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Eugene Godsoe: Lord Of The ‘Flys’

By Joanne C Gerstner | July 26, 2013, 11:30 a.m. (ET)

Eugene Godsoe celebrates after winning the men's 50-meter butterfly final at the 2013 USA Swimming Phillips 66 National Championships and World Championship Trials at the Indiana University Natatorium on June 26, 2013 in Indianapolis.

Ryan Lochte congratulates Eugene Godsoe for winning the men's
100m butterfly final at the 2013 USA Swimming Phillips 66 National
Championships and World Championship Trials at the Indiana
University Natatorium on June 27, 2013 in Indianapolis.

Eugene Godsoe thinks he has finally figured out the rhythm to his elite swimming career.

He starts a bit slowly, taking more time than some could perceive as necessary, to hit his stride.

In high school, he became one of the nation’s best swimmers by his senior year.

In his freshman year at Stanford University, he took time to adjust to college swimming and wasn’t putting up the fast times that were expected from a highly touted recruit.

By the end of his career at Stanford in 2010, he was an NCAA champion, an All-American and looked ahead to possibly making the U.S. team for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Yet when Godsoe failed to qualify for the U.S. team last summer, he had to question the path he was taking in swimming. Was it time to quit?

Instead, the Greensboro, N.C., native figured out the pattern. All he needed was a little time, and some familiar scenery, to make his next breakthrough.

Godsoe, who returned to Stanford to train, has put up the fastest times of his career this summer, and will be making his first appearance at the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. He won the 50- and 100-meter butterfly finals at the Phillips 66 National Championships & World Championship Trials in Indianapolis in June, marking a huge breakthrough. The men’s 50 fly is among the first events for the swimming competition, which kicks off July 28 and runs through Aug. 4.

“It is such a huge honor to get to represent the U.S. at worlds, wow,” Godsoe, 25, said. “That’s always been on the top of my goals: to reach worlds and the Olympics. I’d had that dream since I started swimming. I really want to take it all in in Barcelona.  I want to meet the other swimmers from other countries, see Barcelona, swim by best efforts … do it all.”

Eugene Godsoe competes in the men's 100m butterfly in the 2011
Pan American Games at Scotiabank Aquatic Center on Oct. 20, 2011
in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The sting of not swimming in the London Games spurred Godsoe to look at everything in his life. The issue soon became clear: the first two years of his professional career, spent training in his native North Carolina, lacked balance. He was a professional swimmer who had let the sport take over his entire life — in and out of the pool.

“When I got through trials and did not make the London Olympic team, I was left wondering — was it all in vain?” Godsoe said. “I really love the process in swimming, so I realized it was not a waste. What I did not love was the mentality I embraced. I realized I had to start living life every day. I know I can be more than just a swimmer while I am being a professional swimmer.”

Godsoe realized the last time he felt whole was back at Stanford, where he had friends and interests outside of swimming. So he made the move back to Palo Alto, Calif. last fall, resumed training and added assistant varsity coaching duties to his list. Many of his friends also were waiting for him, as they had stayed in Silicon Valley after graduation to pursue tech careers.

His training has been going well, but even he admitted he was shocked to take the 50 and 100 fly over tough competitors, many of whom are Olympians, during the recent U.S. championships. He won the final in the 50 at 23.29 seconds, ahead of Matt Grevers (23.50) and Cullen Jones (23.97), and was clocked at 51.66 in the 100, to edge Ryan Lochte (51.71).

“I was shocked that I won the 50 because, wow, I swam that well, and now I am going to worlds?” Godsoe said. “I mean, I knew I was capable of doing that, so that’s not the surprise. But the fact that I did it when it mattered, beat the best we have to make the world team, wow. It just showed me that I am on the right path right now.”

Godsoe sees his evolution continuing well beyond worlds, as he hopes to get faster, win more big events and maybe continue his process to achieve his last dream: the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

“I am a great example of what hard work and patience can do for you,” Godsoe said. “Swimming is more than about the technical, it’s about your heart and soul too. I love this sport, and it’s continuing to challenge me and make me happy, every day. That’s why I keep going.”

Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for the New York Times and other outlets focusing primarily on basketball, figure skating, ice hockey, soccer and tennis. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.