Matt Grevers’ Saga to Training Camp: When Travel Plans Go Awry

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By Annie Grevers, Staff Writer.

Swim fans are fascinated by the lives of national teamers, but most fan thoughts revolve around races and what these world-class athletes do for fun. But what about those not-so-fun parts of making the World Championship team this summer?

If you’re following any of the swimmers on the US roster, you know they’re in a place that looks like a painting…of a dream…of heaven. Seriously. Croatia is one of the world’s most beautiful countries, and the members of Team USA are living like (very fit) kings and queens in paradise. Yes, they’re prepping to have serious speed once they launch into the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary in one week, but they sure have a scenic spot for their pre-meet prep.

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Photo Courtesy: Greg Meehan

Matt Grevers had been to this ethereal resort city in Croatia before World Championships in 2015, so he was familiar with the setting and looking forward to the camp this go ‘round. He woke up on the morning of his departure and had a delay notification (Side note: Matt is 6’8 so he literally does not fit in a typical airplane seat. For that reason, he does a lot of calling prior to flights to secure roomy exit row seats).

The delay out of Salt Lake City was going to cause him to miss his connection in Amsterdam. He proactively got on the phone and was booked on an alternate flight plan, this time through Atlanta. So Tucson to Atlanta, Atlanta to Paris, Paris to Croatia. That sounded reasonable. Until his pilot announced the flight to Atlanta would take longer than usual because they needed to stop in Dallas to refuel.

When Matt finally landed in Atlanta he was relieved to see his flight to Paris was delayed…he wouldn’t miss his connection after all! But a five-hour delay was too much. There was no way was he making the Paris connection. Matt was going to plan on being stranded in Paris for 24 hours since there appeared to be only one flight per day out of Paris to Croatia.

But then a helpful ticketing agent in Paris found a roundabout way of getting Matt to Croatia by Wednesday night with two stops. He handed the tired American a ticket listing three flights: Paris to Rome, Rome to Split, Split to Zagreb. Then there would be a two-hour car ride to his final destination. The helpful agent failed to mention that his flight to Rome took off in 30 minutes. Matt booked it to the gate and made it on the plane and into a seat we’ll call “quaint”. He had to side saddle or wing his knees out to fit.

At this point, Matt was delirious and just laughed at how far off target he’d gone to get to this resort town in Croatia. Rather than having two stops, Matt had stopped in six cities to get to Croatia. He made it to Zagreb, but it’s no surprise that his bag did not. The airline said it would be delivered the following day. Matt trusted them. Silly Matt.

The bag did not make it. It seemed to be stuck in Paris or maybe Rome? No one knew. But Matt was grappling with how to get through the next month without his belongings. Most items were replaceable, but there were TYR racing suits in his bag that were sort of necessary….

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

On top of the lost bag, Matt’s phone slipped out of his pocket on a bus ride and was never recovered.

I FaceTimed him on Friday morning (he has an iPad, which has come in handy as a makeshift phone). He was borrowing Team USA gear from Nathan Adrian, probably the only guy on the roster he could share a wardrobe with. The team was supposed to match each day, so of course, Matt stuck out wearing the wrong outfits each day. He was on his last pair of contact lenses and he was in need of some extra boxers…

Fortunately, the once-thought-gone bag made it to the team resort on Friday evening. The big man exhaled. He’d have racing suits and more than two pairs of boxers after all…and sight, thanks to extra contact lenses.

Sometimes we assume these athletes teleport over to their idyllic training grounds, where they eat Michelin-Star meals and train in the Adriatic Sea. All of the latter may be true, but Team USA hasn’t figured out teleportation yet. I’m sure Matt will be researching the method fervently after his saga to Croatia. Here’s to smooth sailing and fast swimming for Team USA for the remainder of their time abroad!

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

16 comments

  1. Emily Turner

    Becky Turner read this

  2. Emma Kinghorn

    Robyn Kinghorn and you thought the pole was an issue 😂😂😂

  3. Jody Dykes

    Got to applaud his perseverance!!

  4. avatar
    J. Zito

    Glad he finally made it! We can relate to the larger than average frame trying to fit in plane seats. 😉

  5. avatar
    Former Swimmer

    Does the national team not travel together anymore? Is everyone sent to training camp separately instead of having to meet up in a departure city?

    • avatar

      yeah that WORKED out great for the Marshall football team…oh and that Uruguayan rugby team would have something to say…….just saying

  6. Kate Ericsson

    Oh my! This made me think of Troy M Rech and Rob Ericsson and all their adventures in travel. (Rob recently sat next to a lady with her mystery assistance dog on a long flight.)

  7. Dianna Deerfield Ray

    Oh my! What a journey-that hopefully will only get better!

  8. Korinda Walls

    I loved reading this, and I love that Annie Grevers wrote it!

  9. Colleen Hazlett

    Always carry your suit with you🙄

    • Sherrill O

      Exactly- who doesn’t carry the necessaries in a carry on…..

  10. Carrie Turunen

    What resort is this in Croatia?

  11. avatar

    Where is USA swimming in all of this?

    Matt is a warrior traveler. Why does our national swimming federation get appraise for our amazing swimmers and not has each athlete dialed down in their travels?

    Can you imagine an NBA player borrowing gear?