Thormeyer Finds Balance Between Academics and High-Performance Swimming

From Jim Morris, Swimming Canada

Markus Thormeyer was a busy swimmer over the last year. Maybe too busy.

From summer 2016 to summer 2017, the alumnus of Winskill Dolphins Swim Club (WDSC) competed in his first Olympic Games in Rio, then the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Windsor, Ont. When he returned home the 20-year-old, who trains at the High Performance Centre – Vancouver began preparing for the Budapest 2017 long-course FINA World Championships, which he qualified for (despite being ill at Trials), then went on to FISU Universiade (World University) Games in Taipei after World Championships.

And then added into that mix, Thormeyer was up to his eyeballs (and given that he stands around 6'6" tall, that's pretty deep) in first year of studies in an environmental science program at the UBC.  

That was a busy 12-month stretch. Again, maybe a bit too much.

In the pool, Thormeyer helped the 4×50-metre mixed freestyle relay team win bronze at the short-course event and the 4×100-m mixed freestyle team take bronze in Budapest.

Still, his individual performances were below his expectations. His marks also suffered.

“He didn’t swim well last summer,” said coach Tom Johnson. “I think he was carrying a lot of fatigue out of the Olympic year and then into the world short course and then into the Trials.

“I don’t think he trained hard enough for long enough. There were too many interruptions with the competition schedule we wanted.”

Looking back, Johnson thinks too much of a burden was placed on Thormeyer’s shoulders.

“You sometimes get ahead of yourself in terms of what you think the guy is capable of doing,” said Johnson. “If the horse is too tired, you need to rest him. That’s what we did, and he looks pretty good right now.”

Johnson gave Thormeyer a month off after the Universiade. That allowed him time to rest and regenerate.

When he was ready, Thormeyer and Johnson sat down to map out a strategy combining training and school with an eye toward the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

“I gave him time to get his school organized, to get his life organized, to get himself organized,” said Johnson. “He’s come back with a greater enthusiasm and more energy. He seems to be on a pretty good track.”

Setting priorities has helped Thormeyer better manage his time.

“Academics is a part of my life,” he said. “Tom understands that. Last year I learned my limits with school. I did push it a bit too far.

“Now I have a safe zone of operating in. I can still be able to do my academics but also perform in the pool. Tom understands I need that. I think the year was a bit long for me.”

Last season was a learning experience for both coach and swimmer.

“Every year you just learn how to do it a little bit better,” said Thormeyer. “From last year to this year has been a big jump. I feel like I can learn to do it a little bit better each time, managing school and swimming.

“I’m way more on track and way more focused academically. My grades are so much better than last year. I feel like I’m actually learning and engaging.”

At the Commonwealth Games, Johnson expects Thormeyer to play an important role in the 4×200-m and 4×100-m freestyle relays, plus the 4×100-m medley. The experience he gained at the world championships will give him aide his composure in Australia.

“Part of it is confidence,” said Johnson. “It’s getting him in the big arena against the big guys and that he feels confident enough to put his be foot forward and not shy away,” said Johnson.

Thormeyer will swim 100-m freestyle individually plus the 100 and 200-m backstroke at the Commonwealth Games. He’s especially excited about the relays.

“I like the relay,” he said. “You have three teammates who help lift you. I feel like it can take you to levels that you can’t go to by yourself.

“You’re not swimming for yourself anymore. You’re swimming for three other guys. You are also swimming for your country. There is a lot more emotional investment. Being on the relay has just added something special.”

The full team list can be found here: https://www.swimming.ca/en/national-teams/senior-national-teams/commonwealth-games/