This year there are at least four but at least one other man here at home will be regarding the swimming competition from a unique perspective.
Tom Malchow, who lives in Sammamish with his wife, Christie, and their two daughters, is a two-time Olympic swimming medalist, including Sydney gold in the 2000 games in the 200-meter butterfly, after breaking the world record for the event shortly before the games. In 1996, at age 19, Malchow won silver at the Atlanta games. At the 2004 games, he was team captain of the US Men’s Swimming Team.
Malchow, who grew up in a suburb of St. Paul, MN, and trained at the University of Michigan says it’s hard not to miss the excitement of it all, since some of his former teammates, including Michael Phelps, will be competing in the 2012 Olympics, .
“I think the goal is like in any other competition, but no matter how much you tell yourself, ‘it’s a pool just the same size and I’ve done this a million times,’ standing up on the block with 15,000 people looking at you and representing your country…it’s a little tough not to get caught up in that,” Malchow says.
That heady feeling can make a fickle mistress, however, he says.
“Training and trials help you prepare, but there are no do-overs if you have a bad start or a bad race—and it’s four years until you get back there.”
Back when Malchow started competing, swimming didn’t have the crowd appeal it has in recent years, he says—thanks in large part to the attention Michael Phelps has brought to the sport, Malchow notes—so a true love of the sport was a key to success.
“I was a tall guy (Malchow is 6’6” tall), so I played some basketball, but around seventh grade or so it was obvious that though I was good at baseball and basketball, swimming came naturally and it was good with my body type,” he says. From there, things just kept progressing, he says.
“You keep working towards the next thing, making Minnesota state meets, then the zone team, then the select team,” and eventually, for the few, a chance at the big dance.
Sammamish has had some very talented homegrown swimmers, too, including two young women and two young man who competed in the Olympic trials a few weeks ago; Ethan Hallowell (Eastside Catholic graduate and Mercer Island resident), Edward Kim (current Eastlake student), Andie Taylor (2010 Skyline graduate), and Katie Kinnear (2012 Skyline graduate). Though none of them made it past the prelims this time around, Malchow says continuing to enjoy themselves is key.
“I guess what I would say to them is if they made it to the Olympic trials, that’s a very select group. They have to keep enjoying it, working hard, and find that little thing that will help take them to the next levels,” Malchow says.
Also a key factor to any equation that can take an athlete all the way to Olympic gold is family support, Malchow says.
“I think one of the biggest things was my parents were always extremely supportive. They gave me direction and advice, and let me figure it out for myself. I kind of found my own path,” he says.
After a rotator cuff injury just before the 2004 Olympics, Malchow says he barely made the team that year and continuing effects from that injury probably kept him off the medal stand. After those games, a disappointed Malchow stayed away from the pool for two years.
Now however, Malchow says he has a new reason to enjoy swimming in a different context—his family, including his two young daughters,
Would he like to see his daughters get into competitive swimming?
“It would be fun,” he says, but he won’t push them. “I think I’m going to take the course my parents took, and see what they like.”
Tom Malchow’s Olympic Medal Swimming Times: