In a field that included many of the world’s top swimmers, three competitors affiliated with the Yale men’s swimming and diving team chased after their own Olympic dreams.
At the USA Swimming Winter Nationals, held Wednesday to Saturday in Greensboro, North Carolina, Henry Gaissert ’20 qualified for U.S. Olympic Trials for the 2020 Summer Olympics in the 50-meter freestyle. In Greensboro, Gaissert was joined by a pair of recent alumni — Aaron Greenberg ’18 and Jonathan Rutter ’18.
“It can be easy to get distracted and be starstruck by the Olympians on deck,” Gaissert said. “But at this stage in my career I know I have to focus on my own goals and the priorities of the team when I compete.”
Greenberg, who was the 2018 Ivy League Champion in both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle, raced the long-course equivalents at Nationals. Seeded fifth and 12th in the 50- and 100-meter events respectively, he broke through to finish on the podium in the 50-meter with a third-place time of 22.71 seconds. Greenberg qualified for the “A” finals in a field that included many Olympic hopefuls.
Greenberg also bested his seeding in the 100-meter race. He edged his way into the “A” finals but emerged from the race with a sixth-place finish after swimming a time of 50.41. Since graduation, Greenberg has juggled two full-time jobs: Based out of New York, he works a full-time job in finance and while also training with his club team as a professional swimmer.
A dual American-Israeli citizen, Greenberg said that he was hoping to represent Israel in the 2020 Olympics. Israel’s Olympic squad, like that of many other countries — including the United States — takes the top two finishers in each event. Currently, Greenberg owns the the second-best mark in the 50-meter freestyle and could also aim for a spot on the 400-meter freestyle relay with his 100-meter times.
“My goal going into this meet was focused on making the podium,” Greenberg said. “I wasn’t as concerned about the time, personally. Ultimately, my goal is to make the Olympics in two years.”
Since graduation, Greenberg’s life has revolved around a rare balance. He swims professionally under the coaching of David Marsh, who was head coach of the U.S. Olympic team in 2016 and is based out of San Diego. He also logs 60 hours of work a week in the sales and trading department of Wells Fargo in New York City.
The balance is particularly unorthodox. Few professional swimmers juggle commitments as demanding as a career on Wall Street while training for an Olympic bid — Greenberg’s only notable company in the United States is two-time Olympian Katie Meili. Meili, another former Ivy League athlete, graduated from Columbia in 2013 and is currently a student at Georgetown Law and a teammate of Greenberg’s.
Greenberg’s classmate Rutter was entered in five wide-ranging events. After qualifying for the “A” finals of the 200-meter individual medley as the second seed, he finished in seventh. On the second day, he took sixth in the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 1:51.26. He also qualified for the “C” final of the 100-meter breaststroke and the “B” final of the 200 meter breaststroke.
Gaissert, who swims in similar events to Greenberg, emerged with the top spot in the “C” finals of the 50-meter freestyle. His time of 22.94 qualified him for Olympic Trials — his goal coming into the race. Gaissert had a disadvantage Greenberg and Rutter did not. Since NCAA racing is done in yards and Yale is in the midst of its season, Gaissert had been training in yards coming into the event but performed well swimming in metered races.
Although primarily a freestyle sprinter, Gaissert also raced the 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter breaststroke. He finished with personal best times in both. On the final day of competition, he joined Greenberg in the “A” finals of 100-yard freestyle, where he finished ninth with a time of 50.52, another personal best.
“Since we swim the same events, Greenberg has always been something of a mentor to me,” Gaissert said. “That being said, I look forward to every opportunity I have to challenge him and that includes this past weekend.”
The Bulldogs will take on crosstown foe Southern Connecticut State University on Thursday at Hutchinson Natatorium.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org