By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
We all have them.
You can’t be human and live without the occasional train-wreck of a day. We just hope our worst days don’t come at the most important moments of our lives.
For Josh Schneider, his worst day occurred during the biggest event of his young life, and although he took rich lessons away from the experience, he often relives it in his mind and in the water.
“It was the worst day of my life, no joke, and I learned that I have to do more to reach that dream,” Schneider said.
The day he’s referring to came in the finals of the 50 freestyle at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha.
He swam a fast prelim and semifinal time, and went into the final eight with a very strong chance of finishing in the top two and punching his ticket to London.
But when it came to the end of the frenetic sprint the length of the pool, he touched in fourth-place and was left off the team he had some high hopes of making.
“I really came to Omaha with the highest of expectations and believed I had a strong shot at making the team,” Schneider said. “It was so disappointing coming so close but not making the team, but I had to take something away or it would eat at me. I chose to learn and change.”
As one of the fastest freestylers in the world, Schneider’s expectations for 2012 began a few years earlier when he won the 50 free at NCAAs for the University of Cincinnati.
Because he played other sports in addition to swimming, his name wasn't among the top sprinters during college recruitment. But that was fine with Schneider, who got started in the sport when her sister went to the Ohio state championships her senior year of high school.
Schneider said her success brought a great deal of pride to her school and the family, and when he entered high school a few years later, the swim coach recruited him to join the team.
"I ended up swimming for Cincinnati because I was unaware of which schools had big or small swimming programs," Schneider said. "Texas or other top-flight schools may have overlooked me, but I did not do a good job putting myself out there.
“I wasn’t a big-time swimmer in high school, and I didn't swim year-round. That had a major effect on my knowledge about schools that had big swimming programs.”
But that's not the case anymore. These days, he is a mainstay on the U.S. National Team and knows that he is progressing on the right path toward making his first Olympics.
It’s a dream Schneider has held since he first started swimming and one he's eager to fulfill.
He’ll just have to wait a couple more years for another shot.
“Since (2012) Trials, I have spent a lot of time finding myself and learning who I am and what I want out of life,” Schneider said. “Rio (in 2016) is definitely at the top of my list, my main motivator to continue training and chasing the dream of being an Olympian for life.”
"A dream come true would be to have a gold medal around my neck at the next Olympics, but I know I have work to do just to make the team. I'm determined and excited."
To help him get there, Schneider is training and living back in Cincinnati and recently accepted a position with the university’s athletic department to help bring in gifts and donations.
And while he’s older and more reflective about swimming than he was a few years ago as the up-and-comer in the sport, he said he now has a new appreciation for the sport and life in general.
“What's changed since I have gotten older is just that I'm appreciative for being healthy and happy,” Schneider said. “Through swimming, I have had the opportunity to meet people a lot less fortunate than I am, whether that's physical, financial or whatever. And it just makes me appreciate things I would typically take for granted.”
With the 2016 Trials and the subsequent Olympics at the forefront of his mind and goals, Schneider said he is all in the next two years to put himself in the best possible position to contend.
Beyond that, he says there’s no telling what the future holds.
He does know, however, that he still has a lot to prove to himself and the rest of the swimming world.
“Because I started later than many others, I have a ton left in the tank,” Schneider said. “I believe that I have the biggest upside moving forward compared to my competition.”