The Olympic Dream

Thank you is definitely where I will start this post. The support I have received over the past week, the past month, the past year, the last 10 years has been absolutely incredible. Honestly the words on this page will never be enough to truly reflect the gratitude I feel. Thank you.

Ten years ago, just a couple of months after starting to swim competitively, I had the opportunity to represent Malawi at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England. It was at that point I knew I was going to be on a journey chasing a dream for many years to come. That journey came to an end last week in South Africa. It didn’t end the way I thought it was going to end, it wasn’t really the result I worked for, and to be honest I am disappointed with what went down on paper as the final result. But what I can tell you is that I am satisfied.

It’s weird being disappointed and satisfied at the same time. As I just said, I am disappointed with the times I swam last week and the positions I finished. I am disappointed that the hard work I put in, the sacrifices I have made, the commitment I swore to did not pay off in the way I wanted.

Yet I am peacefully content with everything. I did everything I could and that fact alone is good enough for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of losing. I don’t think you can be a competitive athlete if you don’t mind losing. Yet strangely enough the cliche that titled my first ever blog post holds true. “Life is about the journey, enjoy the ride”. I am satisfied because I know that I committed 100% to my dream. I am satisfied because I don’t regret doing or not doing anything leading up to last weeks Olympic Trials. I am satisfied because I honestly could not have given anything more and I am proud of that.

You see friends, I believe life is as much about having the balls to put yourself out there, committing 100% and taking responsibility for our lives as it is about achieving success. I think my greatest fear is that as I grow older I will allow life to get in the  way of my dreams, I’ll get caught up in my day to day struggles and forget about what I really want to achieve. I never want to stop dreaming big, or start thinking “practically”, I don’t want to be the guy that makes excuses for why I can’t do something or blame others for any inabilites.

Myself with Neil Versfeld (9th in the 200 Breaststroke at the 2008 Beijing Olympics) and Terence Parkin (2nd in the 200 Breaststroke at the 2000 Sydney Olympics)

My Olympic Dream was a big dream, but I have lived like it was a reality for the last couple of years. I am proud of that. The journey has been one of a kind and incredibly rewarding. I’ve had the opportunity to see amazing places because of my swimming. I have met and raced against some very cool people, I’ve had incredible doctors, surgeons, therapists and trainers help me through my injuries. I’ve worked with awesome coaches and have seen and felt support from friends that gave me goosebumps. I received emotional and financial help from a family that loves me unconditionally, and have shared most of the journey with an incredible woman who stood by me through it all.

I may not have made the Olympic cut but I wouldn’t change any of my experiences for the world.

Find your Olympic Dream my friends and follow it like there is no tomorrow.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”  – Pierre de Coubertin, IOC President 1896 – 1925.

Matthew 17:20

The photo that graced the cover of the Whitworthian.            Courtesy of Greg Moser

It's been a really, really long time since I've been on here. I can't give you any one particular reason why but as I make my final preparations for the South African Olympic Trials I feel the need to put out a thought or two :-)

The last few weeks have been a bit of a roller-coaster, one that has been incredible and bitterly disappointing at the same time. The end of March saw me swim in my last NCAA DIII National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, a meet that I savored up as much as I could but one that I would rather forget quickly. I had some very lofty goals going into the meet and based on what I have done in practice and duel meets this season I knew that my body and mind were in the right place to achieve each one of the goals I had.

For one reason or another that was not to be though. I struggled through the meet, the timing of my stroke was off, the rhythm, the feel was all out of sync. Coach Steve and I could fix it one moment and see brilliance and then lose it the next moment.  I ran across a blog post on Breaststroke written by a swim coach whose swimmer seemed to be going through the same deal I was during the week and his thoughts summed my feelings up perfectly.

"I swear sometimes that breaststroke is one of the great puzzles of the universe.  Sometimes it is more spiritual than scientific.  Sometimes it is the girl you had a crush on in school who is mean to you when you smile at her. Sometimes it is the beast you tamed and caged that decides to break out of the zoo or the puppy that runs away on your birthday.  Damn you breaststroke.  Why can't you just show up for your damn appointments on time!  We scheduled this appointment six months ago!  How rude!" 

