On this episode of The #AskASwimPro Show, we talked with 8-time medalist Jason Lezak! He shared how he and his family are coping with COVID-19, some of his favorite memories from his career, and how the International Swim League is revolutionizing the swimming world.
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Putting Himself in Other Swimmers’ Shoes
Jason feels for the swimmers who are out of the water right now, and said he understands what it is like to overcome adversity. He said postponing the Olympics and closing pools was the right decision to keep swimmers around the world safe. Olympic athletes now have a full year to train and prepare for Tokyo 2021!
COVID-19 doesn’t just affect elite athletes, though. Jason’s 8- and 10-year-old children were preparing to swim in the Junior Olympics, only to have the meet canceled a few days before. Jason said that whether you’re an age group swimmer or an Olympian, competition cancelations and pool closures are disappointing no matter what.
Advice for Swimmers
Jason said that when pools do reopen, swimmers will regain their feel for the water quickly, but it will take time to rebuild endurance, and that’s ok. Anything swimmers can do to maintain their endurance out of the water is a good thing. Get active every day!
Jason’s wife works with the kids on schoolwork during the day, and Jason gets active with the kids in the afternoons, playing basketball, hiking or walking the dog. The family works to limit screen time, opting for reading or outdoor activities instead.
Reflecting on the Olympics
Jason competed in 4 Olympic Games: 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Looking back, Jason said each Olympics was a very unique experience.
In 2000, Jason was simply excited that he made the United States Olympic team. 4 years later, he expanded his race lineup, and felt more pressure. He was so focused on performing well that he didn’t soak up the incredible experience.
That made him come back in 2008 even more determined. After a less than stellar performance in 2004, he earned a bronze medal in the men’s 100-meter freestyle, and gold medals in the men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay and the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay.
In 2012 at age 36, Jason competed in his last Olympics, and it was all about the experience. He was team captain, acting as a role model for younger swimmers.
Team USA Memories
For Jason, being on the United States national team was inspiring. Swimming with a team full of role models makes you push yourself to be the best athlete you can be, Jason said. Team USA athletes get along well and support each other, too, which helps everyone swim better in competition.
International Swimming League
Jason is the General Manager of the Cali Condors, the International Swimming League (ISL) team based in San Francisco, California. He said he wishes the ISL existed when he was swimming — it’s a fun organization that offers a lot of opportunities for swimmers. If it were around before he retired, he said he may have swum until age 40!
The difference between ISL meets and a typical swim meet is the speed, Jason said. ISL meets are a 2-hour, compact show, and every race is a final. There is an elimination series of 50s and relays that mix men and women. Lights are flashing, music is blasting and fans are excited.
Jason said there are more exciting changes coming to the ISL next season. We’ll have to wait and see what is in store!
Watching the Sport Evolve
Jason said he feels lucky to have had the opportunity to swim until age 36, and that he was able to secure sponsorships and appearances to support himself. He mentioned that a lot of swimmers had to retire young because professional swimming wasn’t a financially stable career path. The ISL provides an opportunity for swimmers to keep swimming, and reach their full potential later on.
ISL events also make swimming more accessible. Jason said ISL meets are similar to a baseball game. Anyone could attend and have a good time.
The New Generation
Caeleb Dressel is one of Cali Condors’ athletes, and Jason has enjoyed seeing him develop. Dressel swims many of the events that Jason used to swim, and Jason enjoys seeing how Dressel is able to take each race to the next level. He noted that Dressel’s underwaters are incredible!
Staying Connected to Swimming
Jason plans to remain involved in swimming for years to come! In addition to his role with Cali Condors, he regularly runs clinics through BREAKOUT! Swim Clinic, and enjoys giving back to the swimming community and sharing his knowledge.