Losing Like An Olympic Champion

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Losing Like An Olympic Champion (Matt Grevers)

Originally published on July 1, 2016

By Annie Grevers

Like many of you, I’m a Matt Grevers fan. I’m going to make the bold claim that I’m a bigger Matt Grevers fan than you are. Over the past 48 hours, I’ve read heartfelt tributes to my husband that send streams of tears racing down my cheeks.

The U.S. Olympic Trials can be a cruel and unforgiving meet. Most competitors leave Omaha wishing they had been smarter strategically, timed a turn better, or not taken that extra stroke. It’s a meet that leaves most athletes hungry, unsatisfied. Many will head back into training with their mistakes fresh in their mind and strive to insure they never goof the simple things again. Some will leave the sport, knowing they made it to a prestigious stage.

A select few will see a ‘1’ or a ‘2’ beside their name on the jumbotron, gasp in disbelief or relief, hug their families and float through the rest of the meet in a state of euphoria, as an Olympian.

We Grevers planned to float through Omaha after Tuesday night, but our plans were derailed. Rather than sitting in the front row behind the pool to rally around our newly minted three-time Olympian, Matt’s parents and I stood up with somber expressions and offered hugs and kisses of solace to our forlorn Olympic champion. We watched helplessly as the big man lumbered past fans to exit the gladiatorial arena. Not the scene he had imagined. Nothing like the last two 100 backs he had experienced in Omaha.

At the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, Matt’s 52.76 earned him the undesirable third place finish. In 2012, American Nick Thoman took home Olympic silver with a 52.92. Yes, the U.S. men’s 100 backstroke is as cruel as the men’s 200 breaststroke was last night. You’ve got to be on the verge of the world record to make the Olympic team. And even if you are, someone has to get third.

I’ve taken fifth at the Olympic Trials twice. I’ve had visions that didn’t unfurl as they were supposed to. It hurts like hell. People you’ve grown to know and love make the team, you celebrate with them but also wince with pain. I’ve never held the title “Olympian” or “Olympic champion” though.

I feared the magnitude of the disappointment Matt would feel. Would he indeed be OK, as he had reassured me before the meet? Would his foundations remain intact? Would he be bitter toward the sport? Would he regret investing so much of himself into attaining the one thing left on his swimming bucket list– that elusive long course 100 back world record?

Yes, he’s OK. Yes, his foundations are rock solid. No, he is far from bitter. No regrets, he loves the life he’s led.

Matt hurt because he never allowed himself to imagine getting third. He hurt because he dared to believe that he could and would get a world record. Matt hurt because he knew how much and by how many his dreams were supported. But he never hurt because he’d lost himself.

He texted me to tell me he’d sign autographs for a while on Tuesday night. “It might make me feel better,” he wrote. Matt mentioned that it might be one of the last times people would want his signature or to take a photo with him the next day. I laughed at that. Sorry, dear. I think people may remember you beyond Tuesday, June 28, 2016. And 72 hours later, I can say (as I love to say) that I’m right.

Matt is a behemoth on the pool deck, but his presence extends beyond his seven-foot wingspan. He’s touched more lives than I thought someone in our humble swimming community could touch. I’ve heard the following reviews of Matt: Legend, a champion in life, a class act, an asset to Team USA, a true team player, my favorite national teamer, the kind of person I want my kids to emulate, a leader, the perfect ambassador of our sport, and my personal favorite– Matt Grevers for President.

Momentary glory is magnified at Olympic Trials. Swimmers can begin to feel diminutive after not living up to their own expectations. If you’re not first or second (or third through sixth for lucky freestylers), you failed.

Yes, you’re right. You failed to make the Olympic team. But you certainly didn’t fail to throw everything you had at that goal. You certainly went faster than 99.99 percent of the swimming world if you made top 16 in any event. You certainly made your family and friends puff with pride as they watched from the stands or on NBC.

The test of Trials is oft considered what swimmers can do to make the team. As I witnessed my fourth Trials, I saw the true test to be what swimmers do when they don’t make the team. When your video reel is missing its expected climax. When the rug is pulled out from underneath you.

Swimmers either spiral into a free fall or find a way to land with both feet on the ground. My husband landed firmly. He faced pained expressions conveying genuine sympathy from coaches, fellow athletes and fans. He talked to the media, he smiled for photos with kids, he toasted and laughed with us at a family dinner. He remained Matt. He remained joyful. It’s not that he didn’t suffer, but he did so with grace that comes from a divine place.

To you who came within sniffing distance of an Olympic berth, I hurt for you. The world will say you failed, but anyone who knows you will vehemently defend you against the world’s shallow view. You made it through an emotional wringer. You proved yourself to be one of the finest in our nation. You didn’t waste thousands of hours in the pool. Most people will never allow themselves to even envision the success you so tangibly pictured. You dared, and you dared greatly.


  1. avatar

    Amazing article Annie!! He is an Olympian forever and his fans will admire him forever .

    • avatar
      Amy Jo Hoherz

      I know it’s been said he actually didn’t, but even if he did, lots of athletes in all sports announce their retirements after trials. They knew that they were committing that one last shot at the Olympics, and then they were hanging up theitheir hat and moving on to other things. Troy Dumais, four time Olympic diver, just did it last week. Unless you have been in that position, I don’t think you have a say in how they live their lives or finish their careers.

    • avatar
      Amy Jo Hoherz

      That was meet as a response to Guppy, sorry Sox Fan. Don’t know how to remove it.

  2. avatar

    Amazing article … truer words have not been spoken. I had the pleasure of swimming against Matt in college and he truly is a class act. #GreversforPresident

  3. avatar

    He should have announced his retirement after the meet. The focus should be on athletes who make the team, not those who don’t and then quit because they didn’t make it.

    • avatar

      Wow, how can you judge anybody like that on when to make the announcement.

