An Emotional ‘Farewell’ for Matt Grevers, Whose Career Has Been a ‘Warm Embrace All The Way Through’

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Matt Grevers got out of the pool somewhat disappointed, but before he could think about what could have been his last 100 backstroke on the big stage,  a wave of jubilation overtook him as he reached the pool deck.

Grevers, who was aiming for his third Olympic team, fell four spots short of qualifying for Tokyo, but as he began to exit the pool deck, a thunderous ovation erupted — and it took Grevers a second to realize the ovation was for him.

He raised his hands to the crowd, embraced the moment with them before exiting America’s biggest stage for perhaps the final time. It was a moving scene for both Grevers and the the rest of us in the arena, who have embraced him since he first burst onto the scene leading up to the 2008 Olympics.

“I almost started crying. That was amazing. This sport has been so good to me and fans have been so supportive. My family members, friends, it has just been a warm embrace all the way through,” Matt Grevers said. “To get a standing ovation even though I got sixth was amazing. It shows people appreciate not just me the swimmer and my performance , but me as a person and that means more to me than any performance I have had. Thank you so much fans — that meant a lot.”

It meant a lot to the fans and the sport as well.

It wasn’t his last race at Trials, but it was the last in his signature event. He will swim the 50 freestyle Saturday in a kind of farewell swim that could come in the prelims, semis or even Sunday’s finals.

Grevers, who won four gold medals and one silver during his Olympic career, has been a fan favorite for more than a decade.

It wasn’t because he was one of the world’s best swimmers, of course that gave him a big of a spotlight at times.

It was because Grevers has been a rare athlete in the spotlight who has been 100% genuine for his entire career, not shying away from showing his feelings, emotions and how much he cares for the sport.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The spotlight was never so bright that he didn’t have time to sign autographs or give interviews.

And when fans read or saw those interviews, they were experiencing his genuine feelings, not holding back, hiding anything or ever dodging a question. He faced everything head on.

That transparency allowed fans to embrace Grevers more than other swimmers.

Once he was embraced, fans weren’t letting go.

The triumphs were all the more triumphant because his genuine persona allowed fans to experience the emotions along with Grevers, something unparalleled in swimming.

When he won the 2012 Olympic trials in the backstroke, Matt Grevers was so excited — just like a little kid. This from the top seed in the meet, who made the Olympics in 2008 beforehand.

When he won gold in the 100 backstroke in London, he roared. It was felt in the arena and through televisions around the world. Fans couldn’t help but be elated for someone so down to earth and relatable.

On the flip side, Grevers’ most disappointing moments were felt just as closely by fans. When he finished third at the 2016 Olympic trials, the entire arena felt heartbreak. It was even difficult for the swimmers who made it ahead of him to talk about it. He is that revered by his fellow swimmers.

But in true Grevers fashion, he faced the moment head on. He didn’t run from the media, he stood there and emotionally shared his heartbreak with the entire swimming world. He dealt with the heartbreak, became a parent with wife Annie and refocused his entire life.

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For nearly two decades, he has towered over the swimming world — though not because of his height. There has been no swimmer as universally revered and embraced by fellow swimmers, fans and everyone involved in the sport for so long.

That is the legacy of Matt Grevers.

He gave everything to the sport and allowed us all to join the ride, not just watch it.

Whether he is actually done swimming at this level or not, that legacy is something that we are all going to take with us.

“Next step is probably doing more with real estate, maybe starting a swim school, and just being a dad again,” Grevers said. “I love swimming, so I am going to keep doing it in some way, shape or form. If I can be competitive, I will keep trying to stay out there … I had a blast.”

So did we Matt — so did we.

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5 comments

  1. Kelley Ahl-Kosin

    Class act and what a legacy you leave us with! Thank you! ❤️

  2. Nancy Thomson

    Total class act. Such an impressive career

  3. avatar
    Nancy Rosenbaum

    When I first met you as the “old lady” swimming with the kids at LFSC, I knew that you were not only a very gifted athlete but more so, a very special person. I never imagined meeting up with you in a pool as we did in Oro Valley after many years. To see your face light up telling me about being a husband and father and the well being of the rest of your family sums it up. You are a genuine 360 degree wonderful person and I’m fortunate to know you.
    Whatever road you take going forward you will be great.
    Nancy

  4. avatar
    Allison

    He is THE nicest guy!!! It was a pleasure to meet him in Indianapolis a few years ago and he took the time to meet fans and sign autographs and take pictures. This article is spot on.

  5. avatar
    Shawn S

    Matt, you are a rare and special person….both in and out of the pool.