From An Olympic Athlete That Missed The Cut

I know, I know, this is a baseball site dedicated to the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals.

Every now and then, however, we read something that transcends.  It sheds light on athletes, athletics, faith and even life.

Garrett Weber-Gale is a world class athlete and was a favorite to head to London as part of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.  His dream fell short.  It is not an easy thing to handle as an athlete, as you will soon see.

I cannot due the mood, emotions or situation justice myself.  Below are Garrett’s own words, taken from his site with his permission, and shared here with our readers.

Thanks to Garrett for sharing his thoughts with our audience, and God bless you, young man…your journey is just beginning:

Olympic Trials Recap

A week away from the US Olympic Trials and I’m still blown away by the result. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I would miss qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games. Throughout the course of my career I have always been extremely consistent in my training, and dedication, to excellence in the sport of swimming. Going into the 2012 Olympic Trials I believed I would be in the running to win the 100 freestyle and be in the top three or so of the 50. As I write this, my mind still tries to figure out the meaning of the situation, to grasp the fact that I am sitting home while my former USA teammates are preparing for the Olympic Games. It feels like I’ve been stung by a huge bug, this hurts.

My career has always been about hard work. I’ve never thought I was the most talented swimmer. I’m certainly not the biggest, nor the strongest. My success has been a direct result of my absolute determination to do as many things right as I can, to put myself in position to be successful. Whether I’m refining my nutrition, stretching, getting to the weight room early, watching video of my stroke, working tirelessly on my start, going to bed every night at 9pm, or being a freak for keeping my shoulders healthy with physical therapy, I’ve done everything I would have ever known to do to promote fast swimming.

Last summer at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai I went 48.19 in a time trial of the 100 freestyle. At the same meet I anchored the prelim of the 400 medley relay with a time of 47.3, which was the second fastest relay split in the world. When I got back to Austin in the fall of 2011, my coach Eddie Reese and I decided the way for me to go faster was for me to get stronger. I’ve always battled getting stronger and this was the area I needed to finally overcome. From September, straight through March of 2012, I literally killed myself, four days per week, in the weight room. I was getting stronger, and believed my goal of once again going 47 in the 100 freestyle was approaching.

On top of swimming super fast in 2011, I made a crucial realization in my life. I learned that for me to be successful, and swim fast, I need to be happy. Looking back at my best swimming, I’ve always been really happy, and positive about life. Inevitably there were times when I wasn’t happy, and my swimming definitely paid the price. Going into the summer of 2012 I knew my happiness was going to be a key to my success. Luckily for me, I was as happy as I could ever remember being in my entire life. The pieces of my happy puzzle were in place; my sister lives nearby and we hang out a lot, I have a phenomenal girlfriend, my body was healthy, I was getting tons of great sleep, my nutrition was and still is the best it’s ever been, I was on great terms with both of my coaches, and all the hard work I’d put in in the weight room had paid off because I was stronger than I’d ever been. Being happy and positive I had on lock down.

Unfortunately what I failed to understand is that with all my added work in the weight room, I would need even more rest, before my big meet, to recover from all that work. Swimming at the University of Texas I have always been a huge taper swimmer. I swim fastest at the end of the year when I have plenty of time to let my body and mind rest from the rigors of training. In the past, I generally would begin resting and compete about every month or so to judge my training as we approached the big taper meet. In 2008, for instance, I gradually got faster each meet I swam, right up to the 2008 Olympic Trials. As I swam faster, I was able to fine tune my skills, adjust my training appropriately, and gain confidence along the way.

This year I was so broken down from all the training that as I approached the 2012 Olympic Trials I was barely getting faster at all in my meets. Even though I was doing everything right to swim fast, I had worked myself into such a deep hole that I couldn’t climb out of it. I hate to say it, but I over-trained. Essentially, all the hard work is pointless if you don’t give yourself the time to recover from it. Your body needs time to heal and rebuild.

The finals of the 100 freestyle at the 2012 US Olympic Trials arrived. I warmed up and was super excited to race. I definitely had some nerves, but felt pretty good in warmup, and was ready to race. The summer before, when I went 48.1 in the 100 freestyle, I went out in 23.0 at the first 50, and came home in 25.1 the second 50. In the semi-finals of the 100 freestyle at the Trials I went out in 23.4 and went 48.9. I knew I needed to be out a bit faster, in the finals, to be in the race and give myself a chance to swim really fast. The gun went off and I was going for it. In no race do you go completely all out right from the get go. I built into the race and went out it 23.1. Off the turn I could tell I was in the race and needed to have a great second 50 to finish in the running. I began building the effort on my legs and worked to maintain the same tempo of my arms. With about 20 meters to go I started to seriously hurt. I have always prided myself as being one of the toughest racers, and not ever giving into the pain. I pushed and fought as hard as I could, and at the end it felt like my arms were full of lead. As I approached the finish I could barely move. After touching the wall I had an idea of the result before even looking at the scoreboard. Never in my life had I died that hard in a race. My mind knew that I would be lucky to get in the top six after hurting that bad the last 25 of the race. I went out in 23.1 and came home in 26.1 on the second 50. I finished in eighth place and missed making the Olympic team. Ouch is an understatement.

I went to the side of the pool and slowly got out. My body was battered and my mind deflated. For years and years I had worked tirelessly towards my Olympic dream. I felt like a failure. The only thing that kept me from crying was the fact that I was in complete and utter disbelief and shock. How did this happen, I thought.

Not only was I saddened and disappointed, but I was embarrassed. I believed I was one of the best sprinters in the world, and I couldn’t even get in the top six in the USA. Not to mention, USA Today had just featured me in their sports section about how much my diet makes a difference in my training and performance. I felt like a fraud, that everything I had worked so hard to do with my nutrition, in the pool, and with my food business, AthleticFoodie, was discredited.

Since I was a young boy, after every meet, I would always get together with my family and have dinner. The Olympic Trials was no different. After the 100 freestyle final I went back to the hotel and my parents had dinner waiting for me in their room. I ate with them and we talked about the result. I really didn’t even know what to say. Just like always, my parents were there with the utmost love and support. They were disappointed for me. Their positivity and love never wavered. All they’ve ever wanted was for me to be happy.

The next day I swam in the semi-finals of the 50 freestyle but barely missed qualifying for the finals. This just wasn’t my meet.

My poor result at the Trials was not because I didn’t work hard. Not because I didn’t do everything I knew how to do in order to swim fast. I was happy. I was excited. The problem was that I just didn’t get nearly enough rest to recover from the brutal training we did throughout the year. I should have toned down my weight lifting regimen much sooner. My lack of success at the Trials does not discredit my attention to detail in my diet nor my AthleticFoodie concept. The truth is that my refined diet, and the belief that healthy and nutritious foods can and do make a huge difference in performance holds true. By eating healthy and fueling for success I was able to get stronger than ever. The only thing stopping me was my lack of rest –not sleep, but time to continue working at an easier pace while my body healed itself. My diet paved the way for me to gain strength I never before had. Unfortunately I just couldn’t do anything about the fact that I didn’t have enough time to rebuild my muscles and nervous system before the big races.

I am sad. This experience definitely stings. Yes, I have felt embarrassed, and like a failure. However, as I get further and further away from the Trials I gain greater perspective and realize that this is the farthest from the truth. I followed my dream, and I pursued it with the utmost tenacity, care, focus, and resilience that I knew how. Along the way I have tried to be the best person I know how to be, and make as many positive differences in as many people’s lives as I could possibly touch. Swimming has never, and will never define me as a person. I still have an unbelievable life with family and friends who I love and love me back, a girlfriend who is an absolute angel, and many goals I am excited to now begin working to achieve. AthleticFoodie is at the top of my priority list now. It’s time for me to help as many people as I possibly can to become healthier and feel the dramatic difference nutritious foods can play on the quality of their lives.

As Roger Federer said yesterday in reference to Andy Murray’s defeat at Wimbledon, “It’s not the end of the world, it’s the start of something big.” This is not the end of Garrett Weber-Gale, this is just the beginning of a new stage in my life that promises to bring exciting and meaningful opportunities.

I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you who have followed and supported me throughout the years. I would never have been able to accomplish anything great without your continuous love and support. I have absolutely loved swimming the past couple years and have truly enjoyed the ride. There’s no question that I did not reach my potential this summer, and that leaves me wanting to get back after it! What I know for sure is that I’m going to continue living the dream as I always have. I will follow my passions, and continue to work to do everything at the absolute highest level. The opportunities for the future are endless!

This fall I have several speaking engagements already lined up, and will be kicking off an AthleticFoodie tour of swim clinics and events. (After all, I do have two Olympic gold medals and was a key part of one of the most famous relays ever!!!) Working with kids, and helping people be healthier is a huge passion of mine. One way or another I will be in a pool.

If you would like to bring an AthleticFoodie clinic or event to your team or city please email or call us from our AthleticFoodie contact page. Thanks y’all and I hope to see you soon!

Author: Bill Ivie

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