Another great opportunity!

If you’re like me, then you know how much fun it is to capitalize on the opportunities presented to you! Although my 400 Freestyle at Olympic Trials did not go as I had hoped, I was lucky to have an equally great opportunity in the 200 Freestyle–fortunately, I capitalized on that swim!

I will be representing the United States in the 4×200 Free Relay at the London Olympics. Team USA has an exciting journey ahead of it as we travel to Knoxville for domestic camp, and then on to France before arriving in the Olympic Village.  Hope to include some great pictures of the experience in the coming weeks!

A powerful ally

In this scene in The Empire Strikes Back, we see archetypal hero Luke Skywalker attempting, and failing, to do the impossible—move his spaceship out of the swamp with “the force”.  In the original Star Wars trilogy, director/producer George Lucas created a believable science-fiction world where viewers bought into the elusively abstract concept of “the force”.  The “power of the force” was made evident in the hero’s ability to perform superhuman feats.

After Luke’s failed attempt with the spaceship, he slumps to the ground, dejected because the spaceship is too big to move.  Yoda immediately rebukes him; delivering the famous rhetorical line, “Judge me by my size, do you?”

Yoda imparts upon young Luke that, although small and frail, he relies on a greater power.  Yoda states, “My ally is the force.  And a powerful ally it is.”  He continues by explaining to Luke that his strength, his conviction, his confidence—all flow from this omnipresent force greater than any one person.  Yoda continues, telling Luke that this power is evident in all things—Luke simply has to believe—or as Yoda says, “feel the force around you!”

Ultimately, Luke is unable to move his spaceship—not because he lacks the strength or willpower to want or try to move the ship—but because he lacks the deep seeded faith in the power that really could perform such a miracle.  I understand Luke’s dismay.  Often, I find myself wanting or trying to complete a task that, without any outside assistance, I know I lack the ability.

Watching this movie scene, I am reminded of Matthew’s account in the Bible that highlights Peter’s grapple with his own belief in something beyond himself—the power of his teacher, Jesus.  Upon seeing Jesus walking towards the disciples’ boat, a zealous Peter calls out:

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  Matthew 14:28-31

No doubt Peter knew his ability to walk on the water was not of his own doing.  Indeed, he was talking to and walking directly toward the one in which he had placed his faith—Jesus!  I can attest to that idea—when my faith is focused on Jesus, anything is possible!  But as the verse says, just as soon as Peter sees the wind and becomes afraid, he begins to sink in the water, crying out to his Savior.  In one fell swoop, Peter’s faith in Jesus is seen as steadfast as he walks toward him on water, but as soon as he is encumbered by the storm around him, he loses focus on Jesus and sinks.  I can certainly identify with Peter.  What a pointed reminder about where we our focus is to always remain!  As human beings, we all experience the cyclical pattern of our own fallen nature–remaining faithful one minute, and losing hope the next!  Fortunately for us, Jesus is there to pull us up when, like Peter, we start sinking and cry out to Him–that’s grace!

…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

At the conclusion of the original Star Wars saga, Luke places his trust fully in “the power of the force”—and is able to accomplish great things.  The evidence of the force is on display during the films through the accomplishments of those who believe in it.  However, what “the force” actually is remains largely abstract.  However, there is nothing abstract about placing one’s faith in Christ!  With the Bible we have (among many other truths and promises) a clear understanding of our God, who He is, His son, and the strength we receive from Him (Isaiah 40:31, Philippians 4:13).  In addition, we see God’s work and his promises through everyday living—in relationships, through His creation, and in our own hearts.  With a faith built on God’s truths, I’m going to alter Yoda’s statement, and make it a daily challenge to say: My ally is Jesus.  And a powerful ally He is.

 

 

Olympic Trials

Four more years have come and gone and the swimming world will be back in Omaha next week for the 2012 Olympic Trials.  Additionally, our sport has taken a significant step forward this time around–every finals session will be covered live on NBC.  Click here for details (NBC Schedule is EST).

I will be competing in the 400 Free as well as the 200 Free which span the first three days of the meet (6/25-6/27).  I’m looking forward to a great opportunity to use the gifts I’ve been given to the fullest!  Tune in to watch some great racing by our country’s best swimmers!

Brazil

I had the privledge of representing Brazilian club Fiat Minas at last week’s Maria Lenk Trophy Meet in Rio de Janeiro.  I competed with my fellow [iX3]sports and Jacksonville, FL based teammates Diogo Yabe and Fabiola Molina.

The five days of racing served as terrific preparation for the US Olympic Trials–now less than two months away!  The highlight of the meet was watching Fabiola qualify for her 3rd Olympic Team, winning the women’s 100m backstroke.  Enjoy the pictures from the week!  Thanks again to Fiat Minas for the opportunity to compete at such a great event!

 

Passion & Purpose

Recently, I spent the afternoon working on a project that was completely unrelated to my life as a professional swimmer.  At the conclusion of the day, I came home, satisfied with how the work had gone.  As I rehashed the days’ events in my mind, I was overwhelmed with how passionately I had tackled this new project.  If my older brother was the catalyst for the beginning of my swimming career, I had no parallel to draw to this new endeavor.  Seemingly, no mentor or external seed had been planted to help push me into striking out in this new undertaking.  I really could not pin point any reason for feeling so passionate towards a brand new pursuit.  Yet the satisfaction I felt from the new work, although in its infancy, was the same sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of a great race or great workout.

Surprised that the new project had conjured up a passionate sense of drive I usually get from competing as an athlete, I asked myself a deeper question.

If I can enjoy the same passionate drive in two forms of work that are totally unrelated, where does the root of this passion come from?

And, moreover,

What is the purpose of my swimming if I can find the same passion in different areas of my life?

Though I know the answers to the stated questions, it was the first time I had thought about my gift from God in this particular way.  I have always been thankful for the way He has blessed me with my swimming ability.  My passion as a swimmer comes from placing my purpose in Him.  No doubt that if my trust is in Him, and he provides me with the gift of swimming, then the purpose of my gift is to deflect any glory derived from swimming straight to Him!

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.   Colossians 3:23-24

Acknowledging that He is the root of my swimming passion poses two seemingly incongruent thoughts.  On one hand, I am totally aware of the insignificance of this temporary pursuit of swimming.  Whether or not I win a medal or break a record is utterly unimportant.  This should be a somewhat deflating discovery, right?  However, I place my purpose in Him—and not in the swimming itself, receiving from Him a passion for the sport I could not otherwise enjoy.  Acknowledging the relative insignificance of swimming is really a burden lifted off me, allowing me to appreciate my swimming gift to the fullest.  With this understanding I am able to achieve at my highest personal level!  Because the sport itself is not the root of my purpose, I am not subject to the roller coaster of emotions that tend to come with an obsession over one’s personal career advances.  I cannot hang my hat on nor allow myself to be defined by that which was merely a gift in the first place.  A gift can be taken back.  I could lose swimming tomorrow.  How many more days do I get to enjoy my life as a professional athlete?  Who knows!  Indeed, it is because of this acknowledgement of uncertainty that I am able to approach my work as a swimmer with a renewed since of passion daily—and attack it with a reckless abandon!  The passion is visible between the lane lines because the purpose resides in something greater and unseen.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   2 Corinthians 4:18

Kicking 101

The year before I arrived at the University of Michigan, Coach Bowman had the guys do a 400 kick (LC) for time.  We had some very talented kickers, and when I got to school, it was a thrill to challenge my Michigan and Club Wolverine teammates in kick sets.  Yesterday, I finally got around to doing a 400 kick of my own.  My time was 4:56

This is a great challenge–swimmers of all ages can try this one out!  According to Coach Bowman, the fastest 400s kick he is aware of are, Phelps/Thorpe: 5:08; Erik Vendt: 5:04; Chris DeJong: 4:56

Training Trip to Miami

iX3sports enjoying a morning practice in Miami

This week, we at [iX3]sports have taken our talents to South Beach.  We have enjoyed the training, the South Florida sun, and the camaraderie of teammates who all share similarly high expectations of what’s to come in 2012.  I have been challenged in many new ways by our coaches, Sergio Lopez and Gustavo Calado.  With only six months until U.S. Olympic Trials and seven months until the Olympic games in London, we are preparing for exciting things to come!

Risk averse swimming–not ProDual1 athletes

ProDual1 held in Ann Arbor, MI was a success–probably one of the brightest spots of the year for swimming. The stands weren’t full, and the format of the meet didn’t turn the sport on its head.  The wheel hasn’t been reinvented.  But two things happened because of ProDual1 that indicate untapped potential (in the athletes and the sport):

  • 30 men participated in the competition

I believe nine of these athletes represent Club Wolverine.  That is, 21 Olympic caliber athletes were willing to fly to Detroit, get a ride into Ann Arbor, secure lodging for the duration of the meet, and compete in front of a guaranteed crowd of precisely 0.  Assuming a round trip ticket to Detroit for $400, only 7 athletes made enough medal money to break even (winnings of each individual).  This of course excludes any costs associated with food, lodging, and ground transportation.

These 30 athletes actions represent a desire, and possibly, a need for a better stage for our sport.  The motives that spurred these 30 men to compete in ProDual1, if uncovered, would reveal a lot about the professional potential of swimming in this country.

  • ProDual1 created an environment where I saw more personality from individual athletes than I’ve ever seen at a swim meet.

The meet was fun (Bobby Savulich did a great job both organizing and competing in the event).  We woke up mid-morning, ate breakfast at Benny’s (the best diner in Ann Arbor), briefly warmed-up at the pool around 11am, played video games, and awaited the great races that began at prime time.

Whatever the factors were, I observed athletes reveal much more of their personalities (myself included) before and after races.  Guys were giving waves and other personal salutes to the crowd prior to competing.  This was a breath of fresh air!  Those individuals who give us memorable athletic performances should be celebrated!  Having a stage where personality and individual success are championed are crucial. ProDual1 gave us this invaluable insight.

[iX3]sports

Today and tomorrow in Ann Arbor, the Canham Natatorium and Club Wolverine is hosting Pro Duel Meet 1.  Looking forward to some great competition and an exciting atmosphere.  Look for me in the silver cap as I will be representing the newly formed club, [iX3]sports.  At [iX3]sports, we have a professional mission of our own and are excited to participate in a meet designed exclusively for professional swimmers.

Looking forward to fast swimming and earning a little bit of medal money. Stay tuned for pictures from Pro Duel Meet 1, the inaugural meet for [iX3]sports!