PHOENIX, Arizona, June 17. SWIMMING World Magazine caught up for some Q&A with Olympic medalist George Bovell. Although he is currently in Michigan training at Club Wolverine with Mike Bottom and Mark Hill, Bovell is originally from the small Caribbean Island Trinidad and Tobago.
Swimming World got to know Bovell better as the four-time Olympian answered questions about island training, his recent trip to Uganda and what we can expect from him – in and out of the pool – in the coming years.
Read firsthand about Bovell's trip to Uganda in the upcoming July issue of Swimming World Magazine!
Q: What is your training typically like in Trinidad and Tobago?
A: When I am training in Trinidad Its great to be around my family and friends and allows me to enjoy some of the cross-training activities that I love like freediving, however at the same time the lack of facilities provides a challenge and so does my lack of training partners. Training at home alone for extended periods gets [a bit] stagnant.
Q: Take me through winning the first ever Olympic medal in swimming for your country at the 2004 Olympics:
A: I really don't think about it that much anymore but it was a tremendously satisfying experience to get on top that Olympic podium. To remember it is like trying to remember a pleasant dream, can't quite get that feeling back. I imagine that one day if I live to be an old man I will put it on again, look at it and feel a tangible connection to my youth and think “I was young once, strong, fit, fast, and fearless”
Q: What does it mean to you to represent such a small country at the elite level?
A: It's an honor to represent your country, no matter where you are from. Usually people from smaller countries tend to have to overcome more challenges, the lack of facilities, funding, the need to travel abroad to pursue your goals. It's not easy. I think people tend to judge and look down upon the quality of athletes from the smaller countries. Its fun sometimes to shake up those preconceived notions.
Q: What do you do to give back to your country?
A: I conduct some free swim clinics every year, am part of a charity called Shashamane Sunrise, I write a newspaper column, am basically trying to be a positive role model, and if my schedule permits I speak at schools or lend my free time to being part of other initiatives.
Q: How did your status as an Olympian help raise money to fight malaria?
A: I was invited by Max Kanyarezi to help is in initiative against Malaria and drowning there, I accepted and went down there with Duje Draganja. By throwing a couple of Olympic Medalists in the mix we attracted a lot of media attention and corporate support to Max's initiative.
Q: What was most inspiring to you in Uganda?
A: I was inspired by Max Kanyarezi who organized the whole thing; [he is] a truly great person. Also we were all inspired by the profound fact that what we were part of was actually saving lives. I am hoping to raise some awareness about this so that we can put on a bigger event next year, perhaps attract some swimming superstars and the global media and make a bigger difference.
Q: What do you hope to see happen with Swim Against Malaria in the coming years?
A: I intend to go down again next year, help to put on a bigger event, raise more money and media attention to continue helping to reduce the terribly high death rate from Malaria and drowning. It would also be great if we could have swim teams around the world putting on Swims against Malaria and donating the funds to the Malaria Consortium Uganda to buy test kits, medicine and mosquito nets.
Q: Talk to me about your current training:
A: My training is going well. I am training at Club Wolverine in Michigan with Mike Bottom and Mark Hill. I have been showing some good speed in practice and am my strongest ever so I am excited to see how that pans this summer at the World Champs and in the FINA World Cup this fall.
Q: What are your goals heading into the Rio 2016 Olympics?
A: I am not really thinking that far ahead yet. Just taking it one year at a time and really enjoying the journey for a change. Not putting any pressure on myself.
Q: What is your competition schedule going to be in the next year?
A: I will have a few meets leading up to the World Champs, then if all goes well I intend to participate in the FINA World Cup then continue racing in Europe all the way up until the end of December.
Q: Are you planning on participating in any other upcoming charity events?
A: Right now next on my agenda will be the free swim clinics that I put on in Trinidad in January, I usually invite other Olympic Medalists to join me. Then I hope to Uganda again. Perhaps more opportunities will present themselves. Its really gratifying when you can put all your hard work in the pool towards making a difference for others in the greater context of life outside of swimming.
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