FAST's Countdown to Olympic Trials: Robert Margalis

Only two 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.

Robert Margalis has been competing at the National and International level for over 15 years. In two weeks he will make his fourth consecutive trip to the U.S. Olympic Trials. Robert returned home with third place finishes in 2000, 2004 and 2008 and has been hard at work to improve upon those finishes in 2012. Continue reading to learn more about Robert and his incredible swimming career.
Robert was born in Queens, New York, but his family relocated to Florida so that he and his siblings could swim in a better environment. At St. Petersburg Aquatics Robert's talent stood out early on. He set the 11-12 Boys National Age Group Record in the 500-yard Freestyle with a time of 4:47.65, a record which stood for eleven years. A few years later at the young age of 15, Robert won his first event at a major National competition. His first place finish in the 400-meter IM at the 1997 U.S. Open set a 15-16 Boys National Age Group Record -- 4:23.36 -- another record that stood for 11 years. To win the race Robert touched out Tom Dolan, the 1994 World Champion and 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist in the event.
Ironically, it is with Dolan's former coach that Robert is training today. FAST's Jon Urbanchek coached Dolan through the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and has been on deck with Margalis for the last two years. Since 1997, Urbanchek and other top coaches across the country have witnessed Robert's steady improvement. Robert is considered one of the most versatile swimmers in the world, excelling in the Butterfly and Distance Freestyle events in addition to the IMs. He set the American Record in the 1,000-yard Freestyle in 2007 and was a member of the U.S.'s 800-meter Freestyle Relay which set the American Record in 2008 at the Short Course World Championships. His record in the 1,000 was 8:42.64, an incredible average of 52.2 per 100 yards! His incredible longevity is due in large part to his wonderful attitude. Despite close calls in 2000, 2004, and 2008, Robert continues to look forward saying, "My motivation is that I know I can still swim faster than I ever have. I am still happy to go to practice each day. I will retire when I'm no longer having fun."
His path to 2012 has certainly been a lot of fun, packed with National titles, American Records, international competitions, and four years competing for the University of Georgia. Robert won his first National title in the summer of 1999 when he finished first in the 400 IM. Subsequently, he won the 400-meter Freestyle en route to the High Point Award at the 2001 Spring Nationals and reclaimed the 400 IM title in the summer of 2005. All of these swims earned him coveted spots on the U.S. National Team which selects the country's fastest six swimmers in each event at the end of every Long Course season. Robert has been named to this team for an incredible 13 consecutive years. As a member of Team USA, he has represented his country at the Long Course World Championships (2001, 2005), Short Course World Championships (2006, 2008), Pan American Games (2003, 2007, 2011), and Pan Pacific Games (2006, 2010). These events are the major international swimming competitions contested in each year that the Olympics are not held.
During his junior year of high school, Robert decided to dedicate more time to preparing for the Olympic Trials that were only 18 months away. While training, he took classes at a local junior college and earned his GED. Although he did not procure an Olympic berth in 2000, Robert had an incredible Trials debut. He finished third in both the 400 Free (3:50.68) and 1500 Free (15:13.59) and fifth in both the 400 IM (4:21.05) and 200 IM (2:03.22). In each of his Finals swims, he improved on his times from the Preliminaries and Semi-Finals. Robert continued this trend in 2004, improving all of his times each time he hit the water. He improved on his place in the 200 IM (2:02.88) to take fifth overall and added the 200 Free to his line-up. Last time out in Omaha, Robert posted very impressive times in both of the IMs -- 2:00.77 in the 200 (5th place) and 4:13.85 in the 400 (3rd place). His 400 IM was ranked third in the world heading into the Olympic Games.
Still hungry for that quintessential top two finish at U.S. Olympic Trials, Robert continues to prove his mettle and remains among the most competitive in the world. At the 2011 Summer Nationals he won the 400 IM and followed it up with a bronze medal in the event at the Pan American Games in October. He is looking forward to his opportunity at Olympic Trials in two weeks. "I am aiming for best times in my events. I know that I can only control what I do and I believe I can achieve that goal."
Good luck, Robert! FAST is rooting for you!