Olympian Swimmer Matt Grevers Comes out of Retirement to Compete for Paris at Age 39

Olympian Swimmer Matt Grevers Comes out of Retirement to Compete for Paris at Age 39
Matt Grevers pauses after competing in the men's 100-meter freestyle final at the TYR Pro Swim Series swim meet in Mission Viejo, Calif., on April 11, 2021. (Ashley Landis/AP Photo)

Six-time Olympic medalist swimmer Matt Grevers has come out of retirement at the age of 39 to compete in the Paris Olympics.

Grevers competed in the preliminaries for the 50-meter freestyle on Thursday, after three years of retirement from competitive swimming, to try to make it to the Paris 2024 Games. He joined the U.S. Olympic team trials in an NFL stadium in Indianapolis, coming in 47th place out of 82 swimmers, and not making it to the semifinals.

He completed the one-way rush in 22.82 seconds, 1.12 seconds behind top qualifiers Michael Andrew and Ryan Held.

This time, however, he was not feeling as much pressure as when he was leading the U.S. team in previous years, saying he enjoyed the experience.

“It’s cool to know at 39 that my body definitely still has it,” Grevers said. “It’s just what are you willing to put into it. So it was really fun to make the [trials], really fun just to know I get to swim here, hang out with a lot of friends, walking on the pool deck, saying hi to all the coaches and older athletes. It felt kind of like a homecoming.”

He was inspired by 46-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who qualified to the next phase in the 100-meter heat in women’s breaststroke, beating athletes half her age. She was by far the oldest athlete in the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, earning her place among 1,000 entrants.

She finished in the 11th place overall in the preliminaries, advancing to the semifinals.

Rose competed in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, representing her native Brazil, and in the Sydney games in 2000 as part of the U.S. team.

“Gabby’s cheer when she went out for semifinals, it was like one of the loudest ones of the meet,” Grevers said. “So people are rooting for the old guys just to see what you can do. Like, hey, you’re almost 40 and you’re able to push your body to that level. I think everyone can kind of then picture themselves and say, ‘Hey, what I can do if I was eating or training a little more carefully?’”

Grevers won two golds and one silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and repeated the achievement four years later in London, including a victory in the 100-meter backstroke.

With limited time for training for the Paris bid, he focused on meeting the qualifying standard for the 50-meter freestyle at the trials rather than his signature backstroke event.

After all, this was about the experience, not the result.

“Just to be in this environment without that much pressure is super refreshening,” Grevers said. “Just a really great time.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.