Jim Hett

1976 Montreal – Jim Hett

Jim Hett recalls fondly the crowds of spectators who lined a path just to get a glimpse of athletes like him.

Hett and other Olympian athletes walked through a path in a park as they assembled themselves for the opening ceremonies at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

“People were screaming their heads off and the whole place erupted,’’ said Hett. “I’ll never forget it.’’

Hett, who was born and raised in Waterloo, was 18 years old when he qualified for the Olympics on home turf. He was a swimmer at the Kitchener-Waterloo YMCA Aquatic Club located on Lincoln Road in Waterloo, ROW’s predecessor.

Of the 56 swimmers in his event – 200 metre freestyle – Hett placed 22nd.

“Making the Olympics was phenomenal. That was the ride of my life,’’ said Hett.

Hett said a tragedy with a friend got him into swimming. At the age of seven, he was swimming with his brother and friends in Waterloo Park when one of his friends drowned. He was only seven.

Hett’s mother put him in swimming lessons and by 11 he was swimming competitively at the Breithaupt Centre pool.

While a kinesiology student at the University of Waterloo, Hett did most of his training there, swimming long course at the Laurier pool.

When Hett returned from the Olympics, he retired from swimming and began coaching with ROW for three years and then went on to coach in Sudbury, Peterborough, and a club in Oshawa.

“The real key is keeping it enjoyable for kids,’’ said Hett, who agreed that swimmers have to work hard in the pool but they must be having fun too.

Hett said he had no interest in moving around the country and in the late 1980s got out of coaching. Hett now works as a manager for a thrift store under the umbrella of the Mennonite Central Committee.

Hett said swimming gave him camaraderie with other swimmers and “the amount of discipline you get from swimming is phenomenal.’’

At 52, Hett said he swims twice a week at the Waterloo Recreation Complex and in the summer outside at the Moses Springer pool.

“It’s a real freedom diving under the water,’’ he said. “It’s like walking to me.’’

(pictured above, Jim Hett with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau)

Dave Heinbuch

1976 Montreal – Dave Heinbuch

When Dave Heinbuch made the national swim team in high school, he knew going to the Olympics was no longer just a thought in the back of his mind.

It moved front and centre. Like most swimmers with a definite goal in mind, Heinbuch trained hard, swimming at the Laurier pool and later at Simon Fraser University for two years.

At the age of 21, Heinbuch joined Hett in Montreal. He came in 15th in 200 metre breaststroke.

Upon returning back to the region, Heinbuch, who is Kitchener born and raised, decided to coach at his alma mater – the University of Waterloo.

For nine years, he coached the men’s and women’s varsity swim teams at UW.

Then in 1988, Heinbuch went to Nepean where he would have a long-standing position as head coach of the Nepean Kanata Barracudas. He retired in 2008/2009.

But the love of coaching is strong and Heinbuch coaches part-time at a club in Gatineau, Quebec.

Heinbuch started swimming at the age of nine at the Kitchener YMCA and later trained at the Lincoln Road facility.

Heinbuch said coaching has always been a joy and it keeps him close to a sport that gave him so much.

“I like to push kids and have fun at the same time but it’s hard balancing it,’’ he said. “You have to connect with swimmers.’’

Kevin Auger

1980 Moscow – Kevin Auger

Imagine training so hard that your mind and body are ready for Olympic trials and then you find out your country isn’t participating in the international games.

That’s what happened to Kevin Auger. The Guelph native swam with the Guelph Marlins for most of his life and moved over to ROW in September 1980 to swim under the direction of motivational coach Cliff Barry.

Auger said he wasn’t shattered at the news of the Olympic boycott because he thought he would attend the 1984 Olympics.

“I was young and I thought there was more to come,’’ said Auger, who was 19 at the time. He went to the Olympic trials in Etobicoke and his time was 2:01.28 in the 200 metre butterfly.

Instead, the team competed in various international competitions including one in Hawaii where the who’s who of swimming who had boycotted the games was there.

The U.S.-led boycott included 65 countries who decided they would not attend the Moscow games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Moscow games were the first time the Olympics were staged in Eastern Europe.

Auger trained under Barry from 1980 to 1984 and worked hard setting his sights on the 1984 games. But in 1983, Auger hurt his left arm and started to lose feeling in it.

