April 29, 2011
Bobby Savulich: Making the Most of a Second Chance
By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
It was during
a job interview a year ago that Bobby
Savulich realized he wasn’t done with
He had retired from the sport eight months earlier – mostly filling his time finishing his bachelor’s degree and playing volleyball – but still felt something was incomplete.
Near the end of the interview with ePath Learning, as he spoke eloquently about school and life, the interviewer asked Savulich what his biggest regret in life was.
He immediately thought of swimming.
“I told Charles Hellings, one of the founders of the company, my honest answer was not fulfilling all of my goals (in the sport),” said Savulich, who graduated from the University Michigan in 2010. “He as an ex-rower for Rutgers who was an Olympic hopeful, so he understood my feelings.
“He told me that I needed to go back to swimming because it is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life.”
Savulich quickly heeded his advice, mostly because he had already been wrestling with the idea, but Hellings gave him the little push he needed to make the change and return to the sport he started as a five-year-old.
“I was very glad I decided to come back.” Savulich said. “No regrets at all.”
Since his return in early 2010, Savulich – a relay stalwart and ultimate team member at Michigan – has found his individual stroke. Last summer at the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships in Irvine, Calif., the New Jersey native earned two top 15 finishes in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, just missing the finals in the 100.
The performance was strong enough to land him on the 2011 World University Games Team, his first international squad since he swam on the 2005 WUG team.
He will compete in the 100 free and 400 freestyle relay in Shenzhen, China, and considering a little more than a year ago he was out of the sport altogether, Savulich is beyond ecstatic to be getting his second chance.
“Making the World University Games team this year means a lot to me,” Savulich said. “I am honored to be able to represent the United States at this competition.
“My goals for WUGs are to represent the United States in a way that will make USA Swimming proud of selecting me. Personal bests are always my goal. It will be the biggest meet I have been in, so the experience will be invaluable.”
In addition to training with the Club Wolverine Elite team – post-grad swimmers who are training for the Olympics – Savulich is also working on his master’s degree in sport management at Eastern Michigan University.
When his swimming career is over, he wants to remain in the world of athletics, either as a swim coach or working on the business side in event management or fundraising.
At the Eric Namesnik Michigan Grand Prix earlier this month, he was actively involved with assisting Meet Director Bailey Weathers and learning the ins and outs of putting together a successful meet.
“I worked on finding sponsorships,” Savulich said. “We are able to partner with companies such as The Bank of Ann Arbor, Versatile Warrior, Dominos Pizza, Best Buy, Mr. Pizza, Tweak and Probility Physical Therapy to make the event a success. After swimming, I could potentially see myself doing something in sponsorships and fundraising.”
Now that he’s back in the pool, Savulich is excited to continue to compete. He credits the opportunity to train under Mike Bottom at Michigan as a highlight of his return.
“Working with Mike Bottom and Mark Hill has changed my philosophy on swimming,” Savulich said. “We are always thinking of ways to make stroke changes to improve. In my stroke technique and race strategy, every single detail is accounted for. The 100 free for us has become an art.
“The Club Wolverine Elite coaches create an environment where we can all work hard but also enjoy the sport.”
Leading up to WUGs this summer, Savulich is scheduled to compete in tune-ups at the Charlotte UltraSwim once he returns from his current two-week training opportunity at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. From there, he’ll compete in the Canada Cup and then Summer Nationals.
Beyond that, he said his focus will be on continuing to improve and drop time to be as ready as possible for U.S. Olympic Trials next summer in Omaha.
It will be his third Trials, each having come at a different stage in his life personally and professionally, and he’s looking forward to the opportunity to challenge for a spot on his first Olympic Team, which has been a longtime dream.
“In 2004, I was thrilled to just compete; in 2008, I felt like I was in a bit of a rut,” Savulich said. “Deep down, I did not see myself swimming well, and that came true. I learned that the mental side of the sport is just as important as the physical side. If you do not believe it, it will not happen.
“Making it onto any international team was the first step (toward the Olympic dream). Last summer, I was ninth in prelims (at Nationals), missing the final by .03. I am hungry now. As time goes by, I feel as though I am coming into my prime. Historically, male swimmers have been peaking in their mid-20s. This means I will be in the best shape of my life when Trials come around.”