      • avatar

        It just seems like an inappropriate time. Did the 4th, 5th, 6th place finishers announce their retirements also because they didn’t make the team? I can see the disappointment that arises when you’re expected to place in the top 2; however, nothing is certain. And quitting the sport immediately after you don’t make the team doesn’t show emotional maturity. Messi did the same thing recently when Argentina lost in the final of the Copa America. It’s like an emotional outburst from a child that says “I quit” after they lose a game or something becomes so difficult. Just an observation 🙂

      • avatar

        “In an interview with Paul Newberry of the Associated Press, Matt Grevers says that he’s calling it a career after missing the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.”

      • avatar

        Lisa, he did dare greatly…and another part of that speech is “It’s not the critic who counts….” Don’t even listen to those who are not also daring greatly….they have no place to be considered!

    • avatar

      He never announced his retirement. SwimSwam wrote that headline based on assumption. I don’t think we’re ever at risk of making the Olympic Trials not about the Olympic Team, Guppy.

      • avatar

        Agree! He did great. I don’t think I would be able to show that much grace under pressure. Well maybe. I hope so. But you don’t know until you’re there do you?

    • avatar
      Shari Stewart

      Swim swam made an assumption without Matt even having the opportunity to respond. Shame on them! And you made an assumption …. A very quick judgemental decision that came from a 3rd party. Shame on you for trying to bring shame to an amazing being.

      • avatar

        “In an interview with Paul Newberry of the Associated Press, Matt Grevers says that he’s calling it a career after missing the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.”

    • avatar

      Relax, Guppy, Herein lies the problem with social media. Attention grabbing headline written, article and interviews not read/heard. Assumptions made. Best to bite your tongue when you do not have a firm grip on the situation.

      • avatar

        Debi, thank you! I’m relaxed now……social media definitely skews information. That’s why we need to hold our media more accountable for the information they distribute. I am a huge Matt Grevers fan btw. (maybe i should have started with that) I was rooting for him to make the team. I do have a difficult time understanding when elite level athletes responds to a loss/disappointment by discussing their ambiguous future plans immediately following an event. I feel a more appropriate response would be to take some time to let your emotions cool down, collect your thoughts, finish out the meet and show you’re fans that even when you don’t accomplish your goal, there is something worthy in keeping your head down at the finish.

    • avatar

      Guppy: You got SwimScammed. To set the record straight, watch the video where Matt talks about his future…

    • avatar

      WOW!!! What an A@#$H*&$e!!!!! Don’t see you up there, GUPPY!!!!

      • avatar

        Right on the mark, JB! WOW!

        And to get back to the point of all of this, Matt Grevers is one of the class acts to walk the planet. And I can say that I know firsthand, not by assumption or trolling social media.

    • avatar
      Amy Jo Hoherz

      I know it’s been said he actually didn’t, but even if he did, lots of athletes in all sorts announce their retirements after trials. They knew that they were committing that one last shot at the Olympics, and then they were hanging up theitheir hat and moving on to other things. Troy Dumais, for time Olympic diver, just did it last week. Unlss you have been in that position, I don’t think you have a say in how they live their lives or finish their careers.

    • avatar
      Confused comment reader


      He is 31, not an 18yr old with years left in their swimming career. It’s one thing to be a 19yr old and say “I quit” or “I’m going to look into other careers outside of swimming” for not making the team, not for a 31 year old with a wife and child on the way. To anyone who knows swimming, it wasn’t really a “shocker” to hear him mention life AFTER swimming. It is a natural progression of life like any other sport. Of course there have been Olympians older than he is (those are few and far between, and it is sad that swimmers can’t earn enough to continue their sport like so many other athletes of other sports are able to- but that is a different topic), but as he mentioned, swimming isn’t like other sports that you can easily earn a living from, I am sure whatever he chooses to do going forward did not stem from “emotional immaturity” or an outburst of emotion, and that he has thought his decision over thuroughly, showing great maturity and respect for the sport.

  4. avatar
    Michelle Noll

    Truly an American inspiration. Being from Illinois, my 3 kids have met and listened to Matt speak multiple times and my oldest has written for Swimming World under Annie’s guidance. Both will always be remembered as gracious wonderful people that have represented the USA swimming family like the champions they are. As they continue as “swammers” and begin to raise their own family, I’m sure they will forever be inspiring the young swimmers of this country as they, too, aspire to represent their teams in the same way the “Gentle Giant” has for so many year. God bless!

  5. avatar

    He is an inspiration! He is and always will be an Olympian.

  6. avatar
    Rhonda Dale

    What a great article!! Matt is one of the swimmers my son looks up to the most!! He missed his chance meeting him at the Duel in the Pool and was greatly saddened. So my son will always be one who will keep looking to meet him somewhere for his autograph and the chance to carry a conversation with him. He is an amazing swimmer in his eyes and always will be.

  7. avatar
    Kevin Adkins

    Perhaps the greatest part of this story is that fact that it sounds like two wonderful people met each other through the sport of swimming! Together, there is no way the two of you will ever “lose”!

    • avatar

      Heartfelt article, a great athlete‘person, but also proof of the importance of a loving partner.

  8. avatar
    Sheila Himes

    The sweetest article I have ever read. Matt is an inspiration on how to be a leader, a champion and a role model. A true Olympian!! Couldn’t be happier for baby Grevers to have solid parents to welcome him/her into this world!! I think Matt for President is my favorite – he could show them all how to be a gentleman!!

  9. avatar
    Julie Smith

    Getting to meet Matt and Annie several years ago at a clinic with my daughter, let me just say it was awesome! They both spoke to the kids with pride and confidence. They both got in the water and shared swim tips with everyone, answering all the kids questions. Following training, Matt and Annie signed autographs and talked with each kid individually. Matt and Annie are both great athletes and definitely have a passion for what they do. Very proud to have met them. May you both continue to strive for your goals and share them with all swimmers. We’ll be watching.

