By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, September 1, 2017
Even though he won silver in the 200 breaststroke last summer at the Rio Olympics, Josh Prenot is more concerned that his “poor example” this year at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships will make a stronger impact on kids looking up to him.
In his view, the meet in Indianapolis was a “huge disappointment” as he didn’t measure up to his own expectations and missed qualifying for the FINA World Championship team.
After the incredible year he had in 2016, Prenot said he’s channeling that disappointment so next time he competes, he’s prepared to prove he belongs among the U.S. and world swimming elite.
Last year was no fluke.
“I consider myself to be a pretty mentally tough athlete – I pride myself on my mental game,” he said. “I just quietly go do my job without letting outside stuff get to me. At Nationals, I did a terrible job with my mental game before, during and especially after my races. I let outside stuff get to me, and I embarrassed myself by letting it show.
“In my mind, that’s the main reason for my less-than-stellar results in Indianapolis. I did a terrible job of mental preparation and execution. It’s something that I can learn from, and something I definitely won’t let happen again.”
Going into the 2017 season – his final year competing for the California-Berkeley Bears team and attending school – Prenot was riding the highs he experienced prior to and in Rio last summer.
He approached his training just as he’d done last year and the one before that and his focus surrounded performing well in the classroom as well as the pool.
He graduated from Berkeley this May with a degree in physics after balancing a rigorous academic load with his training schedule.
After that, he spent the next month training and preparing to meet every challenge in and out of the water head-on.
“It was very difficult to balance academics with my training schedule, so it felt very fulfilling to finally earn my degree,” Prenot said. “The physics community at Berkeley is incredible: the professors, advisors, and students I had the pleasure of working with all truly love their field of study, and I cherished the opportunity to learn from them.
“I think I’d like to apply the skill set I’ve gained from studying physics in my professional career, but not necessarily the physics knowledge itself - perhaps consulting or data analysis.”
After coming up short at Phillips 66 Nationals – “I just swam slower than the guys that made the World Championship Team. I didn’t race with confidence and from what I gathered from race footage, I did a lot of things wrong technically” – Prenot said he got right back into training.
He said having a bad meet doesn’t really encourage him to take time away from the pool. He also spent some time abroad, visiting Adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, followed by competing with Team USA at the Energy for Swim competition in Rome.
During Worlds, he streamed every session of Worlds that he could, and despite his disappointment that he couldn’t be in Budapest contributing, he said watching wasn’t difficult.
“I love watching swimming, and I especially enjoy watching it when Team USA is dominating,” said Prenot, who has become a big outdoors guy, taking sporting trips with friends each summer. “Caeleb’s (Dressell) unbelievable swims, Simone (Manuel) continuing to be a clutch performer, Jacob (Pebley) getting on the podium… all awesome to watch.”
Loving his coaches and teammates in Berkeley, Prenot said he’s committed to staying and training at his alma mater – never considering changing coaches.
In his view, Dave (Durden), Yuri (Suguiyama), Nort (Thornton) and Joel (Smith) are not only the best coaches in the business, but also the best people.
“I absolutely love the culture of the team here at Cal, the environment of the Bay Area, and the people that I get to work with every day,” he said.
As for continuing to train and compete now that he’s done with college, Prenot said he is committed to making a bid for a second Olympic team in 2020 – especially after experiencing defeat this summer.
He said he knows he has the confidence that he can return to the competitive form that earned him an Olympic silver medal.
“There are definitely many things that I can improve on heading into 2018, just as there were heading into 2016 and 2017,” he said. “I think that the process of self-improvement in swimming is very engaging, very motivating and very fulfilling – especially after having a year in which I severely underperformed relative to what I expect of myself.
“I’m very motivated to just get better at swimming. There are so many aspects of my swimming that I can improve, and I’m excited to continue to work at them. Making the Olympic team was something that I had to do. I could not have ended my career satisfied without doing that. Now, I’m really just continuing to do this because I enjoy it.”