By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, January 10, 2018
After failing to make the 2016 Olympic Team, Matt Grevers could have retired. He could have hung up his swimsuit, cap, and goggles, and called it a successful career. He could have found a desk job, or a coaching job, or pursued some other outside-the-pool professional endeavor. The Olympic gold medalist had accomplished virtually everything the sport had to offer. He had climbed to the top of the Olympic podium. He had, by most measures, completed an athletic journey.
And yet, after finishing third in 2016, he did not retire.
Grevers kept swimming.
After the heartache of the 2016 Trials, Grevers came back in 2017 with a flourish. Pushing away some of the self-doubt, Grevers qualified for the World Championship roster — a remarkable feat, considering 2016’s disappointment. He wouldn’t stop at just qualifying. He earned an individual silver medal in the 100m backstroke, beating teammate and Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy in the process. It was a remarkable turnaround for the veteran swimmer.
This weekend, Grevers’ journey is nowhere near complete.
And the trek towards 2020 is just beginning.
Grevers will compete at this weekend’s TYR Pro Swim Series at Austin. There, he is slated to compete against Murphy once more in the 100m backstroke, setting up a showdown that should be the Can’t Miss Race of the weekend.
The 100m backstroke has been, historically speaking, one of the best events for the U.S. men. Just check out the previous Olympic gold medalists. There is a tradition among sprint backstrokers, a proud tradition at that, one that Grevers kept going after the retirement of Aaron Peirsol, and one that Ryan Murphy kept going in 2016. It has led to the U.S. domination of medley relays, an event that acts as a stamp of triumph at the end of each Olympic competition.
But this weekend, two of the best backstrokers in U.S. history compete against each other. Murphy, recently finishing up his thrilling NCAA career, should be focused on defending his Olympic title. Which means this weekend, the past two individual 100m Olympic gold medalists will be facing off against each other. Though the duo won’t be shaved and tapered, any time these two race is a Must See event, a foreshadowing of races to come, this summer, next year, and possibly, at the 2020 Olympic Trials.
While most eyes will be focused on Grevers and Murphy, no one should count out third-seeded Jacob Pebley, either. Pebley finished second at the 2016 Trials, qualified for the Olympics, and out-touched Grevers for that all-important second roster spot in the sprint backstroke. Expect Pebley to push both Grevers and Murphy — if not beat them. Rising star Justin Ress, seeded fourth in the event, is also scheduled to compete. No one should discount Ress, a swimmer sometimes overlooked but definitely someone who will be in the mix both this weekend and in 2020.
Four swimmers, all with a chance to win.
All with different stories, different journeys, different paths…. all of the converging this weekend.
Don’t miss it.