By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
This summer, Amanda Weir experienced another bout with what she calls #tallpeopleproblems.
It happened at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis before the start of her events.
At 6-foot-2, tall for a swimmer, she tweaked her lower back and, as she calls it, had “kind of a disaster.”
The result was a less-than-auspicious 16th place finish in the 100 freestyle and fifth place in the 50 free – disappointing considering she won an Olympic bronze medal as a member of the 400 freestyle relay last year in London.
Still, having come in as a top contender for the U.S. World Championship team, Weir left Indy disappointed and in pain.
“I took quite a break after London, and it was a struggle to get back into some semblance of shape,” Weir said. “Nationals weren’t pretty. I was dealing with a lower back issue, but it’s something I've always had issues with it.
“Apparently it's pretty unstable and is a high risk for getting out of alignment thanks to my super long torso. It just happened to coincide with a meet this time.”
While she experienced disappointment at Phillips 66 National Championships, Weir quickly rebounded for a great meet a month later at the U.S. Open. There, she finished third in the 100 free and sixth in the 50 free – proving to herself that she still has a passion and excitement for the sport.
”It ended up being pretty fun to go to the U.S. Open because I got to watch my brother swim pretty fast, and I had a good meet, as well,” Weir said. “Right now, I’m just taking it year by year at this point. Although I say that now, it seems when I get back into meet zone and a competitive frame of mind, anything seems possible!”
It wasn’t long ago that Weir was contemplating ending her swimming career. A 2004 Olympic silver medalist, Weir came into the 2008 Olympic Trials as a strong favorite to make the team, especially having set a new American record in the 100 freestyle two years prior.
Her expectations, both personal and from others, were at an all-time high, to lead female U.S. sprinters back to the top of the podium on the world’s biggest stage.
But weeks, even months, before she stepped onto the blocks for her first event at Trials, Weir foresaw disaster in the water.
What happened gripped her psyche for months. She swam some of the worst races of her career and failed to make the Olympic team in any of her events – not even as a member of the 400 freestyle relay, for which she won silver in Athens four years earlier.
“Trying to pull it together at Olympic Trials after such inconsistent racing and preparing the two years before that was like watching a car wreck happen – and I think on some level, I knew it was going to be a disaster in the end,” she said. “I had a really hard time making the transition to professional swimming and dealing with the pressure.
“All of a sudden, I felt like I was swimming because it was my job, and people had all these expectations of me. I've since realized that the pressure is only coming from myself, and that being a professional athlete is really very simple: keep competing while it’s fun and opportunities are available, or move onto the next phase of my life.”
While the experience proved to be one of the greatest disappointments in her life, Weir said it made her realize that she loved the sport of swimming and wanted to make the most of it.
Now that a few years have passed and her vision is a little clearer about how and why things happened as they did, she said she knows she’s better for it. She doesn’t take her races as seriously, and a bad swim doesn’t ruin her week or weekend any more.
Suffice it to say, the young woman who started at 8 years old when she brought home a flyer from school about club swimming is truly enjoying her sport again and is excited to see where swimming will take her over the next couple of years leading up to the 2016 Trials.
“I’m doing well and sticking with it, how long, I’m not sure, but I’m definitely looking to 2016 Trials,” Weir said. “I’ve started a new cross-training program, with football and baseball players of all things, in Atlanta. I have a renewed emphasis on strength training, so I'm pretty excited about some racing coming up.
“No tackling, just field work – lots of resistance running, jumping, etc. You definitely don't want to give me a football - it wouldn't be pretty! I stay clear of them when they're doing tackling drills.”
Coming up for Weir competition-wise is the 2013 AT&T Winter National Championships (short course) in Knoxville, Tenn., the week after Thanksgiving.
Beyond that, she is simply taking things day-by-day, exploring some outside activities and enjoying the ride.
“It’s still fun, so I’ll see how far I can take it!” Weir said. “I’m enjoying training and enjoying life here in Atlanta. I’ve been dabbling in some interior design work from time to time for some friends and acquaintances, and that might be where life will be heading post-swimming! We'll see.”