Champion’s Mojo: Michael Chadwick Talks Patience & Persistence

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Champion’s Mojo Podcast: Michael Chadwick Talks Patience & Persistence

A world champion sprint freestyler, Michael Chadwick has had to master long-term planning in order to be the best version of himself on his path to success. In this in-depth interview, Chadwick discusses how pairing patience with persistence has paid off for him, both in his swimming and life.

Below is an abridged Q&A of the interview, conducted by Kelly Palace and Maria Parker, with Michael Chadwick. You can listen to the full podcast episode #84 at https://championsmojo.com or by clicking here.

Champion’s Mojo: What have you been up to lately?

Michael Chadwick: So, after recently moving to Chapel Hill, my wife and I have been really trying to find a new direction in our life. With a new move comes new experiences and a new place to call home. We have moved into a new home and are really getting to enjoy the Chapel Hill and Triangle area. North Carolina has been a blast. We love it. It’s about two hours from where I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. We’ve had a lot of fun hiking. I’ve recently gotten into mountain biking outside of my normal swimming routine. Just staying active has been a joy that I think oftentimes I’ve lost these last few years because of the constant swimming and work I put into that. When the Olympics were postponed in March me and my wife looked at each other and basically said that we didn’t know if we felt like we could stay where we are in San Diego for the next year. So we decided to make a change and move closer to home. We moved out here in late May, and moved into our new house in June.

Champion’s Mojo: Why did you decide to make the move from San Diego to Chapel Hill?

Michael Chadwick: It was a huge decision. Everyone knows an Olympic year is very different from other years. There’s a lot of stress. There’s a lot of commitment. You basically go into it saying, I can go. I can do this next year and give it everything that I have, knowing that afterwards you can reset and can make different plans. When Cas and I moved to San Diego, we basically committed to that timeframe. We were far from home and far from family, but we can do this for a few years and make something special happen. The team really was everything we could have wanted it to be. I strongly believe that this summer would have gone well for me. The world had different plans for what’s going to happen. I think our decision was that we would feel more comfortable going somewhere else and trying something different this next year. Oftentimes, when I try to repeat what I’ve already done, I tend to get bored and lose interest. Everyone knows that, in swimming, that’s not the way you want to train.

Champion’s Mojo: Can you walk us through some of the emotions you felt with the Olympics being postponed?

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Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Michael Chadwick: In March, it all happened so quickly. Looking back, it felt like within two weeks the whole world changed. I was just getting back from the Pro Swim series in Iowa, coming off of a competition that was supposed to be our last meet before we started kind of bringing down training. We had gotten through the thick of it and we were kind of getting to March where we were going to start really polishing up and getting sharp again. When all this happened, we were exhausted. The team was tired. We were running on steam. We had put in a lot of work and we trained through Iowa. I think when things started to shut down, it started to look like, man,this looks like something that’s not going to go away anytime soon. I think emotionally, I started to prepare for the event that the Olympics might be canceled or postponed. I think emotionally, it took me a little while to wrap my head around something like that, because, again, it’s such a big thing to postpone or possibly cancel. I think when I finally got the news there was a mixture of being relieved and being really nervous for going one more year and trying to get in shape again.There’s also the other side of it where you’re kind of like, well, where can I be in a year, you know? Can I get any better? The people who get on the team next summer are going to be the ones who take advantage of having one more year of training. That’s just kind of where I moved into and said I just have to be OK. I have to be flexible enough to move with where this decision has gone and just trust that going into next summer, I’ll be prepared. There’s never an easy way or a straightforward way of coping with something like this. We all have different ways of coping. I think me and my wife’s way of coping was changing it up and trying something new.

Champion’s Mojo: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to face in your life so far?

Michael Chadwick: I’ve always said that we as people are formed more by our disappointments than our successes. I genuinely believe that we have success and it’s temporary. Success is fleeting within a week. All of us have had to stabilize and come back the next week after a great meet and then been totally empty afterwards. It has happened to the best of us. But, when we go through something really disappointing, there’s some sort of fire that comes out of that that’s indescribable. True champions know how to take disappointments and hardships and turn them into gold. What I went through in 2016, missing the Olympics after breaking out with the National team the year before, was the hardest year of my life. It almost felt like everything I did didn’t work. It was like I made this long decision to try to do this and it didn’t work out. I put my faith in this. Leading up into the Olympic Trials, I was already struggling emotionally and I probably wasn’t in a good headspace to actually make an Olympic team. I think we all handle successes differently and, for who I am and how I identify myself, I would not have taken that level of success at twenty one years of age as well as I would have wanted to. Looking back, it’s one hundred percent the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. Now, four years later at twenty five, I can say that I would not have changed that outcome for anything.

Champion’s Mojo: We’ve heard patience is one of your strengths and you really needed that in meeting your wife, can you tell us that story?

