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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


Matt Grevers is a giant in the swimming world, both because of his impressive stature (he stands 6 feet, 8 inches tall) and because of his impressive successes. Despite his size and extraordinary skill in the water, he remains one of the kindest and most accessible Olympians, earning him the nickname of the “Gentle Giant” of swimming.

But the 2012 Olympic Champion in the 100 backstroke almost wasn’t, at least not for the United States. Grevers hails from suburban Chicago, but his parents are both Dutch, a fact that was not lost upon the Netherlands Olympic Committee.

Coming out of high school in 2003, Matt had a standing offer from the Dutch for national citizenship and a spot on their Olympic Team. And it was a tempting offer too – the Dutch were swimming very well, and the Americans were very deep (4 out of the best 5 in the world deep) in his best events.

In front of him, he saw two paths that might have been an easier trip to the Olympic rings. One option was to change events and focus instead on the 100 freestyle, where 6 swimmers are taken for relays. The other option was to change his allegiances to the Netherlands, where he would have been revered by the swimming-mad population and earned a free-pass to the Olympics. He chose neither, instead deciding that his loyalty to the United States was too strong.

 “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.”

He came through for the Americans with a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. But with all of that depth, of the Americans, he struggled to stay on top of the swimming world. In 2010, he hit the low-point of his career. That year, he failed to make the roster for the 2012 Pan Pacific Championships in California, which was that year’s major championship meet. With the way that qualifying was structured that year, this meant he was also off of the 2011 World Championship team, meaning that he went more than a year without an opportunity to prove himself as the world’s best.

There were surely some feelings of disappointment in that two year span, and the easy option would have been just to walk away. But again, the easy option was no option for Grevers. 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 not only make the Olympic Team, but to win a gold medal in the 100 backstroke and become the second-fastest swimmer in history in that race.

That’s what makes Matt such an outstanding role-model in the sport of swimming. He knows that there are easy ways to go through life, but that achieving greatness often requires taking a more daunting path. Matt has learned that overcoming the biggest challenges breeds the greatest successes.