His nickname could be “Aqua Lung.”
His slogan could be: Banker by day, world-class swimmer by night.
He is Richard Saeger, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist who has
recently delved, or dived, back into the pool, breaking records all
Saeger, 41, who regularly trains at Newport Harbor and Corona del
Mar High school pools, is fresh off a world-record performance in the
100-meter freestyle in the 40-44 age division at the Mission Viejo
Masters Meet July 3.
An Irvine resident since 1999, Saeger got back into competitive
swimming in 2000 after taking a 14-year hiatus to focus on his career
-- banking, basically.
Now he is breaking records left and right.
He combined with friends Brad Hibbard, Mike Ruffner and Dan Wegner
to form a 400 freestyle relay team that broke an American record in
the 40-44 division at the same Mission Viejo meet.
Banker by day, world-class swimmer by weekend.
“For me, it’s a release,” he said. “It’s fun and I stay in better
shape. It’s a full-body workout.”
Saeger, who swam the preliminary races on the 8,000 free relay
team at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, earned a gold medal
when the final team of Michael Heath, David Larson, Jeffrey Float and
Lawrence Hayes sprinted to first.
From 1982 to 1985, he trained under current USC men’s swimming
coach Mark Schubert in Mission Viejo for the Nadadores, and made
trips to the Pan American Games and world championships.
But around 1986, he began to realize the sport wasn’t a career.
“I went to the 1986 world trials and didn’t make the team,” he
said. “At that point, I had been on both sides, so I said I was done
for a while. I didn’t want to hang on for too long. I wanted to get
on with my life.
“Now I can look back and realize it was just a quick moment in
During Saeger’s swimming days he had earned a bachelor’s degree
from Southern Methodist University, but he decided to take it a step
He eventually earned an MBA from USC and met his future wife. He
later took a job as a relationship group manager at Western Financial
Bank in Irvine, and has been there since.
Saeger went from world-class swimmer to career man, but the lure
of the pool wouldn’t permanently escape him.
Banker by day, world-renown swimmer by weekend.
“I always had a drive to do it,” Saeger said. “I’ve always enjoyed
the time aspect of it where you can set a goal and you either make it
or you don’t.”
In 2000, he started swimming at local meets under the umbrella
organization Southern Pacific Masters Association, a swimming program
for adults. Just one year later, he had a record.
Saeger set the 200 free world record in the 35-39 age division in
2001 and was well on his way to picking up his roots again.
Two weeks ago, he collected his other world record, swimming for
Team TYR, a local company that provides his gear.
“I’ve always kind of stayed in it for general fitness,” he said.
“I never really got burned out.”
Now, Saeger has the best of both worlds.