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Matt Grevers

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Personal Info

Born On:  March 26, 1985
Hometown:  Lake Forest, Illinois
Resides:  Tucson, Arizona
Education:  Northwestern University '07
Height:  6' 8


Doing things the right way...

As a boy, Matt Grevers was drawn to the backstroke because “it was the only stroke where you could breathe as much as you wanted.”  He also remembers the sensation of being on the podium as a 10-year-old after breaking a national age group record and realizing that a performance could bring an arena of people to their feet. Eager to feel that again, he asked his mother, “Where’s the biggest stage where I could do this?” The Olympics, she answered. “That’s when I knew I wanted to win a gold medal,” he recalls.

That memory came rushing back to him 17 years later, as he stood atop the Olympic podium with that gold medal around his neck. And that’s when the towering, 6-foot-8 swimmer known as the “Gentle Giant” shed a tear or two. Because he got to that podium by traveling the most crowded route for an American male: the backstroke. This is a stroke where U.S. supremacy in the discipline can be measured in decades. There were easier ways to get there. As the son of two Dutch parents, the Chicago-bred Grevers could have accepted the Netherlands’ offer of citizenship and a guaranteed spot on their up-and-coming Olympic team.

That would have allowed the 4-time NCAA champion from Northwestern University to bypass the pressure cooker that of the U.S. Trials. “I wanted it to mean something if I swam in the Olympics,” Grevers told the New York Times in 2008. “I didn’t want to just get handed a spot. A lot of people I’ve known will just try to represent a country they’re barely related to. I don’t think that’s the true spirit of what the Olympics are all about.” Grevers represented the country of his birth admirably, helping to complete one of many American 1-2 finishes in the 100 backstroke. “Being able to get a silver and a couple of golds as a relay alternate was more than I thought I would accomplish.”

After Beijing, “my perspective changed. Grevers recalls. “Now I expected those results. I wanted to better myself, which meant an Olympic gold medal.” But things would be different his second time around. “I changed from being an amateur athlete trying to prove himself to being a professional athlete,” he recalls. He describes the 2008-2012 quadrennial as “my second time through college, only without classes. I loved every part of it.” (Having extra time to take naps and eat properly were among the quality-of-life upgrades his professional status has afforded him.) “I also did a lot of growing up,” Grevers adds. He achieved some big adult milestones, becoming a homeowner and getting engaged to wife Annie (famously popping the question from the podium at a 2012 Grand Prix meet).

Grevers also has high business aspirations and is involved with several start up companies as an angel investor. It wasn’t all smooth sailing on the career front during that quadrennial. He had a bad nationals in 2010, failing to make the teams for that year’s Pan Pacs squad or the following year’s world championships. This meant he wouldn’t see meaningful international competition before the 2012 Olympic Trials.

His failure to make the team was never truly a failure, because he insisted on learning from it and refused to quit. He stormed back at his next opportunity in 2012 to make the Olympic Team and gold in the 100 backstroke. The challenges he faced in 2010 eventually became his greatest strengths and drivers to achieving his goals in 2012. This theme of “turning your challenges into strengths” is something that Grevers focuses on at speaking engagements and corporate appearances.