By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, December 21, 2017
Rex Tullius isn’t a scientist, but he understands the basic laws of physics – namely the one that states when an object is in motion it generally stays in motion.
So, when he decided to make an Olympic run in 2015 after being away from competitive training and swimming for almost three years, he knew he had to quickly energize himself to get moving again.
Needless to say – with a potential Olympic berth in the balance – it didn’t take him long.
“Living in the U.S Virgin Islands for the past 5 years, it was hard to stay away from the water, but to get back into competitive shape, that took a little time,” said Tullius, who relocated to the islands at U.S. Olympic Trials in 2012. “But I was lucky enough to find a great coach to work with, and I slowly built my FINA points back up in order to qualify to represent the Islands in Rio.”
Tullius’ journey to Rio actually began as a result of the disappointment he felt after coming close to making the U.S. Olympic team in 2012.
Earning a spot in the finals, he swam a fast time but missed finishing in the top two to earn a spot on the team.
The deepest country in the world in the men’s backstroke events, the United States went 1-2 in the 200 backstroke final in Rio – and Tullius’ Trials time was fast enough to have qualified him for the Olympic finals.
Deciding to end his swimming career at the conclusion of Trials, it wasn’t long before Tullius was employed with Kansas City-headquartered Legacy Development which moved him to the U.S. Virgin Islands to become the vice president of development and construction.
There, he focused on developing his career in construction development – learning all the ins and outs of commercial real estate negotiation, management and building relationships with local and state government, among other things.
“I was a business administration undergrad at Florida, but have my master’s degree in construction management, so working for a construction development company was a good, logical fit,” he said. “I am so fortunate and grateful for the opportunity that Dan Lowe gave me when he trusted me to work in the Islands, and I’ve learned so much that continues to serve me personally and professionally.”
Another opportunity that Lowe encouraged Tullius to pursue was making his Olympic dream a reality.
At the beginning of 2015, he began working with a top coach in the Islands. When he looked more deeply into how the Olympic team is chosen in the Islands, he decided to see what he could do in a short amount of time.
He returned to training and quickly began swimming in FINA-sponsored events to gain more points. Unlike the United States and other large countries, the U.S. Virgin Islands doesn’t hold a Trials – so the top finisher in FINA points rankings are named to the Olympic team.
It took some hard work – highlighted by a trip to Singapore to train with Sergio Lopez and other top U.S. and international swimmers for several months – but in the end, Tullius found himself in a position he always dreamed of when he was still competing for the United States.
“If I had had to go through another Trials to make the team, I wouldn’t have done it,” said Tullius, who won two silver medals at the 2011 World University Games in China. “Knowing that I could qualify for the team in the way that I did allowed me to not only train but still work throughout.
“When I was deciding whether or not to pursue it, one of my biggest considerations was that I didn’t want to leave behind or put any projects on hold at work. Dan assured me that things would move forward if I decided to go for my Olympic dream, and he encouraged me to go for it. He asked me if I would ever have this chance again, and I knew I wouldn’t, so he said to do it and I could still work while training in Singapore. It was win-win all the way around.”
And even though he didn’t make it out of prelims at the 2016 Olympics, Tullius said he left Rio amazingly excited and happy that he competed and fulfilled a dream that he had since he first started swimming as a youngster.
It also gave him a new vantage point of what it means to be a member of the U.S. swim team.
“It was really a dream come true for me, and it wasn’t weird or uncomfortable competing for another country like some might have thought it could be,” he said. “When you are competing for another country, your view of the U.S. team is very different than when you’re on the U.S. team.
“The United States is a machine, and other teams revere the members as stars in the sport. Seeing this from the outside – and having been on past U.S. teams – gave me a completely different perspective about swimming in the states.”
Having moved from the laid-back blue waters and warm temperatures of the U.S. Virgin Islands to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and New York City within the past month, Tullius is excited to see where he can continue to take his career with Legacy Development.
He’s also excited about the many relationships he will build and maintain in New York City and how he can help grow the business in the land of real estate development and beyond.
He said he uses the lessons he learned every day in the pool in his business and daily life – most notably perseverance and determination to pursue and achieve his goals.
“Those are qualities I hope to exhibit forever in everything that I do,” he said. “Whether it’s real estate or swimming or anything we do, you have to be willing to fail to succeed. It’s all about how you move forward – keep going – that says a lot about you as a person.
“The older I get, the more I see how we respond to disappointment. Choosing to move forward without delay is uncommon today, but I think being willing to move forward and persevere is what sets people apart. I always want to be someone who isn’t afraid to fail and keep pushing forward. Swimming definitely taught me that.”