How will your training change for the World Games, if at all?

Keimig: No major changes will take place but I will focus more on my times than the times of others. I want to focus on getting better and beating my own time. If I can beat my own time than I would consider that a win.

SW: You had to raise money to pay for your own expenses at the U.S. Transplant Games in Houston. Will that be true also for the World Transplant Games?

Keimig: Yes, I will have to raise double the amount I had to raise for the U.S. Games mainly because of the amount of traveling that I have to do to get to Mar del Plata, Argentina. But I have received an incredible amount of support since I was announced as a member of Team USA, so raising the necessary funds won’t be a problem for me.

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Author: Jeff Commings

Jeff Commings is the host of several shows on SwimmingWorld.TV, including "The Morning Swim Show," which features interviews with people making headlines in aquatic sports. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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