Despite the frustrations I still managed to win both the 100 & 200 Breaststroke allowing me to successfully cross off one of my goals for the week. But I knew something had to be done before we headed to Olympic Trials.

The last two weeks since NCAA's have been incredible, both in the pool and outside of it. I've done things in the pool that I have never done before, but outside of the water I have come to realize a number of things about the journey I have been on for the last 10 years. What I have experienced since returning from NCAA's has given me a huge boost of confidence as I begin my journey to Durban on Sunday. I'm excited to race.

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." - Matthew 17:20 

We Back

Ladies and Gentlemen: we are back and it feels good. The Whitworth University men’s and women’s swim teams got their dual meet season under way this weekend and despite being tired and sore, it feels good to be racing again!

As a team we’ve spent the last eight weeks of practice laying a foundation for the rest of the season, or “building our cup, from which we shall later drink” as coach Steve likes to say. For the most part this process has not been pretty; I’ll allow my buddy Nathan’s Facebook status from a couple weeks ago sum it up for you:

“Coach said we are filling our chalices today and will drink of them in the grand feast that is conference and nationals. I don't think I want to drink it far it's only been filled with blood, vomit, and lactic acid.”

Nuff said.

But as we slowly move out of that phase and into the racing part of our season there is a lot to look forward to. This is my senior year and I am treasuring every moment of it.

Friday night was Pirate night at the aquatic center, which meant that many of the Spokane Waves swimmers whom I coach every night after my own practice were on deck to support. I love racing in our home pool when the deck and bleachers are packed, it definitely helps get my adrenalin flowing so thank you to everyone that came out!

Clearly the support helped me in my 200 Breaststroke as I swam a 2.02.14 to break the Whitworth Aquatic Center record. What amazes me about this swim is that I swam a 2.02.34 in the 200 Breast three years ago at the NCAA National Championships to finish 12th and gain my first All-American certificate. The fact that I went 2.02 at my first dual meet of the 2011-2012 season is an absolute tribute to the Whitworth coaching staff and the swimmers I’ve practiced with for the last three years – how far we have come!  Thank you guys.

Photo courtesy of Austin Vierra

So the season is in full swing, we march on next weekend to Oregon for the Northwest Invitational hosted by Linfield College. What happens there is yet to be seen, but I like the trajectory we are on right now. Onwards and upwards!

Ahh, What's Up Doc?

Summer is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere and I am very excited! Classes are done, the weather is warming up, my schedule is opening up and there are opportunities everywhere! A new season, a new start, new goals and increased focus.

PIcture Featured In The Spring 2011 "NCAA Champions Magazine" Click the pic to view the mag

This last year has been an incredible journey for me. I have been blessed enough to achieve many of the goals I set for myself last September and have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. I wanted to update you all on what is going on with me and my swimming right now, just so you’re in the loop, ya know? Two weeks ago Swimming South Africa released their 2011 National Swimming Roster. This year, I was included on the roster. It has always been a dream and goal of mine to represent South Africa and while being on the roster does not guarantee me a spot on any team, I am very grateful to have been considered. I look forward to the opportunities I may be presented within the coming year. You can see the 2011 National Roster here. In addition to the National Roster I have also been selected to represent South Africa at the FISU 26th Summer Universiade (World Student Games) which will be in Shenzhen, China in August this year. The Summer Universiade is an International multi-sport event, organized for university athletes by the International University Sports Federation (FISU).  The name “Universiade” is a combination of the words “University” and “olympiad”. I am very excited about this opportunity to swimming in this meet. From the research I have done on it, it has an impressive history of fast swimming and it will be an honor to represent South Africa (and Whitworth) at the meet. You can learn more about the Universiade on the official website . Outside of the pool, I have just come to the end of my junior year (third year) of my degree! One more year to go and I will be done! Last week I was voted to the 2011 CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District VIII college division men’s at-large team. I have to be honest with you, I don’t quite understand all of it, but I think it means I’m doing well in school!  If you’re interested in the release you can find it here. So that is what is going on in my life right now. I want to thank everybody for all the support I have received this year.  It has been absolutely overwhelming and I am so grateful for that. I can honestly say that I have been blessed with one of the best support systems that anyone could ever ask for. I am and will be forever grateful to everyone who has followed me on this crazy dream I find myself living out. Thank you to all of you.

