The Morning Swim Show, August 19, 2011: Alex Meyer on Qualifying and Training for the Olympics

PHOENIX, Arizona, August 19. OLYMPIAN Alex Meyer joins today's edition of The Morning Swim Show to discuss the world championships and his training over the next 11 months.

Meyer is the first athlete named to the USA Swimming Olympic team for 2012, and he talks about the qualifying race that put him on the team, as well as the Olympic test event he recently participated in at the site of the 10K swim in London. Watch the full show in the video player below and visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.

Special Thanks to Finis for sponsoring the Morning Swim Show's interview segments in the Finis Monitor. Visit Finis to learn more about their innovative products for aquatic athletes.

Show Transcript: (Note: This is an automated service where some typos and grammatical errors may occur.)

Jeff Commings: This is the Morning Swim Show for Friday, August 19, 2011. I'm your host Jeff Commings and today in the FINIS Monitor we have Alex Meyer, who is the first person named for the Olympic team for USA swimming by virtue of his performance in the 10k swim at the World Championships. Alex joins us right now from his home in Ithaca, New York. Hey Alex, welcome back to the show. How are you doing?

Alex Meyer: I'm doing well Jeff. How are you?

Jeff: Doing awesome, thanks. So what is it like to now be called an Olympian?

Alex: It feels good man. Honestly, it is like— it has been a lifelong dream for a long time and you know it is still a year away so it is a little hard for it to kind of sink in right now, but obviously really excited. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted, so I'm just going to take a short little break from training here and just look forward to the next year ahead.

Jeff: And just as a reminder of viewers, you qualified for the Olympics by placing in the top 10 in the 10K at the World Championship last month, specifically you paced fourth. What do you think about having a qualifying swim a year out form the Olympics?

Alex: Yeah, I don't know. I mean I have kind of mixed feelings about it, but I understand why they do it just because you know the race is capped at 25 athletes, so they have to do the selection internationally. It is not like every country can just, you know put in their 1 or 2 best. So I understand that, that is how it is but they also, they take, I think it is fair to only take the top 10 because chances are the top 10 a year out are still going to be you know at least the top 25 you know when the Olympics come around so you know there is still 15 more spots that are going to be filled right before the Olympics so I think the system is fine.

Jeff: Like a lot of us I'm sure you were wishing Fran Crippen was alongside you at the world championships. Did you feel his spirit kind of guiding you along through that race?

Alex: Yeah absolutely. and I think about him all the time and you know when I'm training and when I'm racing and you know I and the other athletes on the open water trips like we really keep this memory alive when we are away and competing. Yeah, he is definitely a huge inspiration to me both in life and death so yeah.

Jeff: Tell me about that 10K at Worlds. Did the race go as you had planned?

Alex: See, the thing about open water you can't I mean— you can make a race plan but it is not like in the pool where you can just dive in and execute that plan like sometimes you need to be prepared to throw that out the window completely and do something that you didn't really expect to do. So the race sometimes dictates what— how you have to race, but you know I expected it to be a fast pace and it was but that is really all I expected and then it happened so I think I raced well.

Jeff: Is that what draws you to open-water swimming, the unpredictability of it?

Alex: I think that is probably it. Also you know the fact that it is just purely a race. It doesn't matter exactly how far you are going. It doesn't matter how long it takes you to get there. It is just there is a finish pad. You swim all the way down there 10K or so first one to get there wins. Ready, set, go! And that is it and I think that is really awesome. And I also always secretly kind of wished I played at contact sports when I was growing up, so that open water also kind of fills that void I guess in my life.

Jeff: Yeah I guess you could throw a couple of elbows as long as you don't get caught though.

Alex: I mean I don't really do that stuff, but just having like everyone— like the guy you are racing … the guy you are racing is like literally right next to you. He is not you know 5 or 6 feet over in another lane and stuff like that so it is very, it is a much more I guess intimate racing kind of setting like the ones right there you are in the moment.

Jeff: Right, right. Now a lot of the talk about that open water venue at the world championships was that the water was too warm was that your assessment as well?

Alex: For the 10K it was fine. It was kind of pushing it, but you know we had, I think it was 3 days later. It was 25K and we had really, really hot days and you know FINA made a recommendation of 31 degrees, which they you know pretty much completely disregarded and I decided before the race started not to swim and I didn't think it was safe. I didn't think anybody should swim and you know it is like how long before you learn your lesson, right? We had a tragedy one time which shouldn't have happened in the first place, but it happened and you know we are supposed to learn from it, but it is like, I think it was absurd and pretty quite frankly disturbing that, that race went on.

