By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, January 27, 2017After winning a silver Olympic medal as a member of the 400 freestyle relay in Rio this summer, Amanda Weir knew she deserved a little rest and relaxation.
But at this point in her career – soon to be 31 and swimming as fast as she ever has – Weir chose to keep pushing forward and preparing for what’s still to come.
“I think I flew back home (from Rio) on a Thursday and was back at practice on Monday, so I’m pretty confident in the foundation of work I’ve put in so far this year,” she said. “It felt great to get back into long course racing in Austin (two weekends ago.)
“My days as a professional athlete are filled with swim practice, cross training and rehab/recovery sessions for the next practice to do it all over again the next day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
A three-time Olympian (2004, 2012, 2016), Weir is definitely no stranger to putting in the work necessary to remain among the world’s best freestyle sprinters.
But rather than spending every day in practice chasing times – she still does 8000 meters of work in the pool and loves it – Weir has chosen to focus on something other than just finding ways to swim fast.
“To be honest, I’m sick of obsessing over being ‘faster’ when what I really strive to be is better,” she said. “I’m just over trying to re-create what I did or how it felt to go 53.5, or 53.0 years ago. Enough looking in the rearview mirror when I'm having so much fun challenging myself day in and day out to perfect what I do best, which is just race to win, and you never know what time that is going to take or feel like until you do it.
“Recently, I swam a personal best in the 200 free at Winter Nationals after 11 years and had a blast doing it which is not something I’ve always been able to say about a 200. So I'm definitely finding new things to love and challenge me every day.”
That love showed this summer, first at Olympic Trials in Omaha and later at the Olympic Games in Rio.
And even though she admits to being a “teensy bit” disappointed at not being able to place one spot higher in the 100 freestyle so she could swim the event individually in Rio, Weir said she was really proud of how she swam in Omaha and subsequently as a member of the Olympic relay team.
“All of my 100s were within one tenth of each other - maybe less - and I stuck to the plan that my coach and I had so relentlessly prepared for,” she said about Trials. “I’m proud of the fact that I was able to conquer my nerves and emotions at the pressure cooker that is our Olympic Trials and at the end of the day, it was my highest place (third) so far at Trials.”
As the oldest female member of the Olympic Team this summer, Weir said she drew inspiration and excitement from the younger members of the team – and there were many of them.
But before that, she relied upon the daily exuberance of her training mates in Atlanta (where she lives with husband Chris Davis, son of SwimAtlanta head coach and namesake Chris Davis, who is also a swim coach) who just happen to be more than a decade and then some younger than her.
“What motives me day in and day out is pushing myself in practice and trying to string together as many consistent days as I can,” she said. “The kids that I train with are also a huge motivation to me, both in their effort and enthusiasm and also because they keep me on my toes to set a good example in everything I do.
“People always seem surprised when they hear that I swim with high school aged kids, and that I am still doing those grueling 8000m club workouts, but I love it and think it’s the best way to stay connected with what I love about the sport.”
While she swam in Athens (2004) and London (2012), Weir said this year’s Rio Games stand out the strongest in her mind as being the most difficult – and satisfying.
Having never been able to swim an individual event at the Games, she has taken prideful ownership of her seat on the 400 relay team.
And despite winning a silver medal (her fourth Olympic medal) as a member of the preliminary heat team, Weird admits she left Rio “more disappointed and heartbroken than ever.”
She still struggles daily with the decision to hold her out of the relay final even though she had one of the fastest morning splits and entered the Olympics as the American record holder in the 100 free.
For her, a consummate team player, being a member of a relay is a badge of honor that she wears and will always wear with pride and humility. She just hopes in the future, the methods used to make tough relay calls will be reviewed in order to preserve the objectivity she loves so much about the sport.
“Above all, what I strive to be is a teammate that can be counted on for consistency – consistency of performance, attitude, support, etc.,” she said. “I would take a season’s worth of consistent 100 freestyles, swum with smart splits, over an outlier on either side of the equation any day because I swim on relays and want to be dependable.
“Being on a Team USA relay is an unparalleled experience because of our history of success and the way we come together as a team to accomplish amazing things.”
Weir said she drew further inspiration and motivation for her own relay race by watching the U.S. men’s performance in the 400 free relay in Rio.
She said seeing them come together and win despite having limited time to train and sync up together reminded her what it truly means to know the value of your role as a member of the United States swim team.
“Watching that race helped me to be content and appreciative of being a relay swimmer because of how much it clearly meant to all of them - especially the guys who had been around for the silvers and bronzes over the years,” she said.
“I think we are on the right path now to claiming that top podium for ourselves next time around in American women’s sprinting, and I’m sure it will be just as meaningful for the women who accomplish it.”
While she has no immediate plans to stop swimming, Weir acknowledges that she isn’t getting any younger in a sport owned by youth.
Still, she and Chris love being Aunt Amanda and Uncle Chris to a niece and two nephews who all live in Atlanta so they get to see them pretty often.
Coupled with their busy lives in the sport along with their “speedy” Italian Greyhound, Jupiter, they have no immediate plans to become parents.
Right now, she’s just enjoying the ride that is swimming – a sport that’s been a huge part of her life for more than two decades…and counting.
“When I think about how long I've been doing this, what stands out in my mind is the people along the way who have supported me, pushed me in practice, helped me work through the rough patches, and just all of the friendly faces I look forward to seeing at meets,” said Weir, who intends to continue interior design and house flipping in her post-swimming life.
“Swimming has shown me the world and helped me build a family within this community, and I’m so grateful for that. As long as I still enjoy it and it fits into our life, I’ll still be swimming. I actually think I always want to swim even if I step back from competing someday. I know that swimming can always give me health, fitness, and a little ‘me’ time, so I hope I’m always able to keep it in my life.”