Returning To The Pool: Bobby Yribarren

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Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Swimming World is producing the live webcast of the 2016 CeraVe Invitational on the campus of Rutgers University. Click here to watch the live stream, view video interviews and watch races on demand!

Commentary by Emma Miller, Swimming World Intern 2016 CeraVe Invitational

Bobby Yribarren glances briefly at the opponents to his right as he waits behind the starting block, quickly returning his gaze to the furiously churning turquoise waters at his feet. From an outside standpoint he is like every other swimmer on deck–perhaps a bit nervous, but absorbed in his personal goals for the event. But Yribarren is anything but similar to the young men he is swimming against.

In fact, he is much older than they are.

It has quite literally been a long and winding road for Yribarren to get to this point. The thirty-year-old Harvard University graduate is the oldest swimmer at the 2016 CeraVe Invitational by a wide margin–a whopping six years separates him from the next oldest competitor. In no way has this dissuaded him from returning to the pool.

“It’s definitely humbling, but I’m really happy for the other swimmers,” Yribarren explained of the unusual phenomenon that comes from competing against swimmers 10+ years his junior. “It’s really great to see how fas the sport is getting. A lot has changed [since I was swimming D1].”

“It’s been a process to get him back into any kind of swimming shape,” admitted Badgers head coach John Collins. “We’re happy to have him because he’s a good middle distance, open water type swimmer, and he trains well with the group that I have right now.”

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Collins has been coaching the thirty-year-old for just over five months now, as Yribarren found his team in September of 2015. Prior to joining the Badgers, it had been two years since he hit the water competitively. It was during that time period that he went through many changes, the most notable being physical.

“I was 260 pounds at one point,” Yribarren explained. “I couldn’t even see my toes.”

“That’s a big drop, right?” he joked with a thousand-watt smile lighting up his face. Despite continually facing a great deal of adversity, Yribarren speaks passionately and enthusiastically, even about a difficult time in his life. Rather than see it as a road block, Yribarren chooses to see that time period as a “lifestyle change.” It is this optimistic attitude that he believes is crucial in handling the pressure of a competitive swimmer.

“The key thing is showing up every day with a smile on your face, whether it’s good or bad,” Yribbaren confirmed, smile unwavering.

According to Collins, who has also coached significant names such as Cody Miller, it is no issue for Yribarren to assimilate back into a team environment, particularly in the pool.

“[The workouts] are the easy part,” Collins said. “Not that it’s anything outrageous, it’s basically an 8000 meter workout each practice.”

Yribarren countered that statement with an anecdote from his early days with the Badgers.

“The first day I showed up, John was like, ‘we’re going to be doing a 3300 today.’ My first thought was, ‘How are we gonna be breaking that up?’ And he said, ‘No, we’re doing a 3300.’ So that’s how it all got started.”

Though Yribarren joked that practices have been difficult, Collins insisted that this has been important in regaining his status as a competitive swimmer.

“It’s a good environment for him to be in,” Collins said. “If we do something like 50x100s–that’s what he needs. That’s what he responds best to, and the group that he trains with are all doing the same thing.”

In terms of the bigger picture, the CeraVe Invitational is what Collins calls “The first step” in Yribarren’s return to the pool. Following this meet, he will adjust his focus to open water swimming. Both he and Collins hope that the 400-meter freestyle, in which he went 4:13.94, will better prepare him to return to lake swimming.

“No ocean swimming though,” remarked Yribarren. “I can’t deal with the ocean creatures.”

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