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PVK Article

 Peter Vanderkaay's back in swim of things

BY JO-ANN BARNAS
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

 

Peter Vanderkaay was so burned out after the Beijing Olympics that he planned to retire from swimming last season.

 

After all, with three medals in two Olympics, Vanderkaay (Rochester Adams) doesn't need another trip to the Summer Games to validate his career as one of the nation's premier freestylers.

But he wasn't ready to say good-bye.

Thanks in part to Mike Bottom -- who took over the Michigan men's swimming program and Club Wolverine after Bob Bowman returned to Baltimore (with Michael Phelps) before the 2008 Olympics -- Vanderkaay has recaptured his passion for the sport.

"I'm rejuvenated," said Vanderkaay, 26, a 2006 U-M grad and member of Club Wolverine. "Instead of it being like a job, it's fun again."

Two weeks ago, Vanderkaay had a superb weekend of racing at the Charlotte Ultraswim in North Carolina. He placed first in two individual events (the 1,500- and 400-meter freestyle) and was second in two others (100 and 200 free), in addition to capturing a gold and silver medal in two relays.

And now it's official: Vanderkaay is aiming for his third Olympics in 2012 in London.

"I know I can walk away if I want to, but I'm still improving," he said. "Being one of the older guys in the sport now, I'm finding that I have a better perspective than I used to."

The Free Press caught up with the 6-foot-4, 205-pound swimmer between training sessions Thursday in Ann Arbor. Here's the lowdown, by-the-numbers style:

20,000

Dollars Vanderkaay won by finishing atop the point standings in the Charlotte Ultraswim -- the first time a cash prize was awarded for an individual stop on the Grand Prix circuit. He plans to donate some of the winnings to two charities, including C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. "I try to visit the kids there once a week," Vanderkaay said.

60,000

Meters a week Vanderkaay swims during practice at Club Wolverine. The total is about 10,000 a week less than what he did in building up to the 2008 Beijing Games. "Less laps, but not less work," Vanderkaay said. "I've been doing a lot more stuff outside the pool that's really helped my swimming. Mike (Bottom) is brilliant at putting all the aspects of the sport together. People would be surprised how little yardage I do compared to what's historically thought necessary for the 1,500."

3

Styles of freestyle Vanderkaay has learned is important in swimming -- depending on distance -- from Bottom. "I had always been known as a hip-driven freestyler," Vanderkaay said. "But I can switch gears now."

3

Coaches Vanderkaay has had over the course of his Olympic and college career who have influenced him the most. On Jon Urbanchek: "He opened my eyes to swimming beyond the national scene." On Bowman: "Bob taught me consistency, showing me the benefits of working hard when you don't want to." On Bottom: "He has taught me how to enjoy the sport, going back to the roots."