Longhorns Olympic Trials spotlight: Jimmy Feigen
June 18, 2012
Elissa Schneiderman, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- Longhorn swimmer Jimmy Feigen has two ultimate goals in life. The first is to become and Olympian, which the three-time NCAA Champion is well on his way to accomplishing. The second is to become a doctor, which he hopes to achieve when his swimming career is over.
Through his success in the pool, Feigen has learned that he thrives in under pressure. It is an ability he would like to apply in helping others.
"I work really well in pressure situations. That's what I live for," Feigen said. "I can definitely see myself doing surgery and taking the mentality I have in the swimming pool and bringing it into the medical profession."
Feigen's admiration for his parents, both of whom are physicians, has motivated him to pursue a career in medicine. His father, Dr. Michael Feigen, is a retired radiologist and his mother, Dr. Beth Feigen, is the Director of Student Health Services UTSA. Jimmy Feigen grew up tagging along with his mother to work. He was inspired by her expertise and the gravity of her job.
"People come to her with life threatening illnesses, expecting her to make the right choice and she always seems to do so," Feigen said. "That's something that I find extremely respectable and courageous."
More recently, Feigen and his teammate Jackson Wilcox had the opportunity to witness Wilcox's father, Dr. Allen Wilcox, perform open-heart surgery in Nashville. Again, Feigen was captivated.
"It was crazy to see an open human body with the heart right there," Feigen said. "Dr. Wilcox had this guy's life in his hands. He made all the right choices on a second-by-second basis and had a great medical support staff. It's just amazing. He saved this guy's life."
For now, however, Feigen's medical school plans are on hold.
"What's great is that I'm so young," Feigen said. "I'll definitely be in this sport for four more years, possibly eight. I'm a sprinter and sprinters in swimming don't peak until their late twenties, so I haven't reached the best of my abilities yet. After the Rio Olympics in 2016, I'll be 26 years old and I'll be able to make the choice if I want to swim for four more years or head to med school and follow in my parents' and sister's footsteps."
At the NCAA Championships in March, Feigen captured first place in the 50 yard freestyle, the 100 yard freestyle and was anchor of the championship 400 yard freestyle relay team. He was especially pleased to share his success with his family.
"It really wasn't about the glory for me," Feigen said. "It was about the glory I achieved for my family. My mom and dad have been my biggest fans since I was four years old. It was so awesome to look up in the stands and see my mom crying about a swim race."
Feigen's father had recently undergone brain surgery for a condition called normal pressure hydrocephalus.
"My dad had been on this really long recovery road," Feigen said. "On their first day at the NCAA Championships, my parents saw their son become a national champion. It meant so much to me to give that to them. My dad's recovery was a scary time and it really motivated me. I thought that if this is going to be the last time my dad is going to get to see my swim, I want it be something he can be proud of."
Feigen has experienced success in international swimming, as well. He participated in the 2011 World University Games in Shenzen, China last August, where he earned a gold medal in both the 100 freestyle and the 400 freestyle relay, as well as a silver medal in the 400 medley relay.
Shortly after, at USA Swimming Nationals, Feigen finished second in the 50 and 100 freestyle events. This secured him a spot on the American roster for the US Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool this December, in which the US's best swimmers competed against a European all-star squad.
"College swimming is all about the team, whereas professional swimming is about personal merit," Feigen said. "I don't know anybody (at the Duel in the Pool). I had to make friends, prove myself and come into my own. It was a great experience and that's what it's really about. You can never turn down an opportunity to put on a USA cap and represent America."
Feigen was moved by the significance of representing his nation.
"It meant a lot to wear the USA cap," Feigen said. "I was the best that America had to offer at the time. That's so crazy to say. But it was absolutely fantastic. It was a really humbling experience to say the least, but also a totally fulfilling and wonderful experience."
Texas ex Ricky Berens swam with Feigen in the Duel in the Pool event, as well as at UT for several years. Berens believes Feigen still ranks among the best swimmers in the nation and he has high expectations for his younger teammate.
"Jimmy's awesome," Berens said. "He's probably one of the most talented swimmers in USA swimming right now. He has a great stroke and great talent. He's just so quick."
Berens points, in particular, to Feigen's success in the 50 freestyle in each of his four appearances at the NCAA Championships.
"He was second in the 50 free every single year except his senior year, when he won," Berens said. "It's huge for a freshman to take second in the 50 free because the guys he swam against are so big. It goes to show his competiveness. He hates to lose. He's very focused and internally motivated. He's a huge asset for UT and hopefully will be at the Olympics for Team USA."
Feigen is pleased to ride the momentum from his outstanding collegiate career at Texas into this summer's Olympic Trials.
"My entire life, I always feel like I'm a finisher," Feigen said. "I like finishing things strong. I like ending things on a good note. My senior year was my best year. That's a good thing going into Olympic trials."
Feigen also takes inspiration from his giant, 20 pound, leopard-spotted cat named Kitty.
"It's just the coolest little animal," Feigen said. "There's no place he can't go. There's no place in our apartment that's off-limits. It's cool to have this wild animal bouncing around the house."
After a grueling day of classes and training in the pool, Feigen looks forward to coming home to Kitty.
"I get told what to do in school by my advisors. I come to the pool and get told what to do by my coaches and then I come home and get told what to do by my cat," Feigen said. "It's a fun situation."