May 20, 2010
The following article is reprinted from the USA Swimming website. It features CW swimmer Matt Patton and was written leading up to last weeks meet at Charlotte.
MATT PATTON: AT HOME IN THE WATER
Matt Patton is heading home this weekend to visit family, catch up with friends and do a little swimming in the pool where he earned his first Olympic Trials cut.
A 2009 University of Michigan graduate, Patton is slated to compete in the 200m and 800m freestyle events as well as the 200 butterfly this weekend at the Charlotte UltraSwim.
He is seeded in the top eight of the 200 fly -- which he admits has recently become his best event along with the 400 and might be the one that takes him to a foreign locale on an international team this year.
Still, after the past year, when he came very close to ending his swimming career, every opportunity he gets these days to swim reinforces his focus and love for swimming.
"I haven't been home since Christmas, so I'm looking forward to it," said Patton, who, since graduation, has been helping a professor with a research project at Michigan while continuing to train. "I have a lot of great memories in this pool (Mecklenburg County Aquatics Center), and even though it's my hometown, I don't anticipate feeling any extra pressure. I'm looking forward to swimming in front of my family and friends."
Last summer, after the World University Games, Patton wanted to be anywhere but in the pool. Despite coming within tenths of a second of medaling in the 400 freestyle, he was disappointed with his times and performances. He needed a break.
That break turned into a five-month sabbatical, although he continued to go to the pool and work with his coaches and teammates while he struggled with the decision of whether or not to keep swimming.
During his time out of the water, he gained a new perspective of the sport that he had shared with twin brother, Sean, since they were six years old.
He also learned more about stroke development and technique – information that he has adapted to his own swimming since returning to the pool near the end of last year.
"I had a very bad performance at WUGs, so I spent a few weeks in Europe after the meet and then decided not to get back in the pool for a while," said Patton, who earned his spot on the U.S. National Team last year in the 400 freestyle. "I even considered stopping swimming altogether, but working with the coaches and swimmers from the pool deck made me realize I still had something I wanted to accomplish. Now, I look forward to the opportunity to race."
Patton also gained insight into the sport from conversations he had with Sean, who competed for Texas but recently stopped swimming competitively.
His best friend and greatest confidant, Sean convinced Matt to wait to decide about his future in the sport, knowing deep down that his twin brother's best swimming might still lie before him.
"I talk to him every day, and he's one of the reasons I'm back in the water," Patton said.
Matt added that one of the biggest decisions the twins ever made was to attend different colleges despite being largely inseparable most of their lives.
But with Sean being a backstroker and Matt a distance freestyler, their events led them to different schools. They didn't let more than a thousand miles stop them from keeping in touch by phone and email nearly every day.
"We didn't plan to go to separate schools, but I just felt more comfortable at Michigan, plus Michigan had a better reputation for developing distance swimmers," Patton said.
And even though Sean won't be in Charlotte this weekend to cheer Matt on, he knows his brother is there in spirit.
He'll probably even get a phone call with some advice and support before the start of his race.
"He works for the Lance Armstrong Foundation in Austin and can't make the trip," Matt said. "I know he'd be there if he could, but I know we'll see each other soon."
After Charlotte, Patton intends to compete at a few other meets this summer – most likely the Santa Clara Invite and the Quebec Cup in Canada – leading up to Nationals this summer.
He'd like to make another international team this year and redeem himself for last summer's World University Games, where he finished fourth in the 400 freestyle and failed to make the finals of the 200 fly.
"Everything I do in the pool now is to be satisfied with my swimming, and I am," Patton said. "I came back to continue pursuing my dream, and I feel that I'm on the right path. I'm happy and swimming well, but I've still got work to do.
"I've never made an 'A' team before, and my goal this summer is to make the Pan Pacific team. I've been to Pan Ams and World University Games, and now I'm ready for the next step up in competition and expectations."