Jimmy Feigen: Swimming the Dream
By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Just over a year ago, Jimmy Feigen was dreaming of competing at the Olympics.
He had kept a poster of London on his wall almost since the previous Beijing Games ended and used it as motivation to get him through his long workouts while finishing his degree at the University of Texas.
Fast forward a year and it’s a very different story for the sprinter. He’s now a professional swimmer able to focus purely on training for long course competition, is still swimming with a lot of his teammates – recent and past – at Longhorn Swimming, and is living the life he always wanted.
And sporting a silver medal from last summer’s Olympics.
“There are a lot of differences between pro and collegiate swimming,” Feigen said. “It was a pretty tough transition for me because over the course of four years, you naturally depend on collegiate swimming to give you a balance, a schedule and goals. As a pro, I have to make all those things up myself. This was difficult to accomplish at first, but with the help of pros like Ricky Berens and Garret Weber-Gale, I've made the transition and look forward to a successful summer.
“My training also has definitely changed. At NCAA's, I was expected to swim 12-14 times over the course of three days. Now, I’m only swimming 6-8 times over the course of a week and my training reflects that change. I used to train for my team, and the stronger I was, the stronger the Texas Longhorns were. Now it’s more about my country. The stronger I am, the better my country (hopefully) can be.”
Even though it took him a little while to come down from his amazing experience as a member of the U.S. Olympic Team in London, Feigen said he is more committed than ever toward making this summer’s World Championship Team and reaching a second Olympics in 2016.
He’s training with one of the fastest sprint teams and for one of the best coaches in the nation and is not in short supply of fantastic training partners to push him every day in the pool.
Feigen said these days he is swimming largely for himself and his motivation from personal responsibility than anything else – and it feels great.
“(Unlike college) It’s not up to my coaches to make me care or make we want to be there; that part’s up to me,” said Feigen, who captured both sprint events (50 and 100 freestyle) last year at NCAA Championships, setting him up for the great summer that he had.
Leading up to the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships this summer (where the U.S. World Championship team will be selected) in Indianapolis, he has already competed at two Arena Grand Prix events and is still putting together his competition schedule. He does plan to swim at the Arena Grand Prix at Santa Clara in May, but other than that, he’s unclear where he’ll compete. He leaves those details up to his coach, Eddie Reese.
Knowing that the average human male doesn't reach his full potential until his late 20s and he has always been a late bloomer, Feigen said he is confident that he still has a lot of time drops and improvement ahead of him.
He’s excited to see how his sprinting takes off now that he can actually train like one.
“I'm not training to swim such a rigorous schedule anymore; I think that now that I can train exclusively for the 50 and 100 (long course), I will be much more successful,” Feigen said. “My results so far (in season) have been faster than in the past, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how much faster I can get before Indy this summer.”
Having had the dream of swimming in the Olympics since he was a little boy, Feigen said making his first Olympic team is something he will always hold onto as priceless regardless of what happens moving forward with his swimming career.
“Just making the (Olympic) team was a dream come true,” Feigen said. “The whole experience was pretty intense. I made some memories I will carry with me my whole life. But a coach of mine always told me to never be satisfied, so that’s what I’m doing now. I’m setting and working towards bigger and better goals.
“It’s certainly a great feeling knowing that I accomplished a goal I set almost two decades ago. I am proud to be able to give that legacy to my family. That being said, it’s time for new goals and new aspirations to continue my career. My best times are still ahead of me.”
And so is a gold medal – which eluded him as a member of the 400 freestyle relay last summer in London. He said he’s looking forward to contributing as a relay member (or more) for the United States in the coming years and for being remembered as a good, fun person and teammate as well as world-class swimmer.
“I want to be known for excellence in the pool, but I always want to be remembered for who I was as a person not just who I was as a swimmer,” Feigen said. “I strive to be nice to everyone and hopefully that’s something I will be remembered for.”