Get Inspired: Olympic Swimmers Who Started Late

You may think that all Olympic swimmers start their journey to success at a young age, but that’s not always the case. In fact, there are several inspiring examples of athletes who began swimming competitively later in life and still managed to achieve Olympic greatness. These individuals prove that it’s never too late to dive into the world of competitive swimming and chase your dreams.

Olympic Swimmers who started late

In this article, we’ll introduce you to some remarkable swimmers who didn’t let a late start or a long break hold them back from becoming Olympians. Their stories offer a valuable lesson about perseverance, determination, and overcoming challenges, no matter when you decide to take on a new endeavor.

Notable Olympic Swimmers Who Started Late

Rowdy Gaines

Rowdy Gaines is another Olympic gold medalist who began his swimming career later in life. He began swimming competitively at the age of 17, which is extremely late. Initially, he pursued soccer and basketball before realizing his talent for swimming.

Gaines won three gold medals in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics at the age of 25. After overcoming several challenges, including a temporary paralysis caused by Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Rowdy continued to excel, demonstrating that determination and hard work lead to success.

Matt Biondi

Matt Biondi started taking swimming seriously at the age of 14, and his dedication to the sport led him to become one of the most decorated Olympic swimmers in history. Biondi earned several gold, silver, and bronze medals in the 1984, 1988, and 1992 Olympics. His late start did not hinder his success, and his determination led him to the top of his sport.

Dara Torres

While Dara Torres didn’t start swimming late, she gets a special mention because of her longevity in the sport. At one point, she took a seven-year long break from swimming and then decided to make a comeback to the sport at the age of 33.

She competed in the Olympics five times, from 1984 to 2008. Remarkably, at the age of 41, she managed to win three silver medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Torres achieved great success in the pool, proving that old age does not have to be a barrier to accomplishment.

Anthony Ervin

Like Dara, Anthony Ervin might not have started swimming late, but he gets a special mention for being the oldest male swimmer to ever win an individual Olympic gold medal.

Anthony Ervin’s path to success wasn’t conventional, particularly as an Olympic swimmer. Anthony debuted and won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In 2003 at age 22, after a short but illustrious career, he decided to drop out of the sport after realizing he had already achieved his dream.

It wasn’t until 12 years later, he had a sudden burst of inspiration to return and continued where he left off by securing two more gold medals in the 2016 Rio Olympics at the age of 35, despite battling against depression and substance abuse. His story shows that perseverance can result in extraordinary accomplishments.

Advantages of Starting Late

Based on the success of the athletes mentioned above, you can start in your teenage years and achieve success at swimming. Or you can start early and take a decade long break before returning to the sport. There may even be advantages to starting late.

Life Experience

When you start swimming later in life, you bring valuable life experiences to the table. These experiences can help you develop a better understanding of your body’s limits, strengths, and how to overcome challenges both in and out of the water.

Additionally, having a worldly perspective allows you to leverage your passion for swimming and channel that into a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

Starting late also means that you have likely explored other interests and passions, which can help you stay motivated and engaged in swimming. You might find that the variety of experiences you’ve accumulated throughout your life can help you cultivate a unique and effective approach to the sport.

Matured Motivation

As you grow older, you tend to develop a more mature understanding of your motivations and goals. When it comes to swimming, this advantage can be the key to propelling you forward as a late starter. Embrace the knowledge that your motivation has been refined over time, and use that drive to give your all during every practice and competition.

Know that the timeframe for you to pursue your passion for swimming might be wider than you think. With the right mindset and motivation, you can make up for any lost time by working diligently to achieve your goals in the pool.

Challenges and Solutions

Physical Limitations

Starting late in swimming comes with certain physical challenges. As a late starter, you might experience slower progress compared to those who began early.

However, don’t be disheartened, as natural talent can help you catch up. Consistent and focused training under the guidance of an experienced coach will gradually improve your swimming technique, stamina, and strength.

Additionally, pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience pain or discomfort during practice, don’t ignore it. Discuss these issues with your coach and find ways to overcome them together. Remember, perseverance and adaptability are key.

Time Management

Time management can be tough for late starters since you already have other responsibilities like school, work, or family. It’s crucial to find a balance and prioritize your training to achieve your goals in swimming.

Set a realistic and achievable schedule, allowing ample time for practice, rest, and recovery. Communicating your ambitions with friends, family, and colleagues can help create a supportive environment, making time management easier.

Injuries and Health Concerns

Starting your swimming career late may pose an increased risk of injuries and health concerns. To minimize the risk, remain cautious about maintaining proper form and using adequate rest periods to recover.

Your coach is an invaluable resource in guiding you through the process of safe and effective training. Don’t hesitate to ask their advice or seek professional help if you’re concerned about your health. Remember, it’s better to address issues early to avoid long-term complications.

Is it Worth it to Start Late?

At the end of the day, it depends on what you want to achieve in your life. If your desire is strong enough, you don’t need anyone to tell you whether it’s worth it to start or not.

I’m not going to sit here and write that “age is just a number” and that “it’s never too late to try” because, obviously, we live in the real world and not la la land.

If you’re in your twenties already and don’t have past competitive swimming experience from your youth, then sorry but you’re probably not going to the Olympics.

However, if you’re just starting in high school, then there might still be a chance, seeing how Matt Biondi and Rowdy Gaines also started swimming in high school.

Additionally, if you did start swimming at a young age but took some time off, then Dara Torres and Anthony Ervin’s stories might serve as proof that you can return and be successful after a long break.

If either of those two scenarios apply to you, all that’s left to ask is: how badly do you want it? And what are you willing to do to achieve your dreams?