On a rare day off, Mike Weiss relaxes, spends times with his friends and fist bumps exceptionally well. But, on a typical day, Weiss breaks records, wins national titles and trains for international swimming competitions.
Two weeks ago, the senior captain did something that earned him the nickname “Magic Mike.” Weiss broke the 18-year-old UW record for the 1,000-yard freestyle race.
Weiss decided to compete in the race at the Big Ten Quad Duals solely with the goal of breaking the record. He swam the 1,000-yard freestyle only once before this season and finished with a time two seconds slower than the record time, but he convinced the coaches he should swim the event.
“It’s one of the top three events that I usually swim, so I talked to the coaches and told them I wanted to try it because I wanted to break that old record,” Weiss said. “I set out to break that record, and it’s nice to look at the record board and know that my name will be up there for a while.”
Drew TeDuits, a sophomore on the UW men’s swim team and the competition’s winner of the 100-yard backstroke, said the team never doubted Weiss’s ability to break the record.
“We all thought he would break it,” TeDuits said. “He’d been swimming fast all year and he was ready.”
Weiss, a Nevada native, felt relieved and excited after breaking the record, but also “very proud” to contribute to the team’s first-place victory at the Big Ten Quad Duals. Weiss cited the pressure, his teammates and his competitiveness as aide to propelling him into the record books.
“I knew it was my only chance to break the record,” Weiss said. “It was my last meet as a Wisconsin Badger besides the championships and I had nothing to lose. I went out really fast, died a little, but held on through the last strokes to do what I needed to do.”
His teammates said his excellence in the record books transcends past the pool.
“We all voted him captain last year and he’s been a great leader this season,” TeDuits said. “In the pool he’s focused and out of the pool he’s a really fun, normal guy who just works hard at everything he does. Everyone respects him for that.”
Chris Wiederecht, a senior on the team, commented on Weiss’s easy-going demeanor both in and out of the pool.
“Mike is a very good swimmer and he doesn’t show it,” Wiederecht said. “He’s a great captain, he’s a great guy, and I have only good things to say about him. It’s been a pleasure swimming with him the last four years; I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Weiss said his record-breaking swim pales in comparison to one other race: the 400-meter individual medley he swam and won to become a national champion and secure his position on the U.S. National Team last summer.
This summer, however, Weiss will finish his collegiate swimming career and continue training until he travels to Kazan, Russia, to compete in the World University Games. After that, he said he will “keep swimming, hopefully become a professional swimmer, and see where it takes [him].”
Wiederecht added Weiss “has a very bright future ahead of him” and both Wiederecht and TeDuits said they would not be surprised to see Weiss compete as an Olympian.
“Mike’s already on the National Team, and I think he has a great shot at making it to Rio de Janeiro in 2016,” TeDuits said. “It just depends on how much he wants to keep training.”
Weiss is not a stranger to the talent and persistence it takes to earn a spot on the Olympic Team. He competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials when he was 21 years old, finishing fifth in his main event, the 400-meter individual medley.
But for now Weiss and the team are completely focused on the Big Ten and the NCAA championships.
Aside from eating right, working out and getting excited, Weiss said the team is just patiently waiting to see if their hard work this season will pay off in the championships.
“I don’t really know what I’m up against and there are a lot of new, fast swimmers, but the goal is to be a Big Ten and NCAA champion,” Weiss said.
When asked if those goals were realistic, Weiss responded, “I’m a very competitive person. It runs in the family, kind of like swimming. I make everything a competition with myself. I love to win and I’m willing to fight through those last three strokes to do it.”