Never Stop Dreaming

Tonight I swam the last of the races on my program this week here in Port Elizabeth. The first of which was the 200 Breaststroke, the second was the 400 Medley relay. I am very happy with the results from both swims and have nothing but positive things to say about my week of racing here in South Africa.

In the heats of the 200 Breaststroke this morning, I dived in and my goggles fell off and lodged themselves between my nose and my mouth. As hard as I tried not to freak out, it was incredibly difficult to try and maintain a stroke count and pace though the 200 meters. I somehow managed to do it however and set myself up for a decent final this evening.

Coming into this meet I had a best time of 2.17.95 in the 200 Breaststroke which I swam last summer. The goals for the race laid out like this in my mind; I would be ecstatic with a 2.14, very happy with a 2.15, happy with a 2.16 and a bit upset if we were still stuck on a 2.17. I touch the wall in 2 minutes and 15.88 seconds and am very happy with the result. I picked up the silver medal, behind Neil Versfeld who swam a great race and qualified for the World Championships in Shanghai later this year.  Because none of these races have been broadcast anywhere this week, here is a video of the race. I am in a black cap, lane 5 with very pasty skin.

My final race of the week was swimming the breaststroke leg of the 400 Medley relay. After my individual breaststroke final I said I was a little disappointed in the fact that I didn't put up a time that I knew my body was capable of so I wanted to find out what I was capable of this evening. Despite the relay being about 25 mins after the 200 Breaststroke final I managed to put up a 1.02.01 split which I am very happy about! A great way to end the week.

It's really been a good week. I didn't manage to qualify for the World Championship team going to Shanghai, but I did qualify for selection for the World University Games which will be held in Shenzhen, China in August this year. I will now wait to find out whether I will be included on the team. I also broke into the top 100 rankings in the world for the first time in my swimming career. According to I am currently ranked 78th in the 50 Breast, 97th in the 100 Breast, and 66th in the 200 Breast.

It's been a great year. I cannot thank everyone who has supported me enough. My wonderful girlfriend, Carla for putting up with all my crap! My parents for their continued moral and financial support. My coaches for their insight and faith. The Whitworth Swim team for their daily inspiration and all my friends all over the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Back to Spokane tomorrow. Back in the pool on Monday. We have work to do friends.

If You Never Try...

If you never try... You'll never fail. But more importantly, you'll never succeed. Tonight I raced a little differently to how I would usually go about it. The result of my semi final swim last night showed me what my normal strategy would produce, and I liked it. But if I was looking to be faster I was going to have to change something.

Looking back on my 100 Breaststroke final at NCAA's a couple of weeks I felt like I wasn't aggressive enough on the front end of the race, sure that left me with the ability to come home strong, but I believe the tactic prevented me from breaking the 54 flat barrier in the short course pool. Last night I didn't want to be left with the same feeling and attacked hard from the start.

I managed to get out faster than I did in the prelims and the semi finals, and although I closed the race with the second fastest 50 (behind Cameron VD Burgh who put together a fantastic race) I struggled on my way home finishing in a 1.03.11, just being touched out by two one-hundredths of a second and getting third. (That will fuel my fire on a couple of the tough sets I face in the next year, that you can be sure of!)

Although I am disappointed that I didn't manage to put together a time that I know my body is capable of right now,  this is my first medal at South African National Champs and I am very, very happy with my effort. Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed. I've just found a 10,000 ways that won't work". He has a point. I'm a better swimmer today than I was yesterday and I still have another 365 days of learning to do!

