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Calvin Swimming and Diving Teams Receive Visits from U.S. Olympic Swimmers

Sunday, September 22, 2013

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By Mark DeHaan

Trust yourself, don’t be afraid to fail, and live in the moment – those were the three key points that Olympic swimmer Brendan Hansen said he learned the hard way when he spoke to Calvin’s swimming and diving teams last Friday afternoon at the Venema Aquatic Center.

Hansen, a six-time Olympic medalist, has been to three separate Olympics – 2004 in Athens, 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.

A breaststroke specialist, Hansen won a silver medal in the 100 meter breast-stroke and a bronze in the 200 meter in the 2004 Olympic Games, and a bronze in the 100 meter in the 2012 games. His other three medals have all been golds, all coming in the 400 meter medley relay, in which he swam the breast-stroke for the American relay teams.

“You have to trust yourself and you have to be honest with yourself,” said Hansen. “At the end of the day, you have to be honest to yourself because you’re the only person that stood up (on the block).”

One story Hansen told was of his trip to the Olympic Trials in 2000. At the age of 18, Hansen took third in his two events, missing the cut by just over a tenth of a second in each.

“I did everything my coach told me to do,” said Hansen. “I lifted hard, I ate right, I didn’t go to senior prom or senior week – I didn’t do anything a senior (in high school) does. I walked off that pool deck and I could have easily turned away (from swimming). I did everything I was told to do and I still didn’t succeed.”

Hansen retired after the 2012 Olympics, and, when asked about the defining moment of his career, cited his pair of third place finishes at the 2000 Olympic Trials.

“I’d go back to those events 100 times and I wouldn’t change history,” Hansen continued. “In one year, my freshman year at Texas, I won the 100 and 200 breast-stroke at the NCAA (National Championships) and broke both American records.”

“I went to Japan that summer (for the World Championships). I was staring at 30,000 people and no one expected me to win that race. ‘Nobody worked as hard as me’ – that was the last thing I told myself as I was on the block. I swam that race and I won by two body lengths. In one year I went from third in my country to the fastest breaststroker in the world – because I failed.”

Finally, Hansen made the point of living in the moment and chasing individual goals every day.

“Do everything you can today to be the best you can be today,” said Hansen. “When you are chasing a dream, you’re living life with a purpose and no one can stop you.”

Head coach Dan Gelderloos was glad the teams had the opportunity to listen to the Olympian speak, and hopes Hansen’s talk can set the tone for Calvin’s season.

“It is always cool (to hear someone of his caliber speak) because he swam in the Olympics so he says some things that carry a little more weight than when I do,” said Gelderloos. “(The team) gets a lot out of (a talk like this), it’s just cool to listen to someone of that level.”

Hansen was one of two U.S. Olympic swimmers to stop by the Calvin practice last Friday as Kim Vandenberg – a 2008 bronze medalist in the 800 meter freestyle relay – also showed up to meet and greet the Calvin teams.

“It was great to have Kim there,” said Gelderloos. “She is still actively competing as a swimmer at the international level and I know our swimmers were very receptive to what she had to say. It isn’t often that you have two Olympic medalists on your pool deck so this opportunity was pretty special.”

Hansen and Vandenberg were both in West Michigan this past weekend to work at the Mutual of Omaha Breakout Swim Clinic. The clinic took place last Saturday at nearby East Grand Rapids High School and was hosted by the East Grand Rapids Waves Swim Club. 

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