Former U swimmer on good pace for Olympics

by Lindsay Guentzel

Of the 110 medals won by the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, 31 of them âÄî 12 gold, nine silver, and 10 bronze âÄî were around the necks of swimmers. If all goes as planned, former Gophers swimmer David Plummer will have a chance to add to that legacy at the 2012 summer games in London. The reigning U.S. champion in the 100-meter backstroke, Plummer beat out Olympic gold medalist Aaron Peirsol in August at the U.S. National Championships, catapulting him into the national spotlight. Though Plummer had been planning the win for a while, it came as a surprise to many in the swimming community. After all, Peirsol won gold in the event in the past two Olympic Games and is still the current world-record holder in the 100-meter backstroke. But regardless of PeirsolâÄôs résumé âÄî and the fact that Plummer was sitting in third-place midway through the race âÄî Plummer surged back and beat him by three-hundredths of a second, becoming MinnesotaâÄôs ninth national champion and the first from the state since 2004. âÄúIt was something I had thought about for a really long time,âÄù Plummer said. âÄúItâÄôs a real big confidence builder. ItâÄôs getting a big win against that big competition, makes you feel like you can go do that anywhere.âÄù Plummer isnâÄôt a stranger to success. During his time as a member of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs swimming and diving team, he won 14 All-American awards, set school records in the 100- and 200-backstroke and was the only Big Ten athlete to compete at the 2006 Pan Pacific games. It was his success at Minnesota that kept him in the state, even after he graduated and a potential professional career came calling. âÄúSwimming with the University of Minnesota was really great and I got a lot of help from the coaches,âÄù said Plummer, who currently swims with the Minnetonka Swim Club under former Gophers swimmer Ben Bartell. âÄúThereâÄôs just so many opportunities [in Minnesota], itâÄôs not worth leaving.âÄù Plummer still trains at the University Aquatic Center a few times a week and was back in his collegiate pool this weekend for USA SwimmingâÄôs Minnesota Grand Prix, his first competition since August, where he took second place in the 100-yard backstroke. While Plummer was happy to compete in front of his home crowd, he couldnâÄôt help but concentrate on the big picture âÄî a possible berth to the 2012 Olympic games. HeâÄôd be the first Gophers swimmer to compete for Team USA since 1972. âÄúI think the main thing is to stay focused,âÄù he said. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot of big meets between now and then, a couple of World Championship meets. The thing is to try and swim well at those meets and remember that the main goal is further down the line.âÄù The transition to Olympic athlete can be difficult for collegiate athletes, but Plummer has the right connections if heâÄôs looking for any advice. His Pan Pacific teammate Ryan Lochte, who also competed last weekend at the Minnesota Grand Prix, was still a student at Florida when he competed in the Beijing games, his first Olympic competition. âÄúOnce youâÄôre done with college, thereâÄôs a lot of stuff that comes into play,âÄù Lochte said. âÄúIf you do have the opportunity, youâÄôve got to start thinking about getting sponsorships. You start turning into more of a grown-up. You actually have to start thinking about yourself. ItâÄôs definitely a hard place to be in.âÄù One thing Plummer wonâÄôt have to worry about is learning how to be a part of a team, something that is emphasized in collegiate swimming and is an important part of Team USA. âÄúYouâÄôre not swimming for yourself, youâÄôre swimming for your country,âÄù Lochte said. âÄúIt means the world when you put on that flag cap. It doesnâÄôt matter where you came from, youâÄôre all there to do something special.âÄù