Jeff: If you had the opportunity to talk to FINA directly what recommendation would you give in terms of maximum water temperature?

Alex: I mean I would first recommend that they stick to their own suggestions or recommendations and they say, "Well it is not a rule" which is true, it is not a rule, it is a recommendation but it is your own recommendation. I don't know.

Jeff: Well you went to the 10K Open Water test event in London just last week where it was the exact opposite where a lot of people were saying the water was too cold. Do you agree with that, was it too cold or was it just right?

Alex: No, no it wasn't too cold. I think I had a little bit of a hard time with it because you know for the past month I have been preparing or at least for like the month leading up to Shanghai was preparing the swimming in really warm water and you know a lot of those guys, kind of including myself have been doing the same thing and also not really training as much as we were before Shanghai so I think the combination of those two things made it hard for some people, but I mean you just need to you know do a lot of cold water swimming and you will be fine and it was like 67 degrees that is plain warm.

Jeff: What did you think of the race course?

Alex: It was nice. So it is 6 laps like the standard for a tank actually is usually 4, 2-1/2K loops so this is 6 loops and more buoys than usual but it is not a difficult course and they do a really good job. I think it is going to be an awesome event. The Olympics is I think that one people are going to be really surprised at how exciting it is and how many people have come to show up and watch and I mean there is like a seated ticketed venue for a few thousand people to watch but it is in Hyde Park which is a public park, so there is going to be just thousands of people lining the outside of the lake they have in there so I think it is going to be awesome.

Jeff: Yeah you have spectators cheering you on every time you make a turn.

Alex: Yeah.

Jeff: I can imagine though that having so many loops and so many turns makes it a little bit more of a tactical raise instead of swimming so long in a straight line, do you agree with that?

Alex: Yeah definitely, and that is where you know the experience comes in and you know there is also both left and right hand buoy turns on this course, but still, they still make it you know not that difficult to do, but definitely makes it more tactical and I think that having a smaller course with fewer number of laps or with a greater number of laps also kind of mixes it up a little bit, makes it a little more interesting.

Jeff: What is your training going to be like for the next 11 months in terms of how much time you are going to spend in the pool and how much you are going to spend in open water?

Alex: Yeah so I have trained in Harvard with my college coach. I swam there for 4 years and Tim Murphy is my coach and we train a lot in the pool when the weather permits, which is usually from about April to you know October. We swim up at Walden Pond. Actually, I got this shirt from one of the lifeguards there so I made a vow. I told them before I went to Shanghai if I make the Olympic games, they wouldn't give me a shirt at first which I was a little annoyed about but I said "What if I make the Olympic games? Can I get a shirt?" And they said "Yeah, fine."So anyway we trained up to Walden Pond which is like you know the Walden Pond with Thoreau, he was in the woods for a couple years up there and wrote stuff so it was a little bit of a different purpose for me, but it is a really, really nice pond and I really enjoy spending time there and also training there. We do a lot of pool work you know especially in the winter when you can't really go outside to swim.

Jeff: Yeah. Are you going to be doing a lot of open water competitions leading up to the Olympics to travel around the world and things like that?

Alex: Yeah, I mean I haven't sat down with coach yet and really made a plan for the next year, but I'm definitely going to — to swim at the Pan Ams in the 10K and I will probably do at least 1 or 2 in the world cups on the beginning of next year so.

Jeff: I think that will probably not only give you some experience, but you know I think it will probably even help the exposure of the sport here in United States to not only know that you know you are an Olympian already, people know who you are in the 10K in the open water community, but definitely give you that experience leading up to the Olympics.

Alex: Yeah and you definitely need to like stay in the groove too and keep racing like if I go too much time without doing a race you just kind of get out of it a little bit so you need to keep that pretty regular so I claim to do that.

Jeff: Well good. We will definitely be keeping track of you. Alex, thank you so much for joining us today and congratulations on making the Olympic team.

Alex: Thanks.

Jeff: Alright that is Alex Meyer joining us in the FINIS monitor from his home in Ithaca and that is it for today's show and we want to kind of amend Peter's sign off for Open Water swimmers. Keep your head up at the finish.

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