  10. avatar
    Priscilla Tobias

    He will be remembered as an amazing athlete and representative of the sport. We saw him last night entering the facility and he stopped to sign autographs, have his picture taken with lots of different kids and even though he was running behind schedule to get to the Aqua Zone, he was gracious.

  11. avatar
    Stephanie Entwistle

    If your awesome husband would consider doing a meet and greet at home here in Tucson, we will all line up in droves! Matt Grevers is a great guy.

    • avatar
      Shari Stewart

      LOVE THIS IDEA!!!!!

  12. avatar

    Matt is a class act!!! Great article Annie!!

  13. avatar
    Carrie Steinseifer-Bates

    What an amazing tribute to an incredible man, husband, and athlete. Your story took me back to my own from 1988. Going into Olympic Trials as the defending Olympic Gold Medlaist in the 100 freestyle and coming up short that day. I had no plan “B”. It was my identity, my world, and all of my hopes and dreams! I lived with that “failure” for 30 years! The word “failure” and “Olympian” should NEVER be used in the same sentence. Ever! I salute you for writing your truth, and I salute Matt as the man, and champion he will always be! Forever Olympians and forever champions! Onward!

  14. avatar
    Alex Blavatnik

    Met Matt only once at last year’s Dual in the Pool, at the USA Swimming Foundation event. It only took me a few seconds to see why he’s so universally well liked and respected and it has nothing to do with being a swimming superstar. Breaks my heart not to see him in Rio, but he’s one person I’m not worried about, not matter what comes next.

  15. avatar
    Scott Young

    Matt is indeed a class act, but this article, Annie, should be a must-read for every athlete and parent of an athlete who will invariably have to deal with a difficult loss. You had a unique perspective to Matt’s disappointment and you provided a playbook by which disappointed athletes can again emulate Matt.

  16. avatar

    Even without a ticket to swim at the 2016 Olympics, I would say Matt Grevers is a Champion and a Winner. The prestige, medals, and benefits of training and goal setting are worth it all, but more than all of that, the biggest and best prize that comes from competitive swimming are the relationships that you make. Matt’s wife Annie seems like the real prize.

    And while “the friends you make through competitive swimming” might sound cliché, I would point out that some of my best friends these days are parents of the children I teach and coach and co-coaches that I have met in the past 15 years. Swimming brings new friends and connections to my life almost daily. I have never swum at the level of Matt Grevers, but I am a winner too!

    Swimming- the best sport in the world in so many ways!!!

  17. avatar

    Matt Grevers is one of the finest swimmers the world has seen. He has always been a fantastic team member and leader in a sport that often focuses on individuals. I cried for him after that back, not in disappointment, but in pride. He may not have made it to Rio, but he is without a doubt a true Olympian.

  18. avatar
    Lisa Bellile

    An incredible article illuminating an incredible man. My 11 year old daughter got Matt’s autograph and picture taken with him at trials. Although he seemed giant to her, my daughter said, “He’s the nicest guy.” And I agree. You can either let the sport of swimming define you or define yourself. Matt is doing just that. Making his mark as a leader, a kind soul. Someone who is giving back. Matt has been a joy to watch and can’t wait for his next endeavors.

    • avatar
      Janet Johnson

      Yes, Matt is “the nicest guy”. So giving of his time and energy and I wish him and his lovely wife, Annie, all the best and for a bright and joyful future.

  19. avatar
    Nikki Metz

    This article holds true from the age group swimmer to the world record holder. Swimming is a sport with grace and honor. I have witnessed other sports that this does not hold true for, which only increases my love for swimming. For those who have spent thousands of hours in the pool your victory is the next personal best and if you work hard and achieve that, everyone can be a champion.

    • avatar
      David Messinger

      So true! Well said!

  20. avatar
    Robin Walker

    I must say I’ve always loved watching Matt Grevers swim! His confidence, strength, spirit, and grace not only inspires others but stands for all the good things USA Swimming represents!! I’m sorry Matt didn’t quite make the team this year, but his legacy in USA Swimming and International Swimming will follow him forever and inspire others toward lofty and remarkable goals!

  21. avatar
    Jeff Rouse

    Great article Annie. Matt’s a true champion and should hold his head high. And you can reassure him that swimmers and non swimmers alike will be clammoring for his autograph and a picture with him for many many more years.

    • avatar

      Jeff you were great as well. I remember the summer when you were swimming at the Phoenician Swim Club. I was several years younger and remember how helpful you were to all the swimmers on the team. It’s great to see so many Olympians be great role models for the next generation of swimmers.

  22. avatar
    Jessica - Swim Mom in SC

    My favorite Olympian! One that I would be proud for my son to admire. He has carried himself with grace and with character that’s missing in a lot of top tier athletes! Matt, you are an amazing man and you and Annie will make WONDERFUL parents. Best wishes to you and your beautiful family! Just keep swimming!

  23. avatar

    I am sorry that he didn’t qualify, I was cheerin for him. But what is great about this article and Matt’s reaction is that it shows how he (and you too!) should still be looked up to, followed, and be an inspiration to ALL swimmers, not just those at the brink of the Olympic level.
    This article is especially inspiring to me because I have been 0.11 away from my goal to qualify for a national meet for the past two years, getting painfully close almost every time I swim and I know that I have not been reacting nearly as positively as Matt has and this is inspiring me, though not at the Olympic level, to still react more positively and to just work harder.
    Thank you!

  24. avatar

    Beautiful story! What a great guy! He will always be remembered! He was so gracious last night signing and getting pictures outside after finals.

  25. avatar

    Well said, Annie. Matt has always been one of my favorite elite swimmers, and his grace and generosity under pressure have always been obvious. I wish you both (soon to be you three!) the best going forward.