Auger said the tendonitis in his arm was likely from a stroke flaw learned when he was younger. Auger said learning the proper stroke fundamentals is essential because it becomes difficult to unlearn habits set at a young age.

Auger retired from swimming and went on to coach the Cambridge Aquajets from 1984 to 1986 and then his home team, the Marlins, for the next 10 years.

In 1996, Auger moved to Evanston, Illinois, a suburb outside of Chicago. His wife, originally from Chicago, wanted to move back home. Auger was familiar with the area because he had graduated from the University of Indiana with a degree in business administration. He attended the school on a swimming scholarship and trained in the pool there with other American athletes.

Auger is now the coach of the Wildkit Swimming Organization in Evanston that has 180 swimmers ranging in age from six to 26. He’s also busy as the aquatic director at the local high school and coaches the swim team which is large and competitive unlike school teams here in Ontario.

“Swimming is my life. I spent so much time at it and I’ve been coaching ever since,’’ said Auger, now 49.

Auger said swimming is an individual sport that rewards the person who works hard.

“If you put a lot of effort into it, you will be successful,’’ he said.

As a high school student, Auger played volleyball and was the team’s MVP but the team wasn’t very good. Auger said he quickly learned he couldn’t control how well the team competed, just himself and that’s when swimming “became my thing.’’

Auger said he also played the trumpet and the piano but spent most of his time swimming.

But there were setbacks too. In 1976, Auger tried to make it to Olympic trials but failed and then quit swimming for six months.

But then over the summer, the teen grew steadily and was five feet 10 inches by the fall and gave swimming another shot and soon qualified for the national championships.

“You are going to get out of it what you put into it,’’ said Auger, who often tells his students to set goals.

As a swimmer, Auger challenged himself and set short-term and long-term realistic goals. He asks the same of his swimmers.

“I think swimming is a great sport. I love it and I like what it teaches the kids,’’ said Auger, who has three children of his own. The youngest child – a 10-year-old boy- is the only one who swims.

Victor Davis

1984 Los Angeles; 1988 Seoul, South Korea – Victor Davis

The heyday of Victor Davis and his teammate Mike West took ROW to the world-class stage.

These ROW powerhouse members made waves by grabbing five Olympic medals in 1984. At the time, this achievement was a Canadian record for any amateur sports organization competing at a single Olympics.

At the ‘84 games, Davis collected three medals, including gold in the 200 metre breaststroke and silver in the 100 metre breaststroke and in the 4x100 metre medley relay.

And the Waterloo community and the country were thankful. When the pair came home, they had their own float in the K-W Oktoberfest parade and later were inducted in the Waterloo County Hall of Fame, the Canadian Amateur Sport Hall of Fame, and in 1984, Davis received the Order of Canada.

Davis was also named Swim Canada’s athlete of the year three times. Davis was also inducted in the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

Davis, who started swimming for the Guelph Marlins at age 12, was a world record holder in his specialty, the 200 metre breaststroke.

Davis also attended the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea where he placed fourth in 100 metre breaststroke and took a silver medal in the 4x100 medley relay.

Davis retired from swimming in July, 1989.

Tragically, Davis’s life was cut short. On Nov. 11, 1989, he was run down by a car in Montreal outside a nightclub. He died two days later in hospital. He was 25.

Kevin Auger, who swam with ROW under coach Cliff Barry from 1980 to 1984, fondly remembers Davis as a “little punk” who like some young male swimmers was fooling around more than he was swimming.

Auger recalls how Barry wanted to get Davis to focus so he threw him into the lane with senior swimmers Auger and his peer Alan Swanston, who was also a national champ swimmer. Swanston is now the head coach for the Newmarket Stingrays.

“We lapped him,’’ said Auger. “He (Davis) eventually learned he had to swim faster. Victor grew up around us.’’

Davis’s peer and fellow Olympian swimmer in 1984, Mike West recalls how he last saw Davis in 1988 when he went to Montreal. The pair had dinner and drinks.

Davis was training in Montreal because he had followed Barry to the city after he left ROW.

West said he was studying in the library at Queen’s when his brother-in-law came to tell him the news of Davis’s death.

“I remember getting a frantic phone call from Cliff. I was in shock,’’ said West.

Mike West

1984 Los Angeles – Mike West

You know you’ve got what it takes to make it to the Olympics, when the swimmer you have idolized for years congratulates you on your time.

