By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
Forrest Davis was one of the younger competitors at the Olympic Trials. The Peddie School swimmer competed in the 200m breaststroke. Continuing with our “Trials and Tribulations” series in which we catch up on some of the athletes we’ve been following throughout the Olympic Trials journey, this week, Davis reflects on his swim season, racing older breaststrokers, and what he would change if he could re-do his journey.
So where are you at right now?
I’m at New Jersey. I have like about a week before school starts. I’ve got summer assignments so that’s stressful. But I’m excited to see everyone.
How was your Trials swim?
I did a time trial in the 100 breast a few days before [the 200]. I didn’t do so well so I was nervous about the 200. I was relaxed when I checked in. But then sitting back there for so many heats, I was nervous. Everyone in my heat was really old so it freaked me out. I went behind the block and I didn’t feel relaxed. I dove in, and I thought, “I don’t want to lose.” The whole rest of the race was me trying to get to the wall and not lose. I was shocked I did that bad. I didn’t know how to react. I walked to the warm down pool and my coach asked me how I felt about it, and I didn’t really know what to think about the race for another hour. I was disappointed how I performed, but I can’t change it.
Breaststroke is a stroke that can be affected by nerves – were you nervous?
I think the breaststroke is such a technical stroke and has such a rhythm to it, if you’re not in the zone, your stroke won’t click. Nerves played a really big role in how I approached my stroke technique.
What was your time?
I was a 2:25.8. My best is a 2:19. That was rough.
You’re only 17. Were you nervous going up against an older field?
That was one of those things in retrospect my coach and I think about. The fact I had never swam at a meet with older kids before. The highest meet I’d ever been to was Junior Nationals. That is 18 and under. I’ve never been to a Grand Prix or a Senior Nationals. So I think that put me in a different mental zone. In retrospect I wish I could go back and do bigger meets to prepare myself to race people like that.
What did you take away from the race? What did you learn from it?
I learned that I need to handle my emotions more in terms of racing. I learned a lot about how I broke down in my confidence in that one moment. Moving forward, I’m going to have to control how I’m thinking and get used to being in bigger races. Preparing myself mentally and physically. Five days before I swam, I was holding 34s. I was doing really well. I felt really smooth that first day. I was so excited. As the day worn on, my brain started to slip. I was getting antsy about how I was going to swim. I need to eliminate the nerves. I didn’t feel that I deserved to be there. I felt like I got down on myself and questioned what people would think if I swam poorly, if my parents would be disappointed. I wanted to represent my school. It started playing on me. I need to understand I’m swimming for myself more.
How was it just being at that atmosphere?
It was mind-boggling. It was a strange experience. I’d never been in a crowded arena for swimming. When I walked out, I was freaked out and shocked by the amount of people in the stands. In my mind, there were so many people. Usually it’s close friends and family [at meets] with you, and your coach. But there were so many other people around me.
What are your goals for the rest of your high school career?
I want to have a lot of fun with my high school season, have fun with my team. I want to do well and have a good championship meet. I’m not really focusing on long course this year because there are no big long course meets this year. Learning how to sprint well.
Are you looking at colleges?
It’s starting currently. It’s an exciting experience. Thinking where I’m going to go for the rest of my life and move forward and grow up. I’m looking forward to finalizing that this year.
How does something like this jumpstart the rest of your career? Are you inspired?
Yeah I would say so. I have more fire to train again. I learned a lot about how I need to race differently. I feel ready to train again and ready to get back to work. It’s nice to just train and prepare.
Did you take a break after Trials, or keep training?
I kept training. I trained the day after I swam. I got back in the pool. I trained for Juniors.
How’d you do at Juniors?
Slightly better than at Trials. It was a good morning swim, but not fast enough to make it back.
Looking back at this whole journey, what’s the one thing you wish you could have improved?
I think I did everything to the best of my ability. I’m satisfied. I tried as hard as I could. It would be nice to go back and swim bigger meets, but I think I did all I could possibly do with all the things going on. I don’t regret anything leading up to my experience.
Was Trials what you expected? Any surprise?
The whole experience was mind-blowing. I had dreamed of this moment, and it was there. Everything was so cool. I got a free massage one day, that was awesome. You got free Gatorade when you wanted. The athlete lounge was beautiful. It was all amazing.
Was there any particular swimmer you saw at Trials that you want to emulate?
I looked up to Shanteau. I look up to the way he’s lived his life. Even when he does bad, he still is OK with himself. I want to be like that. I want to understand that I gave it my all, and you can’t change aspects of your life. I want to emulate him in my life.
In four years, what are we going to see from Forrest Davis at the Trials?
Hopefully a night swim. That would be cool. I think I just want to go there and swim better than I did this year. I want to be calmer in that situation. The first time I was so nervous. Hopefully the second time I’ll be less nervous, and calmer in four years.
If you have swim stories to share with us, please email Trials.Tribulations.firstname.lastname@example.org