By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, May 18, 2018
As the first U.S. swimmer to qualify for the Olympics in both open water (10k) and the pool (1500 freestyle), Jordan Wilimovsky carries a heap of expectations when he swims.
Since he swam in both disciplines at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, however, Wilimovsky said he’s becoming more and more comfortable with that dual responsibility at big international meets as each season passes.
“When Connor (Jaeger) retired (after the Olympics), the expectations increased quite a bit since the distance torch was passed on to me,” said Wilimovsky, who just missed the medal podium in both of his events in Rio.
“People would come up to me and say, ‘Well, you’re the next great male distance swimmer.’ That’s a lot to live up to especially when there are so many other really good American distance swimmers.”
Wilimovsky earned his spot on the Olympic team in open water by virtue of his victory in the 10k at 2015 Open Water World Championships.
In the pool, he made the team when he finished second to Jaeger at Olympic Trials in the 1500.
Since then, Wilimovsky finished his collegiate eligibility and earned his degree from Northwestern University – and he’s continued to train and compete in both open water and the pool.
Two weekends ago in Tempe, Ariz., he won his third consecutive 10k Open Water National title less than a year after finishing second in the same event (as well as the 5k) at Worlds last summer in Budapest.
Because each race is unique and the circumstances are always unpredictable, Wilimovsky said each open water victory is special in its own way – and his win at Nationals this year came with its own feeling of accomplishment.
“My ultimate goal was to make this summer’s Pan Pacific Championship team, so that was always at the forefront of my race strategy and focus (at Nationals),” he said. “I stayed relaxed through the first half of the 10k race and then made sure I had enough left at the end to pull away over the last 1000 meters. With about 25 meters left, I made sure no one was going to catch me.”
Wilimovsky added Pan Pacs to his resume in 2014, where he finished 16th in open water – and also placed seventh in the 1500 free.
He opted not to compete at Phillips 66 Nationals last summer for a spot in the 1500 free because he had already secured his spot at World Championships in open water.
But that’s not his plan for this year’s Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships in July.
“I plan to compete in the 1500 free and am also considering swimming the 800 free,” he said. “Because spots on the 2019 World Championship team are at stake this summer, I want to make sure I put myself in the best possible position.
“Since I’m already swimming in the 10k at Pan Pacs and the Open Water World team won’t be decided until next year’s Open Water National Championships, we’ll see if I swim both freestyle events. It will depend upon how things go during the meet.”
Managing his schedule at big meets between his 10k and pool events hasn’t been much of a problem or issue thus far at meets.
In 2016 at the Olympics, he only had a couple of days between his 1500 final on the last day of the meet and the 10k in open water.
While the schedule at Pan Pacs could be different, he said he trains each day at a level so time between races isn’t an issue.
Nonetheless, as someone who swims thousands of yards each day in practice, Wilimovsky said he knows he’s more than prepared for every scenario possible.
Another thing he loves most about competing in open water.
“It’s great to get out of the pool and swim in a largely uncontrolled environment – no lane lines, no walls, just you and hundreds of other swimmers in a race to the finish line,” he said. “In the pool, you’re largely racing against the clock, but with open water, you’re strategizing to make sure you’re in position at the end of the race for first. I love that aspect of it.”
He also loves the life of a professional swimmer – although he is unsure how much beyond the 2020 Olympics that he’ll continue to train and compete.
Leading up to Phillips 66 Nationals this summer, he’s planning to swim at the LA Invite in June and the Speedo Grand Challenge to rev up his pool racing. Earlier this spring, he swam the 400 (3rd), 800 (3rd) and 1500 (2nd) freestyle events at the TYR Pro Swim Series event in Mesa, Ariz., and was happy with his times and results.
A lot depends upon how the next few summers go and if he gets the chance to duplicate his open water/pool performance in Tokyo in two years.
A political science major at Northwestern, one thing Wilimovsky said he’s certain of is that you’ll never see Senator, Representative or President before his name.
“Swimming is obviously my focus right now, but I’m not exactly sure what path I’ll pursue when I’m finished competing; I definitely know it won’t be politics,” said Wilimovsky, who returned home to Santa Monica, Calif., to live and train after graduating last summer. “I’m just taking things year-by-year right now.
“I’m still enjoying training and competing, so as long as it’s still fun and I can still do it, I will keep swimming. I love the balance of doing both open water and pool swimming because they complement each other so well for me – keeping training fun and exciting. It keeps things fresh and fun, and for me, that’s the most important thing.”