FAST's Countdown to Olympic Trials: Tyler Clary
Only seven weeks remain until the start of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. FAST currently has seven swimmers qualified to compete. In the time remaining, our website will feature a weekly update that highlights one of these athletes. We hope this will impart wisdom to our younger swimmers and their families about the highest level of our sport. Sacrifices are made for success and challenges are endured for excellence. FAST is privileged to have wonderful role models right here in Fullerton.
This week's update features Tyler Clary, an Olympic hopeful in the 200 Individual Medley, 400 Individual Medley, 200 Backroke, and 800 Freestyle Relay. The top two finishers in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 Back earn spots to represent the United States in those events at the London Games. The top six finishers in the 200 Freestyle earn spots on Team USA's 800 Free Relay. Please read on to learn more about Tyler's journey in the sport and his Olympic aspirations.
A Google search for "Tyler Clary" returns all of the pages that you would expect -- a Wikipedia profile, sports news articles, interviews, race videos, and photos from the medal ceremonies at major international competitions. But his friends, coaches, and teammates know that there is much more to Tyler than his swimming successes. Twenty-plus hours of training each week is just not enough for him. Tyler has a plethora of other interests -- deejaying, rock climbing, off-roading, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, building remote controlled helicopters...the list is endless. He is building his own off-road vehicle and has deejayed in Las Vegas! But when he Tyler is at the pool, his focus is second to none.
Tyler's god-given gift for swimming is incredible, as evidenced by his medal haul from major international competitions -- ten medals! -- and, most recently, by his head-to-head race with Michael Phelps in the 400-meter IM at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. It was a great performance for both competitors that came down to the final stroke and a huge thrill for the crowd in Indianapolis. Tyler is undoubtedly a natural in the water, but he knows he would not have achieved his potential without the guidance and support of his coaches and family. He grew up in Riverside and swam with a few different programs in that area. When it became clear that he was passionate about swimming, he found Coach Kevin Perry in Fullerton. Tyler's commitment to the grueling three hour workouts of the Senior Team earned him a spot on the 2006 U.S. National Junior Team. At the FINA Youth World Championships that year he won four medals and was named Performer of the Meet.
His training regimen at FAST prepared him well for the University of Michigan where Tyler began his collegiate career in 2007. He enjoyed a phenomenal improvement trajectory, highlighted in 2009 with an American Record in the 400-yard IM (3:35.98) and an NCAA Record in the 200-yard Back (1:37.58). Three years later, both of these records still stand! Building off of this success, Tyler earned the privilege of representing the United States at that summer's Long Course World Championships in Rome, Italy. He won a silver medal in the 400-meter IM and a bronze in the 200-meter Back.
After a third outstanding collegiate season and six more medals on the international stage in 2010, Tyler was presented with the opportunity to sign a contract with Speedo and become a professional. By doing so, he would have to give up his college eligibility and forgo his senior year swimming for the Michigan Wolverines. It was a difficult decision, but he chose the professional route and moved back to Fullerton to focus all of his energy on preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games. His Coach Jon Urbanchek said at the time, "He's not afraid to take on the best. A lot of kids would not do it. That is a toughness in him. That's what I admire the most." Tyler had spent the summer in Fullerton training under the guidance of Coach Urbanchek and decided that was the best place for him to spend the next two years of career. His first year as a professional was nothing short of spectacular. Tyler won a silver (200-meter Back) and two bronze (200-meter IM and 400-meter IM) medals at the Short Course World Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in December 2010. The following summer he won a silver (400-meter IM) and a bronze (200-meter Back) at the Long Course World Championships in Shanghai, China in July 2011.
At the 2008 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Tyler finished fourth in the 400-meter IM and third in the 200-meter Back behind Aaron Piersol, the "King of Backstroke", and fan favorite Ryan Lochte. With Piersol now retired and Tyler's steady improvement in the event since 2008 -- his current best time is the second-fastest swum by an American since the 2008 Olympic Trials, second only to Lochte -- it is safe to say that he is optimistic about his opportunity to improve on his finish this time around. “I came very close, and it was difficult to accept for a short time, but so much has changed in my life and swimming now. I’m so excited to go back to Omaha and have new experiences,” Clary said. “How many times do you get to swim in front of 14,000 fans who know and love the sport of swimming? Trials in 2008 was the first time that I was exposed to a large-scale event like that. Since then I’ve been to Worlds, Pan Pacs, Duel in the Pool and other big events. I feel much more prepared and experienced.”
In the seven weeks that remain, Tyler will continue to keep himself busy with projects outside of the pool, but when he is in the water, he is thinking about London. Today, Tyler and his teammates on the FAST Elite Team begin four weeks of training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. From there they will fly directly to Northern California to compete in the Santa Clara Grand Prix. “I haven’t trained this hard in a quite a long time," Tyler said. "But I’m not training for Olympic Trials – I’m training for the Olympics. I haven’t had a problem making the big teams the past few years, and I don’t expect to have a problem at Trials. It’s my portal to London.”
Please click here to check out Tyler's page on the Speedo Pace Club website. It features blog posts, videos, and more.