“I jumped out of the pool and Stephen Pickell congratulated me. I was thrilled,’’ he said. “I was on top of the world.’’

It was 1980 and Mike West had just competed in the B final Olympic Trials. He made it to Canada’s national swim in 1980 and would remain there until 1986.

Pickell was a 1976 Olympian from Vancouver who won the silver medal in the 4x100 medley race. Like most serious swimmers, West looked up to the swimmers and Pickell was one of them.

As a backstroke specialist, West set a world record in 200 metre backstroke in 1984. He also went on to break 10 Canadian records in the 100 metre and 200 metre backstroke events.

In 1984, along with Victor Davis, West won silver in the 4x100 medley relay and took the bronze in the 100 metre backstroke.

He, too, was named Swim Canada’s athlete of the year in 1985 and twice received the Government of Canada’s Sports Excellence Award.

West, who was born and raised in Waterloo, started swimming for fun at the age of seven. He joined the K-W YMCA Swim Club and but stopped after a year.

Then at 13, he joined ROW in 1977 when it opened.

“I hated morning workouts. I didn’t know if it was for me,’’ West recalls.

But the backstroke came easily and he quickly excelled. Two years later, he made the junior nationals in backstroke.

“It’s the easiest,” West chuckles. “You don’t have to fight with breathing and it’s a distraction looking up at the ceiling.’’

As a high school student at Bluevale Collegiate Institute, West recalls how there was little time for extra-curriculars with eight practices a week at the pool.

“Swimming and school was my life. I was OK with that,’’ he said.

West credits coach Paul Meronen, ROW’s current assistant coach, with pushing him to participate in the 1980 Olympic trials.

“I remember laughing at him,’’ said West when Meronen suggested he should try out.

“He believed in me and clearly saw a talent and a skill,’’ he said. “I didn’t see myself in the ranking of an Olympian.’’

After the 1980 trials, West said he became more focused and with a shift at the ROW club with Cliff Barry training high-calibre swimmers, the heat was on.

“Once Cliff got there, there was a push on excellence,’’ said West. “I pushed myself and I was really competitive but I had fun.’’

But West knew that every practice was preparation for the 1984 Olympics. At 1984 trials, competition was stiff in men’s backstroke.

“A lot of people were on edge. I wanted the make the team,’’ he said.

And make it he did. West placed first at trials in 100 metre and 200 metre backstroke, this time in the A trials.

“It was a relief. One more step in making it to the Olympic Games,’’ said West, who was 19 when he went to the international games.

After the Olympics and international recognition, West continued to swim for two more years.

“1985 was a good year. It was my best year of competing,’’ he said.

But West knew the end was near. Cliff Barry was moving to Montreal, where Victor Davis would follow him but West wasn’t prepared to move out of province.

He was in his third year of health studies at the University of Waterloo and went on to medical school at Queen’s in Kingston. West, now 45 who lives with his family in Dundas, Ont., has been a family physician for 17 years.

West remembers fondly his swimming years and says ROW helped him and Victor achieve their goals.

Swimming as a sport taught him commitment and dedication to something, hard work and of course time management, he said.

West, who swims recreationally a couple times a week at the McMaster University, said he’s still at the pool. His 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter are swimmers with the Golden Horseshoe Swim Club.

Laura Nicholls

1996 Atlanta; 2000 Sydney – Laura Nicholls

In 50 metre freestyle, no one was faster than Laura Nicholls.

The ROW swimmer was the fastest. By 2004, with two Olympics games under her belt, Nicholls clocked a Canadian record of 25:60 seconds in 50 metre freestyle.

“I had swam faster than every Canadian before and it was my best time,’’ said the freestyle sprint specialist.

But her time wasn’t good enough for the 2004 Games. Although she qualified for international standards, she didn’t meet Canadian standards which were set at 25:52 seconds. It seemed politics got in the way of athleticism.

“I wasn’t fast enough. It was upsetting but I’ve moved past it now,’’ said Nicholls, who went to the 2004 Games to watch instead.

Nicholls attended her first Olympics in 1996 and tied 19th in 50 freestyle and went on to the 2000 games ranking 14th in 100 metre freestyle, 23rd in 200 metre freestyle, seventh in 4x100 free relay and sixth in 4x100 medley relay.