One Done

My first day of racing here in Port Elizabeth has come and gone and I'm going to call it successful. I raced the 100 Breaststroke heats this morning and put together a well controlled morning swim in which I finished the race in 1.03.65. The time was good enough to give me a second seed for the semi finals this evening.

Then, the unfortunate disqualification of Neil Versfeld, a South African Olympian who was seeded ahead of me bumped me up into the top spot for tonight's semi final. Seeded two one hundredths of a second behind me however, was World Champion, World Record Holder and Olympian, Cameron VD Burgh, and it was obvious he shut it down in the last 50 of his prelims swim this morning so I knew he was going to be fast tonight.

Cameron should his class this evening in the first semi final when he stopped the clock at 1.01.54, qualifying him for World Championships in Shanghai later this year. I was up next in the second semi final. As there is no coverage of the meet, below is a video of how my race played out. I'm the very, very pasty one in the black cap in lane 4.

Any one with any sort of eye for swimming will be able to point out the numerous technical areas in which I can improve. If this trip to South Africa has shown me anything it is that I can make some big gains in minor details of my racing. After watching this video I'm convinced I stopped swimming 5m from the finish and attempted to glide into the wall. Not recommended if looking to swim fast! I am incredibly happy with the time however and know that there will be more to come tomorrow night. How fast can I go, I don't know? We'll find out though.

Thank you to everyone for all of your support. I have been overwhelmed by the number of emails and messages I have received over the last two days. Thank you!

Back In The Motherland

After a successful NCAA national championships I decided to extend my season just a little bit, so last week Sunday I traveled back to South Africa to compete in the 2011 South African Would Championship Trials which will be held in Port Elizabeth beginning next week.

South African East Coast From 15 000 ft

After sitting on a plane for a full 30 hours (thankfully not straight as I got to stop off in Dubai for a night with my parents) I arrived in Port Elizabeth excited to see what the city has to offer! I picked up my rental car and headed out to the house we have rented for the week.

Not bad, even if I say so myself!

On Wednesday morning I headed out to check out the competition pool and hopefully get in a swim. I was successful in one of those endeavors, locating the competition pool. It was however being used to host the South African Nationals Waterpolo Championships, and was told it would not be open to swimmers until Saturday afternoon. I asked if anyone knew where I could go get my swim on and was presented with two different options.

Option 1 - St George's Park Swimming Pool.

St George's Park Swimming Pool...

Enough said...

Option 2 - McAthur's Pool.

Much more promising. Looks like paradise doesn't it? I was keen and jumped right in.

It turned out to be a little rougher than it first appeared. Apart from the fact that I had gotten off a pretty long flight the day before, the pool turned out to be 80m long, with no lane lines or even black lines on the bottom of the pool. It was salt water with algae or some sort of slime on the wall and it was more round than it was rectangle! Never the less, water is water and I got it done.

We managed to find a better pool located inside a gym on Thursday and I was able to get a little more of a constructive workout in. I have felt progressively better with each day that passes here and so am looking forward to seeing what next week has to offer!

I am entered into the 50m, 100m and 200m Breaststroke and begin racing on Tuesday next week. They are selecting teams for World Championships which will take place in Shanghai, China from the 24th - 31st July this year. They are also selecting a team for the World University Games which will be held in Shenzen, China from the 12th - 23th of August this year. I am expecting to swim fast. I have had a great season this year and see no reason why it will not continue on through this meet. Best times are the goal. Anything above that is a bonus.

I will obviously be updating my blog each day with videos of my swims and thoughts on how things are going. You can also follow the live results by clicking here. Or check for any news stories by clicking here. You can also see the meet psych sheet but clicking here.

"The Show Goes On"

On the evening of May 29th 2007 I was lying in a hospital bed having just been through a second surgery on my groin.  Apart from wondering how the heck I was supposed to get out of bed to pee, I lay there questioning if I would ever be able to swim fast again.

Charles Swindoll once said,  “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”.  I'm going to have to go ahead and believe the man. So many times in life we seem to be faced with crap that we don't choose, or that we don't deserve. It's often not fair, but it makes life interesting, it makes life, life. If we respond in the right way and refuse to give up on what we want out of life there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The last 4 years have been an incredible journey. That journey is by no means over with, but is always fun and educational to sit down and reflect for a moment on where you have been. Not only does it help you appreciate what you may have been through, and realize the incredible people that have been there for you along the way, but it helps you learn and grow.

Last week was a great week for the team and I. I swam in four relays (200 & 400 Medley, 200 & 800 Free Relay), three of which scored in the top 16 at the meet. As well as 3 individual events, two of which I won.  My 200 Breaststroke was my last race of the meet, and it was a goody :-) If you didn't get a chance to watch it, Mike recorded it especially for you! Here it is! It was the last race of the meet for me and I am very happy with it. I know for sure that I have more in me, a lot more, and I am excited about what will happen next year.

I have been overwhelmed by the support everyone has shown to me in the last week. Thank you so much for the love! I really appreciate it. I'm headed to South Africa on Saturday for World Championship Trials. I have no idea what I have left in the tank, only time will tell. I'll keep you all updated!

Bang Bang Day 1

Day one has come and gone here in Knoxville and it was a decent one for the Pirates. We sit in 18th place after finals last night with a load of events still to swim!

Kate and Austin got us started in the 500 Free yesterday morning with solid performances. Kate came into the 500 Free seeded 32nd with a 5.04.30 that she swam at conference last month. Swimming in an outside lane she put together a race that looked almost identical to her conference race finishing in a 5.04.43 which was good enough to move her up to 26th in a field of 45! A very solid performance from arguably her weakest event this week.

Austin looked like a man on a mission yesterday morning as he started the 500 Freestyle. He came in seeded 16th on a 4.33.55 but all of us that have been training with him over the last 8 months knew for sure that he was capable of faster than that. He proved us right yesterday morning! Swimming a beautifully split race where he essentially descended each 100 throughout the race he touched the wall in 4.31.54, the joy and relief on his face when he turned and looked at the score board was priceless. There were mixed emotions though about 5 minutes later when we found out that he missed out on being in the top 8 finalist by less than 3 tenths of  a second and that he missed the Whitworth school record by 1 tenth of  a second. Never the less he went out last night and raced the B final like a man!  Unfortunately it looked like he got stuck in a bad rhythm from the start though and although he descended the race in a very similar pattern to the morning but a little slower. He finished 16th in the final scoring our first points of the meet with a 4.36.70.

Mike and Kalen both swam the 200 IM yesterday morning. Unfortunately both of them seemed to struggle to get going during the race though. Mike didn't seem to have the closing speed that I am used to seeing from him and Kalen just didn't have the consistency through the strokes. It could be the time change, I'm not sure, they both have more swims to come this week though so I am hoping for improvements as we go!

I was up next in the 50 Free. This is an event that I do not have a lot of love for. The two requirements to swim a good 50 Free; power and explosiveness. Naturally I have neither of those two attributes. I have worked hard in the gym over the last  year to try improve on my power and yesterday I saw a little pay off for that. I have been 21 seconds consistently in season for the last three years but have never managed to break the 21.00 barrier from a flat start. For the first time yesterday morning I managed to do it touching the wall in 20.93. A small mini victory that gives testament to the fact that if you work hard enough at something, even if you don't have those specific skills, you can develop them. It was also a new team record. Aaron also swam the 50 free yesterday morning, he was a little deep off his start and so wasn't out as fast as he usually is. As a result he was a little off he entry time, but still managed a solid 21.09 - very good for his fist ever swim at a National Championship.

The highlight of yesterday was probably our mens 200 Medley relay. We entered the meet as the 15th seeds in the event and managed to move up into 12th place last night. Nathan led us off with a solid backstroke leg (25.00) , I took over on the breaststroke (24.90) , Aaron put in the fly leg (21.90) and Mike anchored us with the Freestyle (20.44).

I'll let you watch the video for a feel on how the race went. We are in lane 6, three from the top. If you lose us, we are the pasty ones :-) and I'm wearing a red cap during the breaststroke leg! Enjoy!