The 40-year-old swimmer
It’s sure to be a swim down memory lane for Steve West.
The Huntington Beach resident is headed for Omaha this weekend for the 2012U.S. Olympic TeamTrials in men’s swimming. West is no stranger to competing for a spot on an U.S. Olympic team; he’ll be making his fourth appearance at the Men’s Team Swimming Trials.
What makes this latest feat special is the fact he’s headed to Omaha as a 40-year-old.
West, who swims with the Irvine Novaquatics National Team, has qualified for the Trials in two events, the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke. Married and a father of two, West said he had learned through Swimming World magazine that he had became the oldest male swimmer to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Last June, at 39, he qualified in the men’s 200 breaststroke with a time of 2 minutes, 20.65 seconds at the TYR Fran Crippen Swim Meet of Champions. The U.S. Olympic Trials time standard is 2:20.79.
On April 22, West, who turned 40 earlier that month, also qualified in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:04.68 at the same Meet of Champions.
West swims the 100 breaststroke at the Trials on Monday and the 200 breast on June 28 ().
“I think it’s quite an honor to be able to compete in the Olympic Trials, it’s a special honor to be the oldest man ever to compete, and as one of only four people over 40 competing at the Trials,” West said. “I’ve been three times before. This time, I have no expectations of myself, so I’m going to have fun and enjoy the experience.”
West, former Olympians Dara Torres (45) and Janet Evans (40), and Erika Braun (40), are the four 40-and-above athletes to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in men’s and women’s swimming. West said that Wally Dicks previously held the men’s age record when, at age 37, he qualified for the 100 breaststroke in 2000.
“It’s kind of funny that when I qualified, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go to the Trials,” West said. “It’s a big commitment. Since I first qualified last June, I’m now a year older and wondered if I could swim faster than I did last summer. I’m a little nervous about it and the chances of making the (Olympic) team are really slim, but I’m going into this with the right attitude. It’s all about having fun. At this point, I’m ready to go swim.”
West said he started swimming at age “7 or 8” and wasn’t “that great” in the sport until he reached high school. At Huntington Beach High (1991 graduate), he hit his stride and went on to become a 1990 CIF champion in the 100-yard breaststroke. West then went on to compete on the University of Michigan men’s swim team, where he as an All-American.
While in Ann Arbor, he was part of Wolverine teams that won four consecutive Big 10 team titles, including the 1995 team that won the NCAA Division 1 Men’s championship. He received Academic All Big-Ten honors and graduated with honors.
A member of the U.S. National Team during the 1990s, West also enjoyed success at the international level. He won silver medals at the 1994 Goodwill Games, 1995 World University Games and the 1999 Pan American Games. As a U.S. Masters swimmer, he broke the FINA Masters World Record (35-39 age division) in both the 100 and 200 short course meter breaststroke. At the U.S. Masters Short Course Championships in April, he won five events and set U.S. Masters records in the 50, 100 and 200 yard breaststroke for the 40-44 age group.
West first competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1992. He qualified again in 1996 when he finished third in the 200-meter breaststroke and fourth in the 100-breast, and just missed making the U.S. Olympic team. He last competed at the Trials in 2000. He said he “retired” from swimming in 1996 to start his computer software career, but “un-retired” a year later.
“I worked and swam much like I do today where I only practiced when I could, mostly to stay in shape,” said West, who is co-founder, president and CTO of an online project management software system (Project Insight). “I was able to still swim at a high level competitively until 2000, which was my last USA Swimming meet until last summer, 11 years later. So, it will be surreal to swim at the meet this time.
“It’s really bizarre, to some degree, to see some of these people on TV. It’s a pretty young group that I’m going up against. When I found out that I was the oldest man to ever male to qualify for Trials, I was really shocked.”
West said he received encouragement to compete at the Olympic Trials. He said his goal last June “wasn’t “necessarily to make the Trials, but to go after Masters records and see how fast he could swim. Once he did qualify, he said he decided to work toward the Trials.
“I know I don’t have a realistic chance of making the team, so my goal is to go and swim as fast as I can and enjoy it all,” he said.
Once done in Omaha, West said he his plans are to continue with swimming well beyond his final time competing at the Trials.
“I’ll continue doing Masters swimming, and keep it at that,” he said. “I’ll always be in the water in some way, swimming or surfing....doing something.”
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