By Bob Schaller//Contributor | Tuesday, August 22, 2017
In 2015, Jordan Wilimovsky shocked the world -- at Worlds in Kazan -- winning Open Water gold. He finished fourth in the 1500 in Rio and was fifth in Rio’s open water 10k. After finishing his NCAA career and degree at Northwestern, he won 10k Nationals, and claimed silver at Worlds, and another silver in the mixed open water relay. He is back in California and talks about what’s next in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. What was Hungary like as a defending Worlds champ from 2015 and how was it different not doing the pool-open water double?
Jordan: I was excited to make the Worlds team again. I just focused on open water and I think that prepared me since I was coming off Rio, swimming for Northwestern and finishing school. I was excited to race. I thought I swam well, and it was a lot of fun to race there. I didn’t feel like the defending champ after Rio. So I felt like it was a clean slate and I had to prove myself again.
2. What was it like coming off Rio where you were so close to two medals?
Jordan: Anytime you get to represent the US and be part of those teams is an amazing experience. I was extremely fortunate to be out there. I was happy about that. But when you race, you are racing to win. I would have liked to do better in open water (he was just 1 second off the podium). So this year took a step back and thought “How can we approach the next four years,” with the quad mentality to make sure I am my best. This year, finishing up at Northwestern, like I said, I needed to focus on one of the two, so I picked open water after NCAAs.
3. Will you return to the pool as well?
Jordan: I definitely want to pursue both. This summer was just a break from the pool, especially with the way the events were scheduled with open water first at Worlds. My goal this year is definitely to make Pan Pacs in both.
4. Your 1500 at Worlds was pretty amazing. You nearly medaled in a tough field in your Olympic debut, isn’t that a great feeling?
Jordan: I was happy with my 1500. I was just trying to go a best time. The whole atmosphere down there was pretty incredible. To be in an Olympic final with those guys was amazing.
5. That mixed relay at Worlds, like in the pool, those are new and bring more attention -- and medal opportunities -- for swimming, what was the 5k relay like?
Jordan: This is the first year they ran it at the senior level so everyone is still trying to figure it out. None of us get to be part of relays in college or anything because we swim distance. So it’s a great opportunity, and good for open water.
6. To come out with another silver medal, what was that like?
Jordan: It was awesome. We were very proud to represent the US and it brings the team element to open water. We swim to win gold of course, but I was proud we did win the silver, and how we swam as a group.
7. What did you think of Ashley Twichell’s gold medal swim?
Jordan: That also was awesome. Watching her in the pool (at Nationals) put down fast times the week before then to crush the 10k and come back and do even better in the 5k and relay is so impressive. I think my favorite moment from Worlds was getting to cheer for her in the final 800 of her 5k because you just knew she was going to pull away. Really a smart, strong swim.
8. Did you get to see the 800 and 1500 in the pool, seems like from Rio you remain one of the best US hopes, especially in the 1500?
Jordan: I watched both the races on TV online. It always motivates you to see the finals and wonder what you could do to be a part of it. It makes it very motivating for me to get to work and try and be there next year.
9. How happy were you that your club coach Dave Kelsheimer -- also the World Team Coach and an Olympic assistant -- was guiding the team in Hungary?
Jordan: Dave is a really great coach and great person to be around. He’s crazy about swimming and always looking out for your best interests. I was pretty lucky at 16 when he took over and helped me up through the ranks in distance swimming. I trust what he’s doing with the program, training and workouts. Absolutely it’s great he gets recognized for his coaching and everything he does for our program, and also for the sport. As an athlete, it adds another level of familiarity and comfort to have your coach from back home with you when you are on the road, to help at every step and even being on the feed dock during the race.
10. You come back from Rio, planned to -- and did -- finish your degree, repped your school at NCAAs, and then Nationals and Worlds, how busy was that year?
Jordan: Actually the way it worked out with our graduation and World Championship trials was busy but really good. And it feels pretty nice to be able to do things that are important to me, which meant first and foremost getting my degree. I loved my time at Northwestern. It was special being part of a college team and all that goes with it. But it’s nice now to plan my own schedule and which races I go to, which is a logical step at this point in my career that I really think I’ll enjoy.
11. That’s a pretty great school to have a diploma from, isn’t it?
Jordan: I feel very lucky to have attended Northwestern and get a degree from there because I know swimming as a career won’t last forever. I’d like to at least swim another three years ideally, but I have that degree for the rest of my life and it’s something I’ll rely on for my career. I haven’t thought about what I’ll do specifically yet, but graduating from the business school, I should have some options to explore. They also have a really cool alumni network. And all of us are all so proud to represent Northwestern in anything we do that draws attention to the school.