  26. avatar
    Susie Rieder

    What a beautiful article about an inspirational athlete! Annie, you and Matt have both touched David’s life in only the most positive ways. In our house you are both champions! Best of luck to both of you on your newest “project”!

  27. avatar
    Stephanie Mindlin

    Matt is truly in a class of his own! We are truly blessed to have him as a role model for our young age group swimmer. The few times we have met him, my son will see him from a distance and say, “look, there he is!!” And yes, there he would be standing, bigger than life, so tall and such a presence you can’t do anything but stop and stare at the great champion in front of you. Then when he engages with his fans, the only thing bigger than his tall stature, is his huge smile and friendliness to his fans. We will always be a part of the Matt Grever fan club. Thank you for all you’ve done and will continue to do for this amazing sport called swimming!!!

  28. avatar
    Jeff DeCocq

    What a class act. Here is the part that really showed me what a champion he is (from a Washington Post article).

    “As it turned out, Grevers’s time Thursday in the 200 back prelims was good enough for 14th place and a spot in Thursday night’s semifinals. But knowing he wasn’t fast enough to go any further than that, he said he planned to withdraw in time for the 17th-place finisher to take his spot. Maybe there was a kid, sort of like Grevers himself was 12 years ago, who could use that spot as a springboard to future greatness.

    So, say hello Thursday night to Tristan Sanders, a 20-year-old out of the University of Michigan, who suddenly went from 17th to 16th, sneaking into the semis thanks to Grevers’ gesture.”

  29. avatar

    It is a reminder about the importance of balance in life. There is a time and place to be an Olympian and a gold medalist. It’s not like Matt was deprived of that experience. There is also a time and place to be a parent. Maybe it’s worth considering making that the priority now. Good luck!

  30. avatar
    Becki Major

    So nicely written, Annie. I’m so proud to have shared the pool with both of you. A true inspiration for all of us swimmers, old or young.

  31. avatar

    Very well written Annie! I have been fortunate to know Matt and he exudes class. Most of what you wrote is true for many others who got close to the top but just missed. It is a tough meet in that regard. I hope all the swimmers have the same perspective soon (rather than later). Thanks for sharing.

  32. avatar
    Rather Be Swimming Distance.


    I am in complete awe of Matt and I always have been. I still remember the first clinic you both came to in Oro Valley. I vividly remember the excitement and amazement that was pulsing through the very core of my being as a young begining distance swimmer would have the opportunity to train under two of her biggest heroes.

    I also remember the terror that was within me when I first met you too that day. These two people standing right next to me, had accomplished so much. What had I accomplished? I had made it to states in the 1000 for the first time. I was never one to get star struck. Being the blunt outgoing young girl I was had always allowed me to speak my mind whenever I wanted to, to whoever I wanted to.

    For the first time in my life, I was so excited I forgot what words were and how to use them (which is saying something for someone who can talk a mile a minute). I was completely star struck. Because to me- it’s never mattered what you didn’t accomplish, it was always what you had.

    The pictures you took with everyone- that photo sat on my dresser for 3 years after that day. And I looked at it everyday, and I fueled the spark that I needed to light every day.

    A few people I once knew went to OT. One made the B final I believe in a backstroke event (I cannot recall which one), and the other had swam some breaststroke (once more, I cannot recall which ones). I was completely stunned. I had known these people for almost a year, yet it had never been brought up. Why? Because they didn’t think it was as important as I did.

    Well, maybe they didn’t make the Olympics. But all I could see was the swimmer who went down that hard (and ironically, lonely) path to get there. Getting to OT is no easy task. That’s all I could see.

    After that, I remember hearing that Annie Chandler would be doing private lessons. My breaststroker friend nearly had a heart attack. Time continued on, and I would always watch from a distance, hoping one day I would accomplish enough to deem myself worthy of speaking to thee Annie Chandler.

    I often still sit back, and realize what a crazy opportunity I have every day. Everyday I look at that picture frammed on my dresser, and carefully review the vibrate pink card that holds a special place in my heart next to it. Everyday I look at the names on the record boards on my teams pool deck, and I always look for the same two names.

    Perhaps Matt may have not made the Olympics this time around, but that does not detract from the amazing things he has accomplished. Please tell Matt, that “Even heroes have the right to dream, and even heroes have the right to bleed.” because I feel as though it is important advice to have. I wish you the best of luck on your many adventures to come. I look forward to when our paths will across again, and perhaps I will deem myself worthy of speaking more than just a simple greeting of, “Hello, Mister Matt Grevers, sir.”

    This was longer than intended, but I feel as though I covered everything.

    “I’m with you till the end of the line,” and let me know when you want that pizza.

  33. avatar

    Annie, both you and Matt have always been class acts. My daughter went to swim camp down at UofA several years ago and her fondest memory was of Matt taking the time to pose for a picture with her and of your kindness. Every time he comes to Mesa to swim, he has been more than willing to talk and pose for pics with the kids.
    Matt is an amazing swimmer and I personally witnessed it from the deck itself (I am USA Swim official).
    I am sorry he did not make it to the 2016 Olympics in the 100 Back but he has left and continues to leave one heck of a legacy in the sport and someone to look up to for our age group swimmers!

  34. avatar

    I swam at Masters Nationals in San Antonio two years ago when Matt was there. Being 6’6″ myself, and thankful for it every time I leave the blocks, I was impressed with Matt’s physical ‘presence’. But more than that he was adored by all because he was easy going, smiling, humble, gracious and friendly. Women loved him, and guys wanted to be like him! HOWEVER — this article doesn’t sound like something Matt would write. I believe the statements are correct that MATT is at peace with this turn of events. Sure, it must sting for a few minutes, but he’s had a big helping of success and seems comfortable enough without having more. But what I did hear was the wife/partner who seems to feel great distress with him not having achieved. Sort of Munchausen by Proxy. The saying “Thou Protesteth Too Much” rings through my head. The more I hear “it’s okay” and “he” (me?) is not hurt about this, the more I sense the pain. Not HIS pain, but HERS! Hundreds of swimmers do NOT make the team, but they are all not out there writing “I’m okay” articles. Only speaking for myself, I already thought Matt would handle this with class (as he already has). But the more effort you take to convince me, the more I wonder.

  35. avatar
    Marco di Carli

    This is the action of a true athlet after you fall: get up, clean the dirt off your clothes and go on!
    I’ve been racing Matt a few times at world’s and the 2012 olympics and all I can say is, that this giant is a true champion!
    It’s in times like these, you need your family and friends to cheer you up, but it is up to yourself, to fight trough…
    Matt, you have achieved more than most of any athlet, so don’t get yourself stopped right now!

  36. avatar
    Jack Simon

    Great letter Annie! Not the triumph but the journey and am sure both you and Matt know that. Both of you will continue to be leaders in whatever direction you choose.

  37. avatar
    Kristi Short

    Matt signed my daughter’s cell phone case on Sunday between prelims and finals. She is 12 years old and was star struck. Because of his kindness and inspiration, she returned to practice on Tuesday with a new found drive to train harder because she too wants to be an Olympian. She said other swimmers walked by and wouldn’t stop, but Matt took the time to talk to the kids, sign autographs and inspire the next generation of athletes. Such a class act! Thank you Matt for showing my little girl that being an olympian is about so much more than swimming a fast race. My daughters cell phone case is now covered in tape because she wants to make sure your signature doesn’t rub off. I can only imagine how many kids you touched over your career. Thank you!

  38. avatar

    As a swimmer (and fellow breaststroker), as a competitor, as someone who has succeeded in the sport and as someone who has failed (more times than I can count), this article is something I will take with me for the rest of my career. Thank you Annie. This reminds me how to pick myself back up when I fall and to remember the special people around me that are so supportive. I will always remember this article and have it bookmarked. <3

  39. avatar

    Excellent article. I’m an ex-DIII top 12 swimmer from long ago … I never got anywhere near close to where you and your husband suffered of being ALMOST there … I watched these trials for the first time this year, owed likely to my son attending with his team … and was struck by the ‘sooooo close’ pain that a number of swimmers must have felt …

    I’d encourage you, like the guy over at cap and goggles, to keep writing. Your level of insight is amazing, vs the fawning cruft over at swim swam.

  40. avatar
    Steven Handy

    My son swims for the National Training Group with RMSC, Rockville Montgomery Swim Club in MD. He’s 15 and 6’4, and very good at backstroke. His coaches and teammates call him Grevers. I can’t think of a better compliment. Me. Grevers has always conducted himself with class. He lived the life we hope for from our Olympians, as an example to the younger generation. Thank you for your article, and thank Matt for his dedication and the pleasure we got from watching him.
    – Steven Handy

  41. avatar
    Janna Hickel

    My kids stood outside the athletes’ entrance Monday night when Matt exited the pool area. He was so kind to all the kids there that night as he paused for a few photos and explained how hungry he was and how he needed to go get dinner but then genuinely promised to return Tuesday night and sign autographs as long as it took. My eldest snapped a quick selfie with him at that time. Tuesday night my kids again stood outside the entrance after Matt placed 3rd. When he came through that doorway, I never expected him to do what he did next. He set his swim bag down and headed for the first kid nearest the exit and proceeded to walk the entire line signing autographs. He was there well over half an hour following that devastating 3rd place finish. As friends who did not attend trials post on FB how much they emulate Lochte and Phelps, I’ve corrected them time and again that it is swimmers such as Matt whom I would prefer my kids to emulate. In my book, Matt proved himself to be a man of his word, mature, and the epitome of a sportsman Tuesday night. After suffering heartbreaking defeat, he made good on his promise to the younger generation and do so with a gracious smile on his face. Please thank him, Annie, for being a man of character who models great sportsmanship.

    • avatar
      Swim mom

      I couldn’t agree more!

  42. avatar
    Witness to Greatness

    One of the reasons that I wanted to be here at the trials is to witness the clash of the Titans, the first generation of pros versus the first generation of superstars they inspired to stake a claim on Mt. Olympus. This changing of the guard promised to be one epic battle after another. This was a chance to see Matt defend his castle against ever more challenging odds. The outcome of these clashes is never a foregone conclusion and if they were replayed twice more, there might be three different results. This is the ultimate Olympic Trials for fans, one that may not be surpassed in its significance. Thank you, Mr. Greevers, for your heroic fight, for being carried out on your shield with honor and dignity intact. No one can ask for more. We are all proud of you. How could it be otherwise?

    But it sounds like there’s still something left on your bucket list that needs some attention. You’re on the cusp of that elusive WR and I am certain that you’ve done the right training to achieve it. Your WR is in that body and just hidden by fatigue. With a little more rest, it’s there for the taking. Adding the title of World Record Holder to Olympic Champion might take some of the sting out of this week. I’m pretty sure they’re holding time trials in Omaha.

  43. avatar

    If I could wish one thing for my swimmer children, it would be that they do the sport with grace- when they “win” and when they “lose”. That’s so much more important than any time they could achieve, or any medal they could win- Olympic or otherwise. Congratulations to Matt for being the very definition of the word champion, and for being someone I hope my children will emulate. Thanks so much for this article.

  44. avatar
    Jane Del Greco

    Class act & Champion in every sense. Saw him swim his senior year in High school, anchoring the free relay. He went in about 1-1/2 body lengths behind and was leading by his breakout. The greatness was there then and will always be there– and people will still want his autograph many years to come.

