Jaeger balances school, Olympic-level swimming


LOS ANGELES (WOOD) — Four years after he competed at the Olympic Games in London, long-distance swimmer Connor Jaeger has his sights set on Rio.

He’s hoping to clinch a spot on Team USA at the Olympic trials that start Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska. The finals for the men’s 1,500 — Jaeger’s event — are on the final day, July 3.

Jaeger finished sixth in the 1,500 freestyle in London. He came in second at the FINA World Championships last year. He figures he’s a contender for a medal in Rio — but he’ll have to take care of business in Omaha first.

To train for a 1,500-meter race, he swims 15,000 meters a day.

“You’re not lifting as much as everyone else. You’ve got to spend that time in the pool,” he explained. “So really, there’s times when you’re just going to have to endure. … You have to get your mileage in, your muscular endurance base, your aerobic base, and it’s pretty challenging but we like it.”

It also means making some sacrifices, but Jaeger’s not afraid of doing that.

“Does anyone remember the ‘Call Me Maybe‘ video from 2012? So everyone was like, ‘Hey, why weren’t you in the video?’ Well, I was in the pool swimming, that’s why,” he said.

When Jaeger competed in London, he was still an undergraduate at the University of Michigan with a major in mechanical engineering. He balanced that with the rigors of competing at the highest level of his sport, winning three individual national championships and leading the team to the 2013 NCAA championship.

“Everyone there is trying to be the best, and being in that environment is only going to push you further and further to being the best, and that’s not just in athletics,” Jaeger said.

Now he’s working on his master’s degree at Michigan. That plus his Olympic dreams means he has a busy schedule, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Don’t be one-dimensional. Don’t be just swimming. Try to grow outside of that. So that’s why I went straight into my master’s. That’s why I had an internship one summer while I was swimming,” he said. “That’s not unique, that’s the thing, every student is doing that, but I think sometimes in sports that gets lost because it requires so much of your attention. It’s easy to say, ‘Hey, don’t worry about anything else, just focus on your sport and your team.’ And sometimes that’s good. But I think it’s healthy to be balanced and I think it’s helped my swimming to not think only about swimming. I don’t think that would help me; I think it might actually make me worse.”

The Rio games start Aug. 5.Online: 2016 Olympic Games in Rio

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