By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Garrett Weber-Gale just keeps moving forward. His trip to the Maccabiah Games was life-changing and only affirmed his faith even more, and his 2013 marriage has helped him set a course for the rest of his life – along with the MBA he is doing in Austin, Texas. He talks about that – and the special experience he had as the nutrition instructor at USA Swimming’s Fantasy Camp earlier this month – in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. How is your MBA going – are you at UT Austin?
Garrett: I am in Austin, but I am actually doing my MBA with Acton and I really like it. The classes are going are going great. I am blown away honestly with how much I am learning. I don’t know how I could ever hope to maximize my potential without going to this school and learning this now.
2. How were the Maccabiah Games – was it all that you hoped?
Garrett: Yes; I mean, the whole trip to Israel was more than I thought it would be.
3. You were all over the place – I saw pictures and posters of you, and all the media you did – did you expect that?
Garrett: I didn’t realize (laughs) it was going to be as big as it was. They had posters everywhere. My face was on posters and on buildings and at bus stations.
4. It was literally a national event, wasn’t it?
Garrett: There were 9,000 people there from around the world. I have never met Jewish people from China and Morocco, it was just crazy. It was much bigger than I thought.
5. How much did it affect you personally?
Garrett: The impact on me was amazing. The Olympics are the pinnacle of sports. But there is nothing that can touch the cultural aspect of being able to compete with all these other Jewish athletes in Israel.
6. The Games were founded on faith, in effect, right?
Garrett: In Europe they were forbidden from competing against other people who were not Jewish. Absolutely, this is a huge event, not just for sports. (Israeli leader) Shimone Peres said it’s really a forum to prove that Jewish people still are a strong people, that we have a great community who are very powerful and come together – and we still produce great athletes and great people.
7. I think that pride, in anything, is awesome – you take that seriously, don’t you?
Garrett: We are a band, a tribe – whatever you want to call it – that are very proud. The Maccabiah Games are how we get together to prove that. It’s just awesome.
8. You had wanted to do this for a long time, but you had a lot going on, right?
Garrett: I had heard about it for a long time. I had heard about it down in Florida. Then some friends went, and then some others like Lenny (Krazelburg) went and Jason (Lezak) went, and I really wanted to go. But I never had any idea about the significance of the actual event until I went. Then I went, and it was insane! And I didn’t realize the significance competing in it would have on the rest of my life, and how proud it would make me in my background, to compete with these Jewish people in Israel, the homeland of where my people came from.
9. This was really that eye opening for you, wasn’t it?
Garrett: You can’t really understand why Israel is so important until you go there. Until 1948, Jews had nowhere to call their home. This is a really important place. So going to Israel and competing in the Maccabiah Games was a transformative experience. When you go there, you find out more about who you truly are, what it took for you to get where you are now, and even where you are headed in the future, especially with how it connects to our history.
10. Was Israel different than you thought? Because even though it’s not on the news unless there is controversy, Israel has a phenomenal tourism industry, and I know the university in Tel Aviv is highly regarded throughout the world.
Garrett: When you go there, you realize it’s not what it is on the news. There are Muslims, Christians and Jews living in harmony. There are hotspots yes. But in the heart of Jerusalem there is so much harmony.
11. You marrying Kara this year, another huge event, obviously, right?
Garrett: She is the love of my life and the greatest. I am so happy to spend the rest of my life with her. She is not Jewish, and that made the trip to Israel even neater. But to me, it’s more about the person you are marrying. My kids will be raised in Reformed Judaism – as long as one person is Jewish. It was just fantastic with her in Israel; she was blown away by it. It was so fun for her to learn more about the Jewish faith and learn more about the history and heritage.
12. You kind of flew under the radar with the whole wedding thing in the run-up to it – was that by choice?
Garrett: It was not a huge deal when we got married, there was no story written about it or anything. It was perfect. We had the most beautiful wedding, it was amazing. It was just fantastic.
13. Can you believe the path your life has taken?
Garrett: I look back at my life and I really don’t have any regrets. Everything has really worked out how I wanted it to. I have been able to achieve more than I ever wanted. I wish I had more success in business up to this point, but that’s one of the reasons I am in school right now. But I am living the dream every single day.
14. How was the Fantasy Camp at USA Swimming you were a part of earlier this month?
Garrett: It was pretty awesome, honestly.
15. How so?
Garrett: It was just really cool. I work with kids a lot, and every time I do, I am so excited because they are so passionate every time. I see the natural love they have for the sport. That was the same thing for the Fantasy Camp, these Masters swimmers who were so excited to be there, and it was so great to see their love for the sport and everything about it.
16. They really fired you up that much about the sport?
Garrett: They were passionate about swimming and learning. It was like working with younger athletes in terms of how motivated they were. They inspired us.
17. In this era of PEDs and everything else – athletes staying in the sport longer, athletes taking a break to develop outside the sport – eating right and staying in shape is more important than ever, isn’t it?
Garrett: Yes, you have to stay in shape and maintain yourself all the time. There is really no room for not doing it. There’s no substitute for it, you have to do it. It’s something that has become more and more prevalent; if you are going to compete, make a comeback, or live a long life, you have to maintain your fitness.
18. Regarding Fantasy Camp, did the swimmers ask you about your business, the Athletic Foodie, or did they ask you about the 2008 Games?
Garrett: Really, there were more questions about food. Of course, everyone wants to hear the story about the relay, but they were really jazzed about nutrition. I spoke for an hour and the time just flew buy. They wanted to talk to me afterward, and then we had lunch together.
19. So it’s a lifelong commitment to eating right – putting good stuff in the body – for you, right?
Garrett: Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when running stores were starting, there’s a guy named Paul Corrazza, the founder of RunTex, who was really big in the running community here, and has been for decades. He told me when we talked about everything, “You have to have something you are doing ‘IT’ for, something you are holding yourself accountable for.” I was able to hone in on that for the masters swimmers. “What are you doing this for? Who are you doing this for?” Once you can focus on that, it’s easier for you to eat right. It’s just like going to the pool; if you don’t have a goal for the race you are doing, then practice doesn’t really matter. But if you are trying to make a time, a meet or a race, you work every day toward that. If you don’t have a goal for eating, you’re just not going to pay attention all the time, and you’ll have bad meals here and there because you are not working toward a goal.
20. You have a degree from UT Austin and are now doing an MBA with Acton – what’s some advice you’d give to someone else thinking about an MBA or another graduate program a half-decade or decade after being out of college?
Garrett: That there is no downside to getting more education. You can always learn new things, and open your mind and world up even more. I was just talking about this with a friend who told me, “Having more education can only help you.” And the thing is, like I said earlier, I am blown away by what I am learning. This will give me more opportunities in life. I am taking classes in accounting and finance that have opened my eyes to opportunities I never would have thought in the world, and now I am envisioning and learning how to make them happen.