Longhorns Olympic Trials Q&A: Garrett Weber-Gale
June 13, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- Garrett Weber-Gale made a name for himself by moving fast in the water. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, he won two gold medals and was part of a world record in the 4x100 freestyle relay.
While at UT, Weber-Gale was an 18-time All-American who won NCAA Championships in the 100 freestyle in 2006 and 4x100 medley relay in 2004.
But through the platform Weber-Gale earned through swimming, he's reaching out to inform others about the benefits of a healthful and wholesome diet. He founded the website AthleticFoodie as an avenue to demonstrate that good tasting meals can also be healthy meals.
Weber-Gale has apprenticed extensively with world-renowned chefs in America, France and Italy. However, swimming remains an intense focus, and he's currently training for his second Olympics. He'll compete in the 50 and 100 freestyle at the Olympic Trials later this month.
Weber-Gale recently spent time with TexasSports.com to discuss his passions, both in and out of the water.
How did you discover your interest in food and food preparation? Swimming is very regimented. It was extremely hard going to school and swimming. That was a very high demand on me. I did very well in both while I was here, but I had to work super hard at school. It was tough, because you wake up go to morning practice, eat breakfast, go to school, go back to practice and then you study, eat dinner, study some more and go to sleep. It's non-stop.
Cooking would be something I could come home and do to release stress. As I did it more and more, I just grew to love it more and more. I followed the passion to New York, Italy, France - all these different places where I apprenticed in kitchens. I saw where I could take my passion, and it really gives me a nice release.
How did you learn to make good, clean food? I was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2005, and I was almost going to have to give up my swimming. Right around that time, I moved out on my own, out of the dorm, and I had to learn how to cook. I had to learn how to cook healthy. I started reading cookbooks, my parents got me cooking lessons from a chef in Austin and I started really getting excited about it. I was able to lower my high blood pressure with my food. I eventually had to go on medication to lower it further, but food was the initial impetus.
In Beijing in 2008, I met Daniel Boulud, a famous French chef in America. He really inspired me to learn from the best chefs in the world. I didn't know what I wanted to do with food, but I knew I was in love with food and cooking and that I wanted to learn from the best.
At the beginning, I was trying to figure out how to chop an onion properly, but basically your skills get better and better over time. And at those kitchens, they all have tricks of the trade they show you, so you get better. It's like swimming - you're always getting better.
What about swimming continues to ignite your competitive core? The thing I love about swimming is that I believe I can still go faster, and I love figuring out how to do it. I think I can still go best times. I'm stronger now than I've ever been. I have completely dedicated myself to the system designed by Eddie (Reese) and Kris (Kubik). I've never missed a morning practice since I've been here. I do everything that they say. I work really hard, and Eddie's greatest gift is that he makes you realize that you can do more than you thought.
I didn't really start training year-round until I was 14. I loved playing other sports, doing stuff after school. My parents never forced us to just swim, but as I started to focus on it more and worked harder, I got faster. It was a constant progression. Literally, every year from 14 to 22, I got faster. Every single year.
How do you achieve balance in your life? I've always seen life after swimming. That's one of the reason I've worked so hard in the food world, so that whenever I decide to stop swimming I have something I can immediately go into. My plan is to continue growing the platform of AthleticFoodie. I want to help people achieve a better quality of life through nutrition. Eventually, a long-term goal would be to open a restaurant based around the concept.
The biggest thing is that people don't really know what they should be eating to be healthy, and they have no idea how to do it.
What do you remember about your Olympic experience in 2008? I have certain memories from that for sure. I remember diving off the block, right after Michael (Phelps) hit the wall, and the first thing I thought was, "I think I false started there." It was so fast. But I was experienced enough to get past that and just go. I swam a very fast race. We were looking at the board, and (Jason) Lezak's head was at the French guy's feet. We thought we were going to finish second. Lezak came back the last 50, and I'm just pounding my fists on the block. I looked at the board and saw the United States had a No. 1 next to it. I looked at it twice because I was in disbelief.
Actually after that, I don't remember anything. It's a blur, complete chaos. The next memory I have is on the awards stand. They put the medal around my neck, and I hear my name. I look to my right and it's my mom. My mom, dad and sister were right there. The looks on their faces - the fulfillment, the happiness, the excitement - that was the best moment of the Olympics for me. That and graduating from The University of Texas are the two most proud and happy moments of my life.