Matt Grevers Shifts Focus to Family, Then Shot at 2021 Olympic Team

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Matt Grevers; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Matt Grevers had been training harder than ever trying to make one more push at an Olympic team.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist made the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 and 2012, but barely missed the team in 2016.

Now at age 35, with the Olympics being postponed a year because of the coronavirus, Grevers had to reassess his training and figure out if he could gear up for at least one more year.

“I would say it was just disappointing,” Matt Grevers told USA Swimming. “I’ve accomplished the primary goals I’ve had for swimming. I’m doing this now because I enjoy it, not because I have anything to prove anymore. But if this were 15 years ago, when I was 20, I’d have a whole different outlook. I would have been devastated. I would have been so antsy, feeling like someone is getting ahead of me. I’d have a sinking feeling, like I’m falling behind. It’s crazy what you convince yourself you need to show to people. And there’s so much you want to prove to yourself.”

So Grevers, who won gold in the 100 backstroke in London, is still aiming for 2021, but the process might be a little bit different after so much time out of the water.

“I’ll definitely get back into shape and see where it takes me. I haven’t been this long without swimming in 30 years,” he said. “I’m not sure where that will put me. If it’s a huge struggle, I’ll have to reconsider where I am and what I will do. But I could get right back into it. There’s a possibility (the break) has been helpful for me. My body has recovered in ways that it never has before. I’d like to make an impact in 2021. We’ll see.”

In the meantime, he is taking advantage of spending the time with his young family and making that the priority.

“I have a pretty strong mental game. I can convince myself of things. In this case, I convinced myself that this is a great time for the family (wife Annie, and two children) and an opportunity to recover,” he said.

But he is remaining active, including being part of a Peloton competition.

“I’m basically coaching myself. We have a little pool where I hook a stretch cord to the ladder and try to keep a feel for the water. I’ve been doing a lot of abs, Peloton and also pull-ups on my daughter’s swing set,” Matt Grevers said. “It was a letdown to have a lot of that work I did (before the shutdown) go down the drain, but I’m in a good situation. As professionals, we condition ourselves to think about the solution and not the problem. The top performers are the ones who can forget very easily about the issues and focus on what you can control.”

Then one more shot at the Olympics — but not retirement, he says.

Before the shutdown, I put in five months where the workload almost buried me,” he said. “I’ve discovered over a long career that sustaining that high level of training physically and mentally, to maintain that level of intensity, can burn me out a little bit. I can do it because I’m thinking it’s the last time I’ll have to hurt myself so badly in the water.

“But I’ve come to realize that I have enough of a base where I don’t have to work as hard as that to do (in the 100-meter backstroke) a 52-high or 52-mid. That can keep me competitive, especially with more short-course with the ISL (International Swimming League). I can stay with it. But to get to 52-low at the Olympic Trials? That’s a lot more work. So, I won’t retire as much as just fizzle out. After 2021, I’ll have to think about where to put swimming in my priority list, though I don’t think I’ll ever have a real retiring moment.”

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