Feature by Kristen Heiss
COLLEGE STATION, Texas, November 26. GARRETT Weber-Gale became a household name this summer, first after winning both the 50 and the 100 freestyles at the U.S. Olympic Trials and then later as a member of the infamous gold medal 400 freestyle relay in Beijing. Now, Garrett is enjoying the post-Olympic life.
When Garrett arrived home from Beijing, he had more than 100 people, from family to old teachers, greet him at the airport in his home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since then, Garrett's life has been a "whirlwind," with speaking events at businesses and schools in Wisconsin, Texas, Florida and New York.
"I really enjoy talking to the people and the kids. Not many people know much about the Olympics, and I can give people a different look into the Olympics that they couldn't get anywhere else."
After talking to the fans who saw his races in Beijing, Garrett was able to see how exciting it was for the people in the United States to watch his swims.
"In Beijing. you don't have any idea of the impact the Olympics have on the United States. People kept saying ‘Wow we're so proud of you.'"
After being part of a relay that was not only an epic event for USA Swimming but the entire Olympic Games, Garrett is just beginning to realize the magnitude of his accomplishments.
That relay, the 400 freestyle, where Jason Lezak made his herculean comeback against France's Alain Bernard to keep Michael Phelps' run for eight gold medal alive, will likely be one of the top moments in the history of the sport for some time to come.
"I've never been a part of something that is so historic… You represent the hopes and dreams of Americans all over the place. What we did, people get really excited about."
After Garrett's success this summer, he has been able to enjoy some of the perks that come with being an Olympic gold medalist. For Garrett, one of the best bonuses was being honored at the Green Bay Packers game. While his family watched on from a luxury box, Garrett was introduced on the field and then enjoyed a victory lap around the stadium as the crowd chanted "USA! USA!" Besides the Packers game, Garrett also watched a Brewers game from the club house.
When he is not attending speaking functions or acting as the honorary member at sporting events, Garrett is able to enjoy one of his favorite pastimes: cooking. A hobby that began in college after he moved out of the dorms has now grown into a passion for Garrett.
"I love cooking. I think I got addicted to it because it made me feel so good when I ate good food."
Indeed, the good food that Garrett finds as a result of his work in the kitchen is one of his favorite parts.
"Cooking is exciting for me because it is instant gratification. In swimming, we work so that five to six months down the line, we get the reward. When I cook, I get to experience it right away."
Diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2005, Garrett now makes a conscious effort to cook healthy meals that are low in sodium yet still tasty. In fact healthy eating is something that Garrett attributes some of his success this summer to.
"I focused on my nutrition a lot this year."
Besides focusing on nutrition, Garrett also spent a lot of time in the weight room increasing his strength, which "gave me a boost in my swims," he said.
As someone who has just recently experienced great accomplishments in the sport, Garrett thinks that his success has just taken a little longer to develop than some.
"I tell people that it takes different people different amounts of time to get to a certain point."
So what lies in store for this new swimming star?
"My future plans are continue to work hard and see where it takes me."
Garrett plans on training through the 2009 World Championships, and from there, not even he knows what will be next.
"After [the World Championships], I'm going to see how I feel and how I do and see if I still love it."
For Garrett, it is the challenge of racing or swimming a best time that keeps him in the sport.
"There is no better thrill or high than going a best time for me. It's a huge challenge for me everyday to see how I can get better or get faster. Until that dies, I don't see myself stopping."