12. You did a redshirt after your junior year to train for Rio with Coach Kelsheimer. Was that in a way even more useful to set you up for this year since you had changed as a swimmer and young man in college, to make this year’s transition smoother?
Jordan: I’ve worked with him a really long time. So we’ve gotten to know each other well. I think that extra year definitely helped us move forward with what to focus on, what not to focus on. We have a good relationship. I stayed in contact with him when I was at Northwestern, and would swim with him during summers and winter break, so he was still involved. But certainly I changed as I developed as a swimmer and as an adult. You get more ownership at this point where the coaches ideally want you to give them more feedback and have more input as you understand it and yourself better.
13. Being a pro athlete, what’s that like -- and how cool is that?
Jordan: It’s definitely (laughs) pretty cool. I still don’t see swimming as a job. It is something I like to do. So, yes, now hopefully I can get some money out of it, too. That’s something I had never considered possible. I’m still really just getting started so swimming feels the same, minus school.
14. You did both the 1500 and open water as a college junior in Rio and got fourth and fifth respectively, how much confidence does that give you moving forward and is it the plan to do both of those again throughout the quad to hone the demands and approach?
Jordan: That’s the plan moving forward, ideally to be able to do the 1500 and 10k. That’s a goal this season, so hopefully I’ll do that. And it’s fun to be able to work on both because even though the distance element is similar the racing and everything else, including the distance, is different.
15. Are you also considering the 800?
Jordan: I don’t know yet. I’ll see. I’m not really good at the shorter distances. I’ll try it at a meet and see how it goes; see if I want to try to swim at Pan Pacs and in the future.
16. You seem to be in a place physically where you can add some muscle maybe and with dryland maybe even get a little stronger -- or is that something you really need?
Jordan: I think every year I try to get a little bigger and stronger. I think it has to be done with the mentality and in a way that adds some speed and endurance. I’ll probably do 800s and 400s at meets during the season just for fun and because it’s good training.
17. Kind of seeing how it fits together even more as you’re older and as a pro athlete?
Jordan: Yes, and I’ll change some things up that make sense and fit in with the goals we set. Last year in college, I focused on some stuff that you don’t get to focus on as much in long course, like walls and speed in shorter distances. So it’s a good to vary the approach as it helps your training and keeps it fun.
18. What do you get each time you race in these open water races that have such incredible fields at every meet?
Jordan: I think there’s a lot of stuff. The best part of racing is there are guys like Ferry (Weertman), the French guys and so many others. They all show you what you need to do to get better. So I’ll spend a lot of time in the water and out on courses figuring out what I learned, whether it’s in open water picking a line, knowing where I am a little more, or sticking in a pack when that’s better, and making sure I know where I am when the sprint starts for the end. I’ve also learned to pick a race strategy and stick with it. For the last 1000 in Rio, I was stuck in the middle of the pack. I think learning from that I would try and make my move a little earlier. But you live and learn every time you race. You learn a little about what you need to work on. So I was sure at Worlds to make sure I had a better line and better speed at the end than I did (in Rio).
19. It’s kind of a changing of the guard now isn’t it, as some of the veteran men who got us here move on into other pursuits?
Jordan: I don’t really know… Andrew Gemmell (who just finished a prestigious graduate school program in economics in Washington DC) and Chip Peterson (starting Med School) were great for so long and brought so much experience. And they’re such good men. They were the leaders on the team. There’s a bunch of guys coming up who are really fast. Brendan (Casey) is on the National Team and it was my first time traveling with him and it was fun to swim with him. And Brendan, David (Heron), and Simon (Lamar) have been racing open water for a while. The newer members of the team have made Junior Worlds, so they definitely know what they are doing.
20. Coaches Catherine Vogt and Tyler Fenwick, and women’s teamers Haley Anderson and Ashley Twichell -- everyone always talks about what a good person and teammate you are, where does that come from?
Jordan: First of all, thank you, that is a very nice compliment coming from people I really admire a lot. I’ve had great people around me growing up and then the coaches and teammates I have now. But it’s always nice to hear people, especially those you care about, say nice things about you, because I’m pretty stoked to be around them. We have great coaches and teammates in open water, which makes it even more meaningful to be a part of Team USA. It’s definitely fun to be a part of that group every summer. We have a lot of new faces who have worked their way up and we’re already comfortable with them, and they’re the future of the sport here. It’s just fun to train with people you are so proud of and represent your country together.