Kitchener-born Nicholls started swimming with ROW at the tender age of five. She would stay with the club until she was 22.

In 1992, Nicholls began swimming with former ROW coach Dean Boles. Nicholl’s talent was obvious and under the direction of Boles, Nicholls was headed for the international stage.

In 1996, Nicholls, a student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, qualified for the Olympics as a 17-year-old phenomenon and one of Team Canada’s youngest swimmers in Atlanta.

Nicholls said she remembers clearly the 1996 Olympic trials, swimming in lane 3 for the 50 free. She thought she had swum her best but wasn’t thinking about whether she had made the team.

“I got out of the pool and I thought I was in lane 5 but then I thought, ‘Wait I was in lane 3 and I qualified’,’’ she said.

“My first clue should have been seeing Dean going nuts on deck,’’ Nicholls said.

In hindsight, Nicholls said she was “shell-shocked” by the 1996 Olympics.

“I was young and naïve and I was disappointed with my final results,’’ she said.

But by 2000, Nicholls said she was relaxed and “I knew what the Olympic experience was like.’’

Nicholls went on to win 30 international medals and 17 national titles. Nicholls returned to ROW after the 2000 games but by 2003 Nicholls was looking for a change.

She went to Pickering to train under national elite level coach Lucie Hewitt-Henderson.

“Dean was fantastic but I switched to Pickering because I was looking for a change in coaching style. I needed to sprint faster,’’ she said.

“It’s perfection. You have to be perfect in 50 freestyle,’’ Nicholls said.

Nicholls recalls how leaving ROW and Waterloo meant stepping out of her comfort zone and the comforts of home.

Nicholls said both coaches had very different coaching styles but believes moving to Pickering was the right decision.

“She had me swimming faster than I ever did,’’ she said.

But a third crack at the Olympics wasn’t in the cards. In the summer of 2005, Nicholls quit and that fall started coaching full time with the Oakville Aquatic Club where she works today as head coach.

“My love and passion is in the swimming world,’’ said Nicholls, 31, who still lives in Waterloo.

Nicholls said she enjoys working with young children, teaching them the basics and fundamentals of swimming strokes.

“I like to teach them to swim well at a young age,’’ she said.

Jennifer Button

2000 Sydney – Jennifer Button

At five foot four inches tall, Jennifer Button was the shortest on the national team headed for the 2000 Olympic Games.

But her stature did little to hamper her. Button would go on to be one of the fastest female butterfly swimmers in the country.

Button, who started swimming with ROW at 13 when her family moved to Waterloo from Alberta, said she dreamed of competing in the Games when she watched American gymnast Mary Lou Retton win Olympic gold in 1984.

By 16, there were many successes and she was doing well in provincial competitions.

“Swimming was my life. High school was driven around my swim schedule. It dominated my social life,’’ said Button, who graduated from Bluevale Collegiate Institute.

Button, who trained under Dean Boles, said qualifying for the 2000 Games was her proudest moment.

“When I saw that I had made it, my dad was crying and Dean was screaming,’’ she said.

Button qualified for four events: she placed 20th in 100 metre butterfly, 17th in 200 metre butterfly, fifth in 4x200 metre freestyle and sixth in 4x100 metre medley race.

Button recalls feeling crushed when she came in 17th, knowing that the top 16 swimmers in the opening 200 metre butterfly race went on to the semifinals.

Button returned home and trained hard in the pool and out with weight-lifting and yoga. She was among the best swimmers in the country, holding the record in 100 metre butterfly.

Button finished her studies at the University of Toronto, obtaining a degree in physical education.

Button jumped back into competitive swimming full time, training with the U of T team but was unable to land a spot on the Olympic swim team in 2004.

“Mentally I didn’t have the motivation. The spark wasn’t there,’’ said Button, who then went to Lausanne, Switzerland to earn a master’s in sports administration from the International Academy of Sports Science and Technology.

Button, 32, now works for the Canadian Olympic Committee in Toronto in their marketing department working with national sponsors.

Button, who also coached with ROW, did come coaching with the Toronto Swim Club but doesn’t see herself as a coach.

Button said because of swimming, she has a confidence in herself and an ability to set goals and achieve them.

“No matter what will come whether it’s a job interview or a presentation, it is not as nerve-wracking as standing in front of thousands of people at the Olympics,’’ she said.

Takashi Yamamoto

2000 Sydney; 2004 Athens – Takashi Yamamoto

Takaski Yamamoto is a Japanese native who trained with ROW for six years, going to two Olympic Games under the direction of former ROW coach Bud McAllister.

He earned silver in the 200 metre butterfly and helped the Japanese 4x100 medley relay team earn a bronze medal at the 2004 Games.

Yamamoto moved to Waterloo in April 1988 to be closer to his girlfriend, swimmer Suzu Chiba, who had come to Waterloo to train with McAllister.

The pair met when they swam together at Japan’s prestigious Osaka swim club.

In media interviews, Yamamoto has said that the training he received at ROW propelled him to silver, finishing just a fraction of a second behind American golden boy Michael Phelps.

Yamamoto and his wife returned to Japan in September 2004.

Jessica Tuomela

2000 Sydney; 2004 Athens; 2008 Beijing – Jessica Tuomela

Jessica Tuomela is an Olympic veteran.

The 26-year-old Cambridge woman competed not once, twice but three times in the Paralympics.

Tuomela is a sprinter and in the 2000 Games she won a silver medal in the 50 metre freestyle. In 2004 in Athens, she came in fourth in 50 metre free, while in 2008 in Beijing she placed ninth in 50 metre free and eighth in 100 metre freestyle.

Tuomela is a blind swimmer. The Sault Ste. Marie native lost her sight as a toddler to cancer.

Tuomela moved to Brantford to attend the W. Ross Macdonald School for the blind when she was 12. It was there that she learned to swim.

“I thought, ‘Wow I’m good at this’,’’ she said.

After three years in Brantford, Tuomela went back to Sault Ste. Marie to finish high school and returned to southern Ontario to attend Wilfrid Laurier University. Plus, she wanted to swim and Laurier was the home of the national swim centre.

It was in the Laurier pool and with ROW that Tuomela honed her skills in the pool as a freestyle specialist. She trained five days a week with the help of a tapper – a person who gently taps her head with a stick anchored in foam to signify that the pool wall is near.

During her swimming career, she had a few accidents when she didn’t feel the tap such as chipping her teeth and a few concussions.

For her first Olympics, her mother, Sophia was her tapper and in 2004 and 2008, her best friend since childhood Christena Hurley was the tapper. Both women attended Laurier together.

Tuomela recalls how nervous she was at her first Olympic trials in Montreal in 2000.

“It was a little overwhelming,’’ said Tuomela, who was 17 at the time.

In Sydney, Tuomela remembers “everything being new and exciting but I had to stay focused,’’ she said.

When Tuomela went to the 2008 Games in Beijing, she knew they would be her last Olympics.

“At some point you have to stop. It’s a hard decision but Beijing didn’t go as I planned,’’ said Tuomela, who came in ninth overall. The top eight swimmers moved on to the finals.

Tuomela said swimming was difficult but worth the effort. She said the sport taught her life skills of time management, commitment, and perseverance. Being in the pool also taught her to set goals and achieve them, she said.

Tuomela will soon graduate from the Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy in Cambridge and hopes to work with athletes.

“I really don’t want to be on deck but behind the scenes,’’ she said.

Jennifer Fratesi

2004 Athens – Jennifer Fratesi

Since she was six, Jennifer Fratesi loved the water.

The 26-year-old started swimming in her native Sault Ste. Marie when she was a little girl and soon she was showing her potential, shattering club records, and beating experienced swimmers.

“I’m a very competitive person,’’ she said. “I knew I had a lot of potential.’’

And talent she did have. Fratesi would go on to participate in the 2004 Games. She came in ninth in the 200 metre backstroke semifinals in Athens.

Fratesi was just two-hundredths of a second – a blink of an eye – away from earning a place in the final race.

“I was very close,’’ she said.

Just before the Olympics, Fratesi was the fastest female 200 metre backstroker in the country holding the record of 2:11:16.

Fratesi came to ROW when she was 15 to train in a 50 metre pool and under the direction of Dean Boles.

She set a Canadian record in the 200 metre backstroke at the 2001 world championships in Japan, a feat that led Swimming Canada to crown her female athlete of the year.

For Fratesi, swimming was her life, putting university studies on hold. She trained six days a week, at least four hours a day, training on dry land as well.

