Matt Grevers Soaking in Every Moment of Swimming, Family Success Heading into Sixth Olympic Trials

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Matt Grevers couldn’t contain his excitement when he made the Olympic team in 2012. Sure, he was the top backstroker in the U.S. coming into the meet — and an Olympian in 2008 — but he wasn’t sure he was going to make it.

Fast forward four years and the tables were completely turned.

Grevers was sure this time. He was still the top backstroker in the U.S. and poised to make a third consecutive Olympic team — something he was planning on this time.

It made the devastation even greater when he finished third in the 100 backstroke at trials, forced to watch a changing of the guard in the event — and forced to watch the Olympics from home.

“It is such a different build up mentally than I have had before. I think 2016 was a whole different game. I have been knocked down before, but I have never been so mentally sure then been knocked down. I swam bad and the implications were huge,” Matt Grevers told Swimming World. “I had set the world record in 2015 and I thought I was on the A game. To not make it was a very big disappointment. There is learning from that.”

Already well into his 30s, his career was at a crossroad.

Grevers took time away from the water to figure out what he wanted to do next. He and his wife Annie welcomed their first (then second) child into the world and everything changed — and changed for the better.

“I finally found my breaking point in 2016 where I had build so much pressure on myself it was finally too much. I have kind of gone the other way the past four years,” he said. “I was very close to retiring. I started playing volleyball and I really started thinking about doing that. Swimming was where I was decompressing. I had such a good support system. My wife Annie has been there. She was fourth at trials. She gave me so much perspective. I really came back for the therapy side of things. It is where I felt comfortable, that water hug. It is a very comfortable place for me. I was on my own for a while swimming and I realized how much I still enjoyed this. It brought me back. I think some people kind of resent it when they don’t accomplish their goals. I found my love again for swimming. Not at trials, but swimming the way I was afterward. It was very therapeutic. I have been so blessed with the positivity I am surrounded by. Some of those bad seasons make the good one’s so much better. Everything has to hit and you just feel so blessed.

“I think I found my place in 2017. I truly enjoyed it. It wasn’t the nerves, which I had success with, but it was different. It was so awesome. Swimming could have been this the whole time? It could have been this fun and this rewarding without the pressure? It is such a different mindset.”

Especially when you add in being a parent.

“The out look of being a parent is putting everything into perspective,” Grevers said. “Swimming is everything, then when you have kids and are forced outside of the swimming bubble and it makes the bubble a little smaller. You can’t let your mood affect your kids after a bad race or bad practice. You can put your energy into being a good parent even if things aren’t going well in the water. I am addicted to improvement, so improvement as a father is a win.”


Matt Grevers. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

At age 36, Grevers is still looking for that improvement in the water. He will compete at his sixth Olympic trials next week in Omaha.

“They are all very different. The first one was no expectations. I was 15. I was just excited to be at a meet with the huge names. It obviously progressed from there,” he said. “This time, I think I can do well, but if not, that is OK, too.”
But he isn’t the only elite swimmer in his 30s competing, something that Grevers is thrilled with for the sport.

“Our generation, we were around a long time — together since 2004. It was a young sport when we started and no one was retiring (for years),” he said. “We were loving it and being pretty successful. The age limit kept getting pushed back. There is more money involved in the sport now, and now we have the ISL. We are really going to see the longevity of the sport.”

While Grevers continues to thrive with longevity, his training is completely different.

“It is hard. Training-wise, I could do what I was doing last year, but harder. I think I have the same speed, but to push myself in the sets I used to do is just so much more painful. I am hurting the next day way more,” he said. “The recovery is so much different. There can be success at an older age but coaches have to work with recovery different. Hard sets and the next day I am done. I don’t think that means your top times will be any worse. Tony Ervin winning at 35 proves that. I think there are ways to stay competitive.

“That four-month break from COVID destroyed me. It was so hard to get back into it. I had never taken that long of a break because I hated that. That is why I never want to stop swimming.”

Grevers will swim the 100 backstroke, 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle at trials (he also qualified in the 200 back), though he feels the 100 backstroke is the event he has a real shot at making the team in.

“Really the 100 back — I am a one-trick pony. Maybe the 100 free if I can draft off of someone and do something,” he said with a smile.

And smiling about swimming is something Grevers is still doing. He is enjoying life and his sport and ready to challenge for another Olympic team.

“I would like my legacy to be someone who found success while truly enjoying the sport,” Matt Grevers said. “Is it truly that successful if you aren’t happy doing it? Earlier in my career I reached goals, but I don’t know if it was truly a success without being happy about it.”

Now, Grevers is truly happy, which is already a success, and will look to add to that on swimming’s biggest stage.

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Heidi Zamonas Shapiro
2 years ago

Good luck Matt!!!

Jodi Kay Jones
2 years ago

Good Luck Matt from the Jones family in Wyoming, North Carolina, and Louisiana!! We are rooting for you!

Shawn S
Shawn S
2 years ago

Matt, love seeing your smile…Go swim your heart out. You are the definition of a champion!

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