As a former National Team swimmer and Pan American Games gold medalist, Arthur Frayler always envisioned his life involving water.
He didn’t, however, know that one day he’d be filling water tanks rather than swimming in them.
But Frayler discovered his passion for running a business and selling fish from all over the world during his swimming days, and now, he’s living a different kind of water dream.
Frayer runs his own fish store in Gainesville, Fla., that same city he called home for four years as a swimmer for and student at the University of Florida.
He can’t imagine doing anything else.
“The store has a lot of history and has been around for 42 years,” said Frayler, who worked part-time at the store when he was still competing for Florida. “We install, service and help people with their tanks and work with amazing fish from all over the world.
“My life is just as busy as it was with swimming, but in completely different ways. I love what I do and am fortunate enough to still be near the University of Florida so my swimming world is right up the road.”
Frayler was a Gator from 2013-2016 and was an All-SEC Freshman honoree and NCAA All-American during his time in Gainesville.
He was named to the All-SEC First Team in 2014, and in that same year, he was the SEC champion in the 1650 freestyle. He also was recognized on the All-SEC Second Team in both 2015 and 2016. In 2015, he finished 15th in the 1650 at the NCAA Championships and earned honorable mention All-America recognition.
Prior to his time at Florida, Frayler won gold in the 1500 freestyle and silver in the 10k open water race at the 2011 Pan American Games. He also finished just a few spots away from making the 2012 Olympic team with his fifth-place showing at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials-Swimming in Omaha.
Two years later at the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships, he finished with top-six placings in both the 800 and 1500 freestyle events, and still had a couple of years left to compete for Florida.
But following the conclusion of the 2016 Olympic Trials – where he admits he didn’t swim his best and his heart just wasn’t in the pool any more – Frayler decided it was time to retire and move on to the next phase of his life as a business owner.
It’s a decision he’s never regretted as he knew it was time to leave when he did.
“For me, I just knew it was time to try something new,” he said. “I had already been working at the store for the previous owner my senior year whenever I had free time and fell in love with the fish world. Looking back, I understand where I was at. I do not regret anything, but at that time knew I was ready for the next chapter and was figuring out what that meant besides swimming.
“I think like most swimmers, the ultimate goal is to reach the highest level of what we can achieve. For me, that was being able to travel, represent my country, my club, my schools and be around people who positively impacted my life. I really couldn’t have asked for more.”
Frayler got started in the sport back in his hometown of Philadelphia as a summer league swimmer with coach Scott Strong.
As he became more serious about swimming, he met Coach Dick Shoulberg and transferred to Germantown Academy where he swam through high school.
When he was being recruited by colleges, Frayler was ranked as one of the top distance freestylers in the country and chose Florida over several other top programs.
According to him, swimming was always his top athletic choice despite competing in basketball, baseball and other sports as a youngster.
“Swimming was really the only sport that I was truly passionate about,” he said. “When I was younger, I played other sports, but when I went to the pool and got in the water, it just ‘clicked,’ and by clicked, I am not talking about natural talent.
“For my first few years, in fact, I was not anything to brag about. Over time with hard work and dedication, I started becoming better – all with the help of my coaches giving me the opportunity to prove myself.”
Frayler added that, in addition to his swimming accomplishments, he’s most proud of the relationships he’s built over his career.
Working with people like Shoulberg, Chris Lear, Gregg Troy, Anthony Nesty – he sees them as family.
They’ve all proven to be and remain constants in his life and great teachers and mentors for him along the way.
Add in the many friendships he created with teammates both at Florida and in the swimming family, and he knows his life was enriched by the many offerings of the sport.
“The relationships I formed, the opportunity, the lessons I have learned through swimming – there is not one ounce of regret in anything I have done,” he said. “Of course, there will be times you question what you are doing, but that means you are pushing yourself to a limit where you test your ability to go further every day. I am very grateful to the sport.”
He's also grateful for the many life lessons swimming taught him throughout his career, namely that few things that have value come easily and work always pays off.
In his view, everyone needs both talent and the desire to transform and develop that talent into something greater.
For him, training was what got him to where he was, and without the hard work and constant grind, he wasn’t able to get up and perform at the top level.
He credits his experiences at Germantown and Florid as the backbone of the training that allowed him to excel in the sport.
“We can make excuses all day and sometimes I would believe myself while saying them… but in the end, we either put the work in or don’t,” said Frayler, who said he has taken up recreational swimming again to get back into shape and is considering joining a local Masters swim program in the future.
“If I don’t go to work on a daily basis and put effort into what I am doing it will not just happen on its own. Swimming gave me that understanding, as my coaches would say ‘numbers don’t lie,’ and it’s the truth. I was very lucky to be surrounded by such amazing programs through my career, where direct examples of hard work were in front of me on a daily basis.”