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Beyond the score: A day in the life of an Olympic hopeful

Beyond the score: A day in the life of an Olympic hopeful
Posted at 5:38 PM, Jun 06, 2024

NEENAH — A couple of months ago NBC 26 caught up with Neenah soon to be senior swimmer Drew Gaerthofner as he was so close to making it to the US Olympic trials. Well he did so last weekend down in Madison. Sports reporter John Miller hung out with Gaerthofner to observe his daily routine and to find out the secret to his success in the pool.

“I do it because, I know that if I don't go to morning practice, I know that other people are and they’re working harder than I am,” he said.

It's an early wake up call for Gaerthofner so he can be on the road a little after 5 a.m. for practice No. 1 of the day that begins at 5:45 at the Oshkosh YMCA.

“Once you get to a certain point in training it’s just like normalcy that you’re going to morning practices, you’re getting that work in, it’s like out of the ordinary that you’re not going to morning practice which i think is just kind of ingrained in my mind now,” Gaerthofner said.

There's more than a 12 hour difference from practice one to practice No. 2 that begins at 6:30 p.m. and runs until 8:30.

“Waking up and swimming wasn’t the bad part, but it was figuring out how to get yourself in the state where you’re ready for night practice,” said Gaerthofner

Overall, Wisconsin commit trains about 16 hours a week. 13 of those are in the pool.

“It's a lot,” said the future Badger. “It’s almost like a full-time job.”

Gaerthofner says being in the pool feels like home, but training for the sport is one of the hardest things to do.

“It’s really hard cause I mean, you’re just by yourself, you can’t even talk to yourself because you’re just in your thoughts,” said the soon to be Neenah high school senior.

With all the work he puts in, Gaerthofner understands the need to take care of his body.

“Lots of rest, focus on recovery. eating good,” he said.

Eating good is right. Gaerthofner estimates he burns about 3,000 calories per day, so he needs to be putting at least that much back into his body. He prioritizes healthy carbs and lots of protein.

“You can definitely tell whether or not you have a good meal or not,” Gaerthofner said. “I know a couple of weeks ago I had salmon and I felt good at practice. Just a good source of protein and whatnot, but then if you’ll have (fast food) right before practice you definitely won’t feel as great.”

All the work has paid off, he made the cut for the US Olympic trials in the 100 meter breaststroke last weekend when he was competing in his future collegiate pool.

“It was super special to have most of my team there, most of my future team there, a lot of my friends and family were there. – being able to celebrate that moment with those people was really special,” he said.

He'll be in awe of being around top names there, like 7-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel, but he knows he has to block out all the outside noise.

“You just kind of have to go in with that mindset of, yeah they’re really good swimmers, but they’re just regular people, so you have to do the same stuff you normally do,” Gaerthofner said.