“I had a really good time and I have a lot of respect for the club. It was my second home,’’ she said.

After the 2004 Games Fratesi focused on her studies and retired from swimming. She is currently a medical student at the University of Ottawa where she hopes to become a radiologist maintaining the tradition of medicine in the family. Her mother is a nurse, her father a surgeon and her older sister is a dermatologist.

For swimmers at ROW, Fratesi says it’s the journey that matters not just the end result.

“It’s the friends you meet,’’ she said.

But the feeling of being in water, well there’s nothing like it, she says.

“Water is soothing. It’s therapeutic. It feels like home,’’ said Fratesi, who’s active in other activities such as cross-country skiing, rollerblading, kayaking and 6:15 a.m. runs.

Keith Beavers

2004 Athens; 2008 Beijing – Keith Beavers

read about Keith's retirement in the Waterloo Chronicle.

Standing on the block in the 2008 Olympic finals, ready to swim his last competitive race, Keith Beavers knew his job was done.

“Coming in seventh was icing on the cake. Just making the final was the goal,’’ said the 27-year-old. “Everything else was a bonus.’’

Beavers came in seventh in the 200 metre individual medley, ninth in the 400 individual medley and 12th in the 200 backstroke in the semi-finals.

For Beavers, the Beijing experience was different than his first Olympics in Athens. He was more experienced and confident in his ability to compete against swimming greats like Michael Phelps.

“I had been swimming for 20 years for that moment,’’ he said. “I enjoyed it a lot more. It was pretty special.’’

Beavers reached two Canadian records and his personal best at the Summer Games.

Beavers came to ROW in 2001 to the national training centre to swim under coach Bud McAllister.

“I wanted to go the Olympics when I was nine or 10 years old,’’ said the Orangeville native who recalls watching Mark Tewksbury’s gold-medal win at the Barcelona Games.

By 17, Beavers was on the junior national team and he knew with determination and dedication, the elite world Games could be his.

“Swimming and school were my top priorities,’’ said Beavers, who practiced two hours before school and three hours after school four days a week.

At the Olympic trials in 2004 in Etobicoke, Beavers said he was pretty confident considering no one had beaten him in three years. He came in second in 200 metre backstroke and was headed for the Games.

Beavers said his first Olympics was a “mixed-bag” experience. He said he was disappointed in his performance in Athens coming in 12th in 200 metre backstroke.

Beavers said falling down the stairs and hurting his tailbone severely put him “off his game” mentally.

When he returned to Waterloo, Beavers said he felt out of sorts and considered quitting swimming, questioning why he was playing the sport but then he began training under coach Dean Boles.

“He helped me re-ignite my passion for swimming,’’ he said. “We were a 50/50 team. I was the driver and he was there to keep me on the path.’’

Beavers said he was fortunate that at each stage of his swimming career he had the right coach. McAllister was “very strict and very scary. He demanded hard work but I liked to goof around.’’

Under Dean’s hand, Beavers was able to get his torn muscles in his shoulders under control and concentrate on swimming.

“I knew I was really fit,’’ said Beavers, who was training three times a day at the pool, taking time off from school to concentrate on training for the 2008 Games.

Beavers said despite residual injuries in his shoulders today, he loved his swimming career and his Olympic experiences.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,’’ he said.

Beavers is currently the assistant varsity swim coach at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and assistant coach at the Hollyburn Hurricanes swim club in West Vancouver.

Beavers completed his undergraduate degree in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo while at ROW and finished his master’s degree in cardiovascular physiology at UW in June 2009. He plans to return to Ontario for September 2011 and enroll in university for a master’s in physiotherapy.

But he won’t be coming back to Waterloo. His choices for school include the University of Western Ontario, Queen’s or the University of Toronto.

Beavers said his personal injuries in his shoulders and working closely with a physiotherapist lead him to this path.

But before he pursues his career, Beavers and his long-time girlfriend, leave for New Zealand for nine months for a much-needed break in late August.

Beavers said as a coach he often asks his students why are they swimming and what they love about the sport.

“I like the social aspect with my friends in hotel rooms, setting progressive goals and achieving them,’’ said Beavers, reflecting on his love of swimming and his participating in ROW.

“I also love getting in the pool with Michael (Phelps) and making him work,’’ he says with a chuckle. “I get a lot of pride and satisfaction out of swimming.’’