By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, October 27, 2017
While millions of people around the world will be ringing in the New Year December 31 with champagne and noise makers, Michael Chadwick will be celebrating with an “I Do” and a kiss.
He and fiance Cassi Diya have planned a New Year’s Eve wedding, sharing their special day with 225 friends and family – and a few swimmers – in Charlotte, N.C., Chadwick’s hometown.
After the wedding, the couple plans to return to Columbia, Mo., where Chadwick continues to train with his Missouri Tiger teammates. Although his collegiate eligibility expired this past spring, he won’t graduate with his degree in sports management until December.
Suffice it to say, it’s going to be a life-changing month – and year – for the U.S. National Team member.
“New Year’s Eve is a Sunday this year, so we’ve both loved the idea of getting married that day to start our new life together at the start of the New Year,” Chadwick said. “We want to stay in Columbia after the wedding – at least until mid-year, and then we’ll see what makes sense for us.”
As great as 2018 is shaping up to be for Chadwick and his bride-to-be, as far as swimming goes, this past year was stellar for him.
After missing out on making the 2016 Olympic Team, he used his year-long motivation because of that disappointing result to swim his way onto the 2017 U.S. World Championship Team.
In Budapest, he joined his U.S. teammates to win a gold medal in the 400 freestyle relay – fulfilling one of his swimming goals and dreams.
“Redemption is the best way to describe what I felt after not swimming well at Trials but finishing 5th in the 100 free and making the World team,” Chadwick said. “After Trials, I took some time off from swimming, and when I returned, I was more committed than ever to accomplish my goals. Making this World team was one of those big goals for me.”
And despite his recent success, it wasn’t until a few years ago that Chadwick realistically thought of himself as an Olympic contender.
Having started swimming year-round rather late for most top-level swimmers – 11 years old – Chadwick said he had some ground to make up as he matured in the sport.
When he turned 12, he nearly quit swimming altogether, but his mom went to bat for him with his club coaches at SwimMAC, and his faith in the sport and his own ability was restored.
Chadwick attributed a late growth spurt - 5 inches in height between his sophomore and junior years of high school – that helped take him from relative anonymity to sought-after swim recruit.
Still, despite late interest from collegiate swimming powers like Auburn, Missouri was the only college that offered him a scholarship, so he jumped on it.
And he’s never regretted it.
“I believe I’ve found myself – I’ve grown through swimming – and a big part of that happened due to my experiences at Missouri,” Chadwick said. “Earlier this year at NCAAs, I became only the second man to beat 41 seconds in the 100 free (yards) and finished second to the fastest all-time (Caeleb Dressell).
“After the disappointment I experienced in the 100 free at 2016 Trials, I wasn’t sure what my future in swimming might be like. But now, I feel really good about where I am and what I’m doing.”
Chadwick’s Trials disappointment centers on his swim in the prelims of the 100 free.
He dove in as usual, but when he hit the water, his hands separated and his right arm was forced to his side by the water. The delay – equaling about 1.3 seconds, significant time in a race that spans less than 48 seconds – set Chadwick back against his competition.
He never recovered and finished 18th – two spots out of a place in the semifinals but right in the middle of tremendous frustration with himself and the circumstances that kept from making the event finals.
“I went to lunch with my family, feeling very dejected and somber, and hoping to receive a call from my coach letting me know two swimmers who finished ahead of me had decided to scratch the semifinal so I could move up,” he said.
“Ryan (Lochte) did scratch, but the second swimmer I needed never did, so I was out of the event. It was a great lesson for me, and it provided me a lot of motivation moving forward.”
And that motivation is paying off. Chadwick said he feels like he’s swimming better and smarter than he ever has, and even with all of the upcoming changes in his life, he’s excited about the possibilities that are showing themselves leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“There was a point after Trials when I questioned whether or not I could go through another disappointment like I did then, but that entire experience taught me a lot about myself and the importance of swimming in my life,” said Chadwick, who now has his sights set on next summer’s Phillips 66 Nationals and Pan Pacific Championships.
“But now, I see so much opportunity in swimming and life. I’m excited for this next part of my life – marriage, graduation, continuing to swim on the National Team, etc. It won’t be long before 2020 gets here, so I have to keep moving forward and make sure I’m ready when the opportunity comes around.”