It was the 2012 United States Olympic Trials for swimming in Omaha, Nebraska, and University of Wisconsin swimmer Michael Weiss was having a breakout summer before his final year as a student athlete.
His breakout summer, however, was not enough to get him to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He finished fifth in the 400-meter individual medley that year. But what that placing did do, was give him the confidence to continue to pursue his goal. This time, he had no doubt that the Olympics were within reach.
What was once a dream, had now become a reality.
“I just put belief in myself and just had that extra leap of confidence, knowing that I am better than the person next to me every time I am racing someone,” Weiss said. “Every day at a meet I know that this is my race to win, this is my spot to gain.”
Now, Weiss, along with fellow former UW swimmer Ivy Martin are in a position to potentially compete on a swimmer’s biggest stage at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in August.
For Martin, who was a student athlete at Wisconsin from 2011-15 and just graduated last May, she didn’t see the possibility of swimming in the Olympics as being a realistic goal going into school. It wasn’t until halfway through her college career that she realized it was attainable.
By that time, she was receiving plenty of All-Big Ten and All-American honors for her performance in the pool, and it was time for her to next do what she believed she could accomplish to the next level.
“I didn’t know I was going to swim an extra year and try to make the Olympic team, but with my improvement in college, it kind of became more realistic,” Martin said. “It’s pretty surreal, just thinking about the opportunity to actually go to Rio.”
Both swimmers have spent the past few months training at Wisconsin with both the university’s swim team and the United States’ national team, as the Olympic trials approach in late June.
Both swimmers have been very excited about coming back to UW to train with their former college team. These young student athletes continue to push them every day.
“It’s been great because I love the energy and the atmosphere of training with the college team,” Weiss said. “We have the young guys, the up-and-comers, that are getting fast and they have so much energy day in and day out, and that’s great for me.”
Weiss has had plenty of experience swimming on a national level, as he was named to the U.S. national team in 2012. But for Martin, this is something completely new, and it has been a major life adjustment.
Just one year ago, she was preparing to graduate from college.
“It’s a huge lifestyle change for me, just not having that same routine that I had for the four prior years of going to class, doing homework,” Martin said. “I’ve had to figure out the daily routine that’s worked for me where I’m not too sedentary between practices, but also not driving myself crazy by only focusing on swimming.”
Now, according to both Weiss and Martin, a lot of the hard work is out of the way. They have a few more weeks of hard training, and then they will get ready for trials by starting to focus on the little things that need fine tuning.
The closer that time comes, every little bit of rest helps. Martin even said that she will have to make sure she isn’t walking too much as she recovers from practice to practice.
“It’s just focusing on the details like nutrition and getting enough sleep, making sure I recover so I’m able to perform at each practice,” Martin said. “The closer we get, the more I’ll have to focus on that stuff.”
The hope is that all the hard work and preparation pays off for the swimmers. While they are fighting for their own pride, they are also fighting for the pride of their alma mater.
Wisconsin has not sent a swimmer to the Summer Olympics since 2004, the only year the a woman swimmer has gone. While junior Matt Hutchins has already qualified for the New Zealand National Team, both Weiss and Martin remain driven to live out their dreams by representing the United States.
“That’s been in my mind for a while,” Weiss said. “When I was a student here, it was my dream. It’s been the goal to just be able to come here, be a Badger and then be able to go represent Wisconsin in the Olympics.”