  45. avatar
    Cleary maly

    Annie! I met on a plane leaving Master Nationals in San Antonio! You were other the sweetest people and we will never forget him! Thanks for signing my poster for my daughter, she has it hanging in her room

  46. avatar

    Annie…. A most wonderful article for a giant of a swimmer!…. I always love and enjoy seeing Matt at swim meets… he is so friendly and thoughtful of others… He will always be in the swimming and non swimming world a winner…

  47. avatar
    Heather Martinez

    He will ALWAYS be remembered!!! Class act for sure!!!!

  48. avatar

    Annie, we were so rooting for Matt here in TX… Knowing your San Antonio family and hearing them talk about Matt outside of the swim world has made us root for him even more. Like you said, he will be a well loved swimmer despite not making it to the olympics this year… His grace and positive attitude after his devistating loss was definitely something to be admired!

  49. avatar
    Tobie Smith

    This is amazing. You have captured in writing the heart, soul, joy and pain every swimmer feels at Olympic trials. I’m grateful to you for having the opportunity to read your words and, honestly, shed some tears of understanding.
    Cheers to you. I hope to read more from you in the future- you are a beautiful writer!

  50. avatar

    A fitting tribute–don’t know how you managed it, but well done. Also, thanks for the reminder that a solid foundation is only proven when it survives the storm. Sometimes, that’s the only way others can see what’s real.
    It’s painful, but clinging to that vision makes us “more than conquerors.”

  51. avatar
    Paula Metoxen

    “Grevers for president” sounds great!

    My daughter is a swammer that was lucky enough to have two Matt Grevers encounters. She met both Matt and Annie when they conducted a swim clinic in Oshkosh WI. We have a great picture of Matt and Annie with her teammates. She grew to 6′ and Annie was a positive role model.

    Later, my daughter swam an event after Matt set a pool record at Schroeder in Milwaukee. The atmosphere was electric and it inspired her to a best time. We are forever and always fans of both Grevers. We wish you joy in your next chapters.

  52. avatar

    Matt is a class act in and out of the pool.

  53. avatar

    Saw Matt swim at Stanford just after Worlds in ’11. It was my first ever live swim meet after only watching swimming in person. I was so jazzed to see these athletes I have admired and rooted for so much.
    I had always heard what a genuine nice guy Matt is which just made seeing him and guys like Nathan Adrian sweeter.

    I passed Matt in the parking lot when we were leaving the event talking to some buddies, all with huge smiles on their faces.
    I so wanted to go over and shake his hand and say hello but I did not want to bother him. I will not miss another opportunity if it ever arises.

    He has made everyone around him, a whole swimming community and country for that matter, proud. This will never change, Rio or no Rio. We will miss cheering him, but clearly his legacy is as much, maybe more, about what he did out of the pool as what he did in it.

    Great article. Well done Grevers family!

  54. avatar

    I was fortunate enough to meet Matt and have my picture taken with him at Winter Nationals in Federal Way this past December. Of all of the big names there, it was Matt who most impressed me. He genuinely enjoyed the time he spent signing the backs of our kids’ shirts. I am proud to say that he is the only swimmer whose photo ever graced our refrigerator as a role model for my son. I eagerly watched all of his races this week in Omaha and my heart sunk just a little bit with each one. I will miss Matt on this Olympic team. But in my mind, we are fortunate to have had him as an ambassador of the sport of swimming. He will always be a winner to me.

  55. avatar
    Laura Forsythe

    I had the opportunity to briefly meet Matt Grevers a few years back and observe him interacting with young swimmers including my daughter and he was wonderful with the kids. As a parent, I was so impressed with how he handled himself with these young swimmers that I complemented him on it. He responded with an attitude that it was his responsibility to be a role model and part of the job to be an ambassador of the sport and he did it with pleasure. From that day on I have cheered for him because of the kind of person he was that day just as much as for his amazing swimming career. Matt Grevers would make an amazing age group swimming coach and I hope to read someday that he has found a coaching job somewhere that he loves. FYI-my son swims now with the Gators Swim Club in South Orange County if he’s interested!

    • avatar

      That’s Orange County, California, by the way!

  56. avatar
    Tait Ecklund

    Hey Annie! Whether he retires from international competition or not, please please I hope both of you keep competing in Masters competitions! We always love having you guys on the pool deck! Plus I just aged up out of his age group, so I’m not worried anymore about him beating me!

  57. avatar

    Annie– What a fantastic article. With your permission I would like to send this out to our entire team. I feel it captures a side we don’t acknowledge near enough. From these 2016 trials, similar experiences were had by Will Licon, Micah Lawrence, and several others. At NCAA’s, it happens there every year. We see it in all of sports, a regular occurrence— so close, but just coming up a little short. The last second buzzer beaters– we see the celebrations, but feel for the heartbreak on the other side. You have a gift for capturing the human, emotional side. You and I collaborated a while back for a SW article, but I’ve never met you or Matt personally. I look forward to doing so one day. The above comments about how nice Matt is are a true testament to the kind of Champion he is. Keep up the great work, and best of success to you and Matt wherever life takes you both next. I hope you will continue to write. Mike Koleber, Nitro Swimming.

  58. avatar
    Jennifer Kemp

    I’m amazed at some of the negative comments in this blog. I swam in the 72 Olympics and I have a continue to watch Matt grievers since he first came on the scene. I know nothing personal about him and I’ve never met him but I don’t need to because I honestly feel that he is an upstanding person, a fantastic swimmer, very supportive and an important member of Team USA. Everyone is different and everyone will handle their own retirement in their own way. Although it was heartbreaking to not see Matt make the team it takes nothing away from how I feel about him. Sometime in my life I would love to meet him and would feel honored to shake his hand and say thank you for all that he did for US swimming. Congratulations on a great career Matt and best of luck to you and Annie and I can’t wait to hear about the next phase of your life as you enter fatherhood . You’re definitely one of the best!