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Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Michael Chadwick: I first met my wife in January of 2016 in passing. She brought her dog over to a friend’s house that I was over at. We said hello and that was that. Fast forward four months, and this is when people start to think I’m crazy, I had a dream of a girl who turned around in a hallway and looked at me. It was Sunday morning and that was the weirdest dream ever. I had this picture of a girl’s face and I went to church with my roommates, doing the same routine I do every Sunday. I go get my coffee and I look across the room and there’s a girl getting coffee and she looks at me and I’m like, that’s the girl from my dream. I’m talking to my buddies and this girl walks up and I’m like, guys, who is that? I have met her before. They were like that’s Cassie, she was at our house a few months ago. I’d always thought that she was dating one of the guys in the group or something. Turns out they were just friends. I had gotten this idea in mind, like, OK, someone’s trying to tell me that I’m supposed to pursue this girl. I just get in my mind that I should ask this girl on a date. So I ask one of our friends, hey, will you ask Cassie to go on a date with me. They were both in the same sorority and she said yeah, of course. She asked and Cassie said that things were too busy, not yet. So she came back and said she said not yet. That’s OK. She didn’t say no, so I guess not yet. So, it’s like May, and I start to pray. Saying that, Lord, if you want me to be with this girl, it’s in your hands. Like, just give me some miraculous encounter. So I didn’t see her for three months and I went to the Olympic Trials. Obviously, we know the outcome of that. So, afterwards, I drove home with my coach Saturday night. We get on Sunday. The guys on my team pulled me out of bed and said, hey, we’re taking you to this bar. We’re going to go hang out, just sit and talk and cheer you up. So we go and we sit all day. Then we get invited to this house party type thing that a girl in town was putting on. We’re like, sure, why not? Let’s go. So we go to this party and I walk in and Cassie’s there and I haven’t seen her. It’s July 3rd and I’m like, oh my gosh. Like, this is a girl I’m trying to date. So I walked right up to her. It’s really funny hearing her tell the story. She was so uncomfortable I tried to talk to her the whole night. I’m trying to be like that cool swimmer. I said I just missed the Olympics and she said something like, oh, you can try again next year. She didn’t know anything about swimming. The night is getting late and I’m like, if I don’t get a date now, someone else is going to get her. So I was like, hey, can we talk outside really quick? I was like, I know this is weird, but I would really like to go on a date sometime. She’s like, well, let me have your number and I’ll text you. She texted me a few hours later like, hey, it’s Cassie. I sent her this long message back and said I would love to take her on a date. She doesn’t text me for like 24 hours, but is like, sorry, text me when school gets back. We go home. When school gets back I wait like a week and then text her like, hey, do you want to go on a date? She had actually just dropped her sorority and had been praying that the Lord would give her a different path for her senior year. So she gave me a chance. We went out the next week and we found out that we had so much in common. She grew up in Chapel Hill and my dad played basketball at UNC. She was in the same sorority as my mom. Her dad is from Lebanon and my parents had just done three mission trips in Lebanon. Probably the craziest fact was that she had vacationed in Carolina Beach growing up and stayed at the condo next to the one we own. Her dad was also friends with the person who set my parents up on a blind date. I proposed to her in March of 2017, so we didn’t date too long. I pretty much just knew. I gave it to Mark Gangloff and said, I bought this ring. Can you keep it until after NCAAs because I might make a bad decision and propose too early. The week after we flew to California and I proposed. We were married nine months later.

Champion’s Mojo: You came into swimming pretty late. Can you share about that and the mindset you have as someone who hasn’t been swimming their entire life?

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Photo Courtesy: Reagan Lunn/Georgia Tech Athletics

Michael Chadwick: So my introduction came after I was cut from the 7th grade basketball team. That was the defining factor of my age group career because when I was growing up, I felt like I was trying to balance being a basketball player and being a swimmer. I thought I was the best basketball player. I thought I was great. I thought I had a great jump shot. I was trying to balance that with swimming. I was doing summer league. I was doing a little bit throughout the year, but it really wasn’t a thing yet. When I was cut from the basketball team, I was mad. If basketball wasn’t going to be my thing, then swimming was. I was very fortunate in that I had about three coaches that really believed in me growing up, one of them being David Marsh. His eye for talent is incredible. He saw something in me at 13, 14 years of age that he fostered. He wasn’t hands on all that time, but he had a master plan for me. He was smart. He’s crafty, man. He introduced me to the Team Elite swimmers. He told me my best swimming was going to be in college. I was never thinking how to swim in college. I was thinking, how am I gonna swim after college? I was not good until my senior year. I barely got my junior national cut. That was good enough for me to be slightly recruited by a few schools and offered a 15 percent scholarship at the University of Missouri. It was between UNC and Missouri but, when that happened, I knew where I was supposed to go. When I’m looking at the grand scheme of things, what kept me going in the sport of swimming was a huge level of belief in the people around me, that being my parents and coaches. I’ve always said that, before the age of 15, a large majority of the ownership has to come from coaches and parents. I don’t think we are quite mature enough to be able to fully understand what we’re training for, even if we have a world of talent. We have to be kind of fostered into that world of success. I had all these amazing people, including my parents, who saw something in me that I did not. And then, once I got to the ages of like 16, 17, 18, I started to believe it for myself. I started to move more toward this idea that I can actually be something in the sport, even if I don’t see it yet. When I had officially committed to Missouri, it was almost like I had a burden lifted off my chest and could swim freely. I started to actually have success into my senior year and then move on to college and really start to enjoy the sport.

