By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, July 14, 2017
Despite winning his first Olympic gold medal last summer, Kevin Cordes left Rio feeling somewhat disappointed.
While his medal came as a member of the 400 medley relay team and he raced to the finals in his two individual breaststroke events, Cordes failed to medal in either race.
Those results were subpar for the 2015 World silver medalist (200 breast) who went to the Olympics riding a great high and big expectations following Olympic Trials.
Needless to say, ever since, he hasn’t had to look far for inspiration and motivation.
“Making finals in both was great, but I didn’t accomplish what I went to Rio to do – win medals in my events,” said Cordes, who won the 100 breast at Trials but finished fourth in the Olympic final, a spot behind teammate Cody Miller. “I took that as motivation since Rio; that disappointment has driven me to want to accomplish more.”
Following a stellar Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships two weeks ago in Indianapolis – sweeping all three breaststroke events (50, 100 and 200) and putting up personal-best times in the 100 and 200 races – Cordes will get his chance at redemption at Worlds in just over a week.
Making his third-straight World Championship team appearance, Cordes said he is anticipating some fast swimming in Budapest – and is feeling quite confident following his great swims at Nationals.
Just as he did in Indy, he knows the key is to string together a couple of good races and not think too much about the race – or his opponents’ races.
“I trained really well (going into Nationals), and I felt really good and confident during my races,” he said. “I’ve put myself in the best position to carry that through to my events in Budapest. I’m feeling fast, and I’m looking forward to racing. I love racing.”
And just like Nationals, Cordes said he knows his journey through Worlds is relatively simple: survive and advance.
While swimming fast enough to finish among the top two was all he needed to make the World team, Cordes said he knows he’ll need to up his game against the rest of the world to advance to the semifinals and finals for a shot at a medal.
That and swim his own race – something he admits he didn’t do very well last summer in Rio.
“The key at Worlds is to get more speed going race by race, that probably sounds like common knowledge, but it really is the right strategy,” he said. “You have to do whatever it takes to get to the final and then step things up even more from there.
“In Rio, I didn’t swim the race I wanted to. I know I had more than I showed. At Worlds, I need to stay true to myself and not focus on anyone else’s race. I know I’ll need to be on my ‘A’ game.”
Cordes, who spent just over a year living and training in Singapore prior to 2016 Olympic Trials, said he credits working with Spanish Olympian Sergio Lopez Miro, bronze medalist at the 1988 Olympics in the 200 breast, for his continued improvement over the past couple of seasons.
Together, they have worked on several aspects of Cordes’ race – most notably strategy and training for long course full-time, something he was unable to do while swimming at Arizona.
"Even though he has been on the Senior National team representing USA Swimming at meets, he is a very young swimmer that is improving a lot every day," Lopez Miro said. "I know people want and measure success by world records, but the hardest part of being world class in anything is 'consistency.'. He is learning how to be consistent, be patient and understand that he has a lot of development ahead of him."
Cordes said working with Lopez Miro has been a boon at this stage of his career, particularly toward improving his confidence and belief in himself and his abilities.
“Sergio has been there and done that, so when I contacted him about moving to Singapore to work with him, I was all-in and have been the entire time,” said Cordes, who, at 6-foot-6 with blonde hair and chiseled features, admits he stood out and often felt conspicuous in the cosmopolitan Asian nation.
“We worked on maximizing my race – putting blinders on and not looking too much at what other swimmers are doing but zeroing in on what works best for me and executing that during my race.”
And it’s certainly paying off.
But having come close last year at the Olympics and winning silver two years ago in Kazan, Cordes said he is hungry for more success in the water – and he feels as ready as he ever has to make it happen in Budapest.
“I just want to keep the momentum from Nationals going, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the new swimmers on the team and working with them; the energy they bring gives me extra motivation,” said Cordes, who is living his “dream come true” by swimming professionally, something he didn’t think much about while growing up.
“After last summer, I didn’t want to be complacent with being an Olympian. I wanted more. Being an older member of the team – a veteran now – also allows me to share my knowledge and experience, and that helps me to refocus and remember how important this all is to everyone.”