  59. avatar

    Never forgotten – no fear of that! If I passed him 10 years from now, I’d have to work up my nerve, run back, ask to shake his hand and thank him for being such a wonderful swimmer and person. He will be in the same category as Matt Biondi and look at the reception he received at these trials!
    Thanks for writing and sharing!

  60. avatar
    Swim mom of 2

    My kids met Matt and Annie at a Fitter and Faster event. Sometimes, when you meet a world-class athlete, you meet a stunted individual. Matt is an Olympian, but he is also a world-class human being. He was so good to my kids. I’ll never forget the glow they had when he let them wear one of his medals, and that moment is immortalized in a framed photo on my kid’s swim wall. He’s a hero to them and I so appreciate how nice and how encouraging you both were. The best thing I can say about him is that he hasn’t forgotten what it felt like to be that 12-year old age group swimmer who’s working so hard to get another JO cut. Best wishes to him, and you.

  61. avatar
    Aaron B

    My oldest daughter had the opportunity to meet both of you during a fitter and faster session in Worthington Ohio. She still has her picture of both of you with Matt’s gold medal from the 2012 Olympics around her neck. You both have touched countless lives and have helped instill a love for swimming in so many over the years. Thanks for passing that love of swimming on to my kids!

  62. avatar
    Amy Jo Hoherz

    My son Chase and I met Matt in March 2007 at the Missouri Grand Prix when he was on the cusp of competing internationally. He was sooooo nice to my little kid with chlorine bleached hair and stars in his eyes. Kind of like, geez, you want an autograph and picture with me? Big smile, arm around him. Been our favorite swimmer ever since. Chase must have worn the club sweatshirt he signed hundreds of times. Saw him again in Arizona in 1999, but he was walking to his car with a friend and we felt awkward interrupting. Just a great young man, and wonderful representative of swimming and the U.S.

  63. avatar
    Sam B

    Wonderful article. Matt will always be a champion in my eyes. I have a picture of Matt with my son from a 2010 Grand Prix meet. Matt was nearly twice Ben’s size. It meant so much to my son (also a backstroker) who went on to swim in college and helped encourage my younger to the same. Matt will always be a great American champion.

  64. avatar

    I’m THRILLED to say that Matt was gracious enough to let me have a photo with the both of you…on WEDNESDAY eve. 🙂 Couldn’t be more special…

  65. avatar
    Karen Nevo

    Beautifully written, so very-well said. You have truly touched me with your words.
    As the mother of a swimmer and third-time-to-be Olympian, my husband and I have been following the trials avidly and we both have noted the cruelty of the cut. You can be third best in the world yet not make it to the Olympic pool. Some truly excellent sportsmen and women have left the pool without that ticket to Rio, your husband included but they are all champions. There is so much more to the swimmers and you, Annie, have made that so very clear. Having landed safely on two feet, there is a whole world out there waiting with new experiences and challenges to be taken on! Good luck to Matt!

  66. avatar
    Penni johnson

    Awesome post! When I think of all the hundreds of swimmers sitting at home watching as the trials unfolded, knowing THEY could have been there but were not, I say your guy’s a WINNER who is a role model of endurance for others! Others like my 11 and 9 year old grandsons, who are Marlins Swimmers in Sanger, CA. They were glued to the TV watching stroke details, and discussing final times as easily as counting ties! Our talk swirled around years of practice, events, endurance, mistakes, defeats…and get up the next morning and go at it again! At some point, there IS another life-it’s OK to take a chance on it and see what your skills can do for you on dry land. You might just be inspiring skinny kids even more?

  67. avatar
    Sharon Barrows

    What an awesome article
    What an awesome athlete
    I will always remember Matt as an incredible champion and human being.
    May God continue to bless you both and your new little one.

  68. avatar
    Mary Chapmon

    We had the pleasure of seeing Matt swim as an age-grouper when our daughters joined Lake Forest Swim Club. He was 13, just back from an injury and only able to train with a kickboard. Matt stood out to us because of his sheer joy in the water. He made us think of an otter at play. He has been an asset to his sport and will be remembered for his actions both in and out of the pool.

  69. avatar
    Swim Mom


    My family was seated up behind your family on Tuesday night. We were there purely as spectators. We hoped that the trip would inspire our kids to dream big, and what I didn’t realize was that our nosebleed seats would not only give us great views of the races and smiling winners, but it also gave us birds eye views of so much disappointment. We could see the shocked faces; the tears; the downcast eyes, as they made their way off the pool deck. It was so hard to see so much disappointment on all those faces knowing how much these kids commit to their training. And even with a view of all that disappointment, my kids were still inspired by the thought of getting to experience even that– the honor of defeat on the pool deck at Olympic Trials.

    My 6’7″ 16 yr old son’s best race is the 100 back and his Olympic super hero is your husband. (My daughter is also a backstroker but she’s partial to Missy, being a girl and all, lol). I hope that Matt will get involved in Fitter Faster Tours or offer backstroke clinics or camps. I would be the first to sign my kids up for the chance to work with him, hear his story, and glean inspiration from him.

  70. avatar

    My 11 year old son was one of the lucky people who Matt stopped to take a picture with last Tuesday night. He has shown that picture to everyone he knows. I can attest to the fact that your husband has a young competitive swimmer from Omaha who will never forget him. It has been a pleasure watching Matt swim these last years. Thank you for being the champion you are.

  71. avatar

    Matt gave a clinic and a speech at last year’s annual meeting of Pacific Masters. We all loved him. He brought his gold medal from London and passed it around the room so everyone had a chance to hold it. I have a picture on my phone of him and me together. What a great guy! I wish him (and you, Annie) all the best for whatever the future brings.

  72. avatar

    I think it’s really nice when new up-coming athletes make the Olympic team. Matt had a couple Olympics already. Time to turn it over and cheer. And sounds like he is doing a good job accepting that role.

  73. avatar

    My family and I had the opportunity of watching Matt compete over the years. He’s always nice to his fans. He has been a great asset to the sport and he will always be remembered for his actions in and out of the water. He will be missed. He will always be our favorite Olympian.

  74. avatar


    The challenge Matt faced to make such a competitive team was incredible. The effort invested and focus of one’s life so precisely is demanding. Few people stay at the elite level over an extended period. And stretching yourself that far, then finishing out of the running must be emotionally debilitating. Good for Matt and his support team. Very nice narrative. Thank you.

  75. avatar

    This was an excellent and insightful article …….and a very sweet one too . Clearly , Matt is a great guy who faced disappointment with grace . It is an important lesson , not just in swimming , and not just in sports , but in life . Unfortunately , even talented , devoted and decent people will face bitter and even unfair disappointment . Matt demonstrated how to handle it , and Annie wrote about it beautifully .

  76. avatar
    Jennifer W.

    So well written Annie! I was at the trials with my daughter (11) and her teammate. We’re here in Northern Illinois where Matt is a big deal both in the pool and in the community. He should know that he’s a wonderful example to the swimming youth who are always looking to emulate a great swimmer as well as a great person who has his head and heart in the right place. Thank you for posting this and we’ll hope to see both you and Matt back here in IL at some point soon:(

  77. avatar

    What a tremendous tribute to a wonderful man and Olympic champion by his beautiful, loyal, courageous and extremely intelligent wife! I think the Grevers will be okay!


  78. avatar

    Annie — you too are a hero. You are a woman who loves and supports your husband and his dreams an no man who has that and the love of Christ will ever need anything more. God bless you and your family. You are an inspiration to us all. Thank you.

  79. avatar
    Helen Bayly

    Thanks Annie and Matt for wise words, sports inspiration – and your shared examples of honorable and good-humored human beings! You both are already super contributors to a better, greener and more peaceful world (and to our Tucson swimming and education communities.) Abrazos, Helen B.

  80. avatar
    Kerry S

    I am not a swimmer but a rower whom like your husband “failed”. It is hard to have (in my case) 5 years dedicated only to have it come to seemingly nothing. It is a complicated mess but I have no regrets and I am grateful for family members such as yourself who remind me/us that we are more than a result. My husband sent me your piece and I am encouraged he did. We all need reminders :). All the best in what adventures God has for you next!

  81. avatar

    Dear Annie, Thank you for this article, no one else on the planet could have written it with the perspective you have. Wife, mom-to-be, and fellow swimmer.
    Matt has always been a favorite of mine – for his humility, his unshakable joy, and for his excellence in the sport. Yet what sealed my admiration and transformed it into legacy was during the interview of that fated 2013 men’s medley relay when the back to breast exchange was missed by .04 sec. Just when my heart was hurting for that young breast stroker as fingers pointed to him, the unthinkable happened during the post-swim interview. Matt stepped up and gently took responsibility for his part of the exchange (though perfectly executed as a veteran), and placed an encouraging hand on the young man’s shoulder. With that self-sacrificing act before the media, Matt laid the first brick in the foundation for this this young man’s overcoming, the victory of which came to fruition at this year’s Olympic Trials. I still weep to recall our gentle giant, the team captain, humbly etch his mark in history this way. Though Matt does not go to Rio, there is a certain young man who will because of Matt Grever’s wisdom in leadership at a defining moment. I believe that wisdom will be invisibly etched in a Rio Olympic breast stroke medal. Love to you both, Matt and Annie and Baby Girl Grevers

  82. avatar

    Thanks Matt for taking the time with my 13 year old who was there, and got a selfie with you!

    Best of luck with your future, whatever it will hold.

    I’d previously commented on your excellent writing Annie, but unknown at the time, my boy was in the group of swimmers Matt met with.

  83. avatar

    Great article! Matt is a stud in the pool and sounds like a role model. He has the highest swimming trophy there is. nobody can take that from him. FYI, I would ask for his autograph in 5 years from now.

  84. avatar

    Annie fur President.

  85. Wendy Berglund

    Minutes after losing a chance to represent the USA at the Olympics Matt Grevers was signing autographs with his fan base and taking selfies. One of those fans was my daughter. A class act. He will always be #1 in my book.

  86. Keren Edwards

    A true champion and amazing role model for our young swimmers. He always takes time to talk to his fans and poses for every single selfie regardless of how his races have gone.

  87. Jody Dykes

    He has always been one of my favorites; he is truly a class act and worth of praise and honor.

  88. Lisa Dixon-Wells

    My daughter and I bumped into him in Omaha the day after his heart breaking 100bk and he was just so gracious and kind. Amazing man .

  89. Mary Tarc

    Matt Grevers defines what a champion is. His heart was breaking in this picture but my kids hearts were melting that he took time for us!

  90. Susan Levine

    Amazing & beautiful story of possibly uniquely swimming heartbreak.

  91. Laura Steward

    I took this picture with him RIGHT after that race. We were staying in the same hotel and both taking our kids to the zoo after trials that day. I’ve wanted to apologize for it…forever. What an ass I was to ask for it, excited as I was to meet him. He is beyond gracious.

  92. Joann Holman

    So we’ll written. What a class act. Good luck in 2021.

  93. Robbin White

    One of the true pillars of the sport, always the professional athlete

  94. Keren Edwards

    Still one of the best pieces on swimming I’ve ever read. Matt Grevers is an amazing swimmer and a great role model for our young swimmers.

  95. Liesl Taner

    Know how this feels. After Ugur’s 9 year berth on the national team, he missed his final Olympic team in 2000 by 1/100th of a second. Ouch.
    But he is so much more than his identity of a swimmer. A strong husband and father who loves God.
    He still says though, “why’d it have to be 1/100th!?!”

  96. Janet Johnson

    Matt Grevers is one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet.