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Co-Head Swim Coach of Ladera Oaks Swim Team and SwimIT Director of Client Relations, Roman Willets interviewed Olympic swimmer Peter Vanderkaay about his experiences leading up to the 2004 Gold Medal 4×200 Freestyle Relay. Both Willets and Vanderkaay are University of Michigan swimming alumni.
Vanderkaay is a four time Olympic Medalist, who competed in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. He is also one of the most highly respected athletes outside of the pool. One of his many achievements include being elected team captain by his peers in the 2012 Olympic Games.
During the interview, Vanderkaay talks about the initial disappoint of finishing 3rd in the 400 Freestyle at the 2004 US Olympic Trials. In swimming, countries are able to take the top two finishers for individual events.
Fortunately for relay events, countries are able to take up to six. And Vanderkaay later finished 3rd in the 200 Freestyle, punching his ticket on the relay for the 2004 Olympic Games.
Many Believed this was a Race for Silver
The chatter on deck was who would win the silver medal. Many believed the heavily favored Australians would win the Olympic gold easily. Australia had the best swimmer in the world at the time in Ian Thorpe.
The coaches and swimmers on team USA felt confident in their team. They had a young swimmer breaking onto the scene named Michael Phelps, plus Ryan Lochte, Klete Keller, and Vanderkaay.
Their strategy was clear: swim your own race.
Vanderkaay explains the nerves and excitement as he approached the pool. When his Coach Jon Urbancheck was his usual jovial self, it helped him realize this is just any other race. All the work put in. Now was time to execute, just like the many times he did in practice.
Watch the clip and see the excitement of the race with Vanderkaay’s commentary.
Advice For Next Generation of Swimmers
During the interview, Vanderkaay describes his thoughts during the race and strategy. He also gives advice for the next generation of swimmers:
- Appreciate what you have, cherishing your opportunities.
- Help a teammate get better, it will come back to you ten-fold in some other way. (Athlete Approved article on the Power of the Team here.)
- You don’t have to be an Olympian to be a champion – you just need to show you put in the work and show improvement.
- Swim your own race! The Australians over-swam to catch Team USA, ultimately being barely touched out. Keeping focus in your lane could the difference between silver and gold.
More on Willets and Vanderkaay
Both Willets and Vanderkaay have a reputation for being extremely hard workers. However, it is important to have fun. Below are two videos showing that!
See Vanderkaay flip and touch the flags as he enters the pool. Then watch Roman walk on water! Here is a link to Roman’s YouTube Channel for more great videos!