Champion’s Mojo: Throughout our lives we constantly reform ourselves. Can you explain what that means to you and how it can help someone become a champion?

Michael Chadwick: I’ve always looked at my life in four year increments, which really lines up with the Olympic cycle. I strongly believe that we are never exactly who we are throughout our entire life. I think we go through seasons of change and growth and we change with the hardships and the successes that are brought onto us as champions. No one is a champion forever. We can be a champion in one area of life, but we will always move out of that into something else. One of the amazing things about looking at life in four year increments is no one is the same as a twelve year old as they are at 16. Or at 20 and so on. It’s a small window of time where you can really analyze exactly who you are. For example, at 21 years of age, I was trying out for the Olympics as a single guy who is not invested in the things that I am today. Now, at twenty five, I’m married and life looks a little bit differently than it did at 21. We don’t always have a clear picture of where we’re headed, but the combination of trust and faith in something greater than ourselves leads us to these amazing new parts of who we are. I think one of the struggles, one of the I’d say hardships that a lot of people growing up right now has is they want to see exactly who they are now. My encouragement for them is if we get so caught up in who we are today, we lose track of what we’re going to become tomorrow and four years from now. Growth is a constant thing. We can’t be so caught up with this stagnant foundation. We have to build on top of it.

Champion’s Mojo: What characteristics do you think champions share?

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Photo Courtesy: Kara Sekenski

Michael Chadwick: I don’t think there is a general champion-like cookie cutter mold that fits everyone, if you know what I mean. When I look at all of these people who have been successful they’re very different. A lot of times I can find similarities. A very strong sense of determination, perseverance and a huge sense of faith in something There’s always big things but the biggest thing I’ve seen is that they really maximize who they are. For me, I’ve moved more to this sense of identity. As a Christian man who is doing sport in life, that is my foundation. I’m trying to build up on that the moment that I start to get away from that. I start to lose sight of who I am. We all have to do this kind of soul searching of how we are made and what gives us strength. We don’t have sports forever. The moment that you see me sacrificing my foundation for this sport is the moment you tell me to stop. If you see me start going downhill and I start to sacrifice too much for this thing, I have sacrificed who I am. Until that day, I’m going to keep going full force in the sport of swimming to maximize my potential and who I am. Fortunately I have Cassie to stand by me and build me up. I think we all need that.

Champion’s Mojo: What is your proudest moment?

Michael Chadwick: My wedding was great, but we had gotten to that point. It was getting the first date, that was the hard thing. It’s hard for me to find a proudest moment because, and my wife would agree, I tend to live in the future unless it’s a huge disappointment that I’ve had. Sometimes I dwell on that. When it comes to successes, I tend to forget about them pretty quickly because I’m looking towards the next thing. It’s really when it comes to disappointments and struggles that sometimes I have a tendency to look back. When it comes to missing a team or having a bad race, even saying something stupid or hurting someone’s feelings, that’s when I tend to live in the past. I’m like, gosh, why did I do that? I’m really trying to grow and try to let those things go away and not focus on those. In the swimming world, for my successes, I look at NCAAs my senior year. Breaking 41 seconds and getting second. I look at being on world record relays and stuff like that that have been highlights of my career. It brings me

Champion’s Mojo: Is there anything we haven’t covered you’d like to talk about?

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Michael Chadwick; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Michael Chadwick: One thing I always try to emphasize when I talk is, when it comes to being a champion, having a purpose driven life is so important. That’s something that I’ve really tried to maximize and a lot of my competitors have really maximized by knowing what their “why” is. When talking about this I really encourage everyone to sit down and try to understand what your purpose is and what your life is like. My why is bringing this truth and belief that this world is far bigger than we understand or imagine, and that there is a story being told. When I read a book like the Bible I read what it really means and represents and I get to have this faith and joy in life. That’s my encouragement for people. Find your joy. I think happiness and this love of life and to be a champion is not just in what you’re doing. It’s this big picture of life. We can all be a champion in one thing, but how much more meaningful is it to be a champion in life? That’s my encouragement. Let’s all move towards this purpose driven lifestyle. If we put our fine foundation, for example, in a thing called swimming, which is a great thing, it looks very good. It brings a lot of emotional and mental and physical security every day when I have a really good workout or whatever. It’s really easy to put it in that. The hard part is when that foundation proves not to be the strongest. When it’s something that can possibly be taken away. Sports are always an escape that was taken away for a few months and there is still no certainty in sports in the future because of COVID. Where we put our foundation and how we build it is the most important thing. Finding where to put that foundation is my challenge for everyone.

Champion’s Mojo: Michael, thank you so much for spending this time with us today! We wish you all the best!

Michael Chadwick: My pleasure! It was great chatting with you both!

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