Catching Up with Annie Chandler Grevers
By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Next month marks the two-year anniversary of Annie (Chandler) Grevers’ last race.
But like a lot of competitive swimmers – athletes who give their very heart and soul to succeed in the sport – she knows she will most likely never be done with swimming.
“I still pop into Master’s workouts twice a week,” said Grevers, who married Olympic champion and National Teamswimmer Matt Grevers in April 2013. “I thought long and hard about continuing my swimming journey after graduating college in 2010. Two years seemed like an eternity and a pretty important chunk of time right after graduation.
“Matt and I hashed it out one day, and I remember him saying I would always wonder if I didn’t give it a go at 2012 Trials. He was right. I have no regrets about spending that time training for my dream. I made a decision in 2010 that either 2012 Trials or (ideally) the 2012 Games would be my last meet.”
And it was. Her final race – the 50 freestyle – was at the 2012 Olympic Trials. She dropped a half a second from her previous best time and almost made the semifinals, finishing with a “sparkling” swim to end her career.
“I remember walking over to our team area, where Matt and his brother were standing, and Matt gave me a little Omaha teddy bear, in addition to a bear hug,” Grevers said. “I was thrilled with my last swim ever. I was beyond relaxed prior to the 50 and all smiles. I smiled before my breaststroke races, but it was always so hard to let go of tension before my specialty.”
She said, to a degree, she is able to stay connected to competitive swimming vicariously through Matt, and she continues to swim two or three times a week with a local Master’s program to keep in shape and remain close to her water roots.
And while she admits she doesn’t miss training for four hours per day like she did when she was a competitive athlete, she does miss the physical results.
“That level of fitness seems unfathomable to most people,” she said. “I knew I was in great shape when I was training, but I do not think I thought about the expectation it sets for the rest of your life. It took me a while to feel OK about my 30-minute runs being enough.
“I love getting to cheer on Matt at meets. It keeps me connected to the swimming world. I think completely extracting myself from the swimming world would have been tragic. There are so many people I still look forward to seeing on pool decks worldwide.”
When she’s not being wife to Matt and mother to two pups “that will suffice as our children for the next few years,” Grevers teaches private lessons and works at her all-time favorite store, Anthropologie.
And although retail isn’t her passion, she said it had been a “fun fling” during this transitional phase of her life. She and Matt also make time for some Mutual of Omaha clinics here and there, which she describes as an inspiring thing to get to do as a couple.
“I love working with kids hungry to improve,” Grevers said.
But don’t expect to see her back on the competition blocks any time soon.
As far as she’s concerned, when she left swimming it was with no regrets and no intentions of returning.
“I did have a big itch (to return) after watching the 50 breaststroke at World Trials in Indy last summer,” Grevers said. “The 50 breast was always my dream event, and of course, it pops up at Nationals a year after I retire. But ultimately, I’m at peace with my decision.
“It is really tough to draw the line and know when you’re done. You don’t want to end on a bad meet, but if I had made the Olympic Team, I would have had a tough time retiring. It is difficult for anyone to hang up the goggles, I do not care what people say! Swimming became so comfortable, inviting, familiar. To get to that caliber in another field takes decades of hard work and you are bound to be humbled when you start life on land.”
Grevers said as she looks back over her long career – which included an NCAA Championship in the 100 breast her senior year (2010) at the University of Arizona and appointments to the World University Games, Pan American Games and Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championship teams – she has gained much more than medals and titles.
She gained mental stamina, observance and analytical skills, fitness and nutrition – and then there’s Matt, whom she calls the greatest prize of all.
“When you reach a high level, you delve into any areas that are underdeveloped,” Grevers said. “Nutrition was definitely one of those fields. Now that I have more time and energy to cook, Matt and I both eat healthier. Matt has a huge incentive to eat better. I want that guy to have premium fuel while he’s chasing his ultimate goals.
“I miss asking everything of my body and more to achieve a best time or a win. I miss smiling underwater in the warm-down pool after a great race. I miss forging that unbreakable bond with teammates by way of grueling practices, joyous victories and devastating losses. Mainly, I miss all those relationships. Swimmers are just the best people.”
Next up for Grevers is a possible career in massage, as she is considering starting massage therapy school this fall.
Having had many healing hands on her over the years after a tough workout or stressful meet, she said she would love to be able to have that impact on athletes and non-athletes to improve the quality of their lives.
But in the meantime, she’s content cheering on her husband and the other swimmers at meets around the world.
“I would have loved to have been on a national team with Matt,” Grevers said. “We both made Pan Ams, but he decided to train instead. I missed 2009 Worlds and he missed 2010 Pan Pacs. It would have been fun to represent the United States by his side, but now I lead the USA Swimming family cheering section. It’s all good!”