Backstrokers give U.S. a 1-2 punch
Apparently, there are other Americans to follow in men's swimming besides Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Which is fortunate, because Phelps didn't swim in a final and Lochte finished fourth in the 200-meter freestyle Monday night.
"We watched [the 200 free] in the ready room. It's tough to see a teammate and a friend maybe not do as well as he wanted. It got me fired up," Matt Grevers said. "He gave it everything he has, and I think he's having a good meet. It's not like revenge or anything, but you get a little fired up and want to do well for your country."
Grevers and Nick Thoman did so by finishing first and second in the 100 backstroke. Grevers, who had finished second to Aaron Peirsol at the Beijing Games, won gold in an Olympics-record 52.16 seconds with Thoman taking home silver in 52.97. It was the second consecutive Olympics in which the Americans went first and second in the men's 100 back, and the ninth time the U.S. has done so in the event.
As swim traditions go, this beats shaving parties.
"Getting second in 2008 to Aaron Peirsol was phenomenal. I still consider him the best backstroker in the world," Grevers said. "Maybe next time around, Nick will get first and the younger guys will follow."
Wait, does that mean this is the end of the line for Grevers?
"Oh, I'm going to try, but I am getting older and we'll see what my longevity will be like," said Grevers, 27. "There are some up-and-coming stars in backstroke, and it will be hard to make the team and hard to medal. Yeah, I'm going to give it a go, but we'll see."
Thoman, 26, already completed a passing of the generational torch of sorts with his silver medal. His grandfather, Richard Thoman, set the world record in the 100 back in 1952.
"Growing up, there was a world record plaque on the wall of my grandfather's house and a pool in the back," Thoman said. "He was very influential in getting me into the pool at a very, very young age. I was born in March and I was probably in the pool by that June. I've been swimming as long as I can remember and been on a team since I was 4."
If Grevers is an improved swimmer since 2008, there is good reason. He says he is much more careful about what he eats and drinks, especially drinks. He recalled how a friend visited his room in Tucson, Ariz., several years ago and told him, "Man, clean your room."
"My room was littered with soda cans," Grevers said. "I had a soda addiction. I love Squirt and Coke and everything. I drank so much. He said, 'You have to stop drinking this stuff; there's too much sugar.'
"I took it to heart and I really don't drink soda anymore. I took it one step further this year and I stay away from anything that isn't good for my body. I'm stronger and lighter -- which is a good combo, being lighter and stronger."
Grevers and Thoman share a Tucson background. Grevers is from there, and Thoman graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in religious studies. The two have known each other since 2005.
"We're friends first, teammates first, then competitors," Thoman said.
"I told Nick I felt bad," Grevers said. "I was pretty selfish at first. I saw I won and I was celebrating. Then he hit me and was like, 'Look.' And then I looked at the board and saw he finished second, and there was a whole new celebration and it felt even better to share that moment."
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