Olympic Spotlight: Swimming's Tom Dolan and Matt Grevers
July 24, 2008
by Jeff Smith
With the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games quickly approaching, BigTen.org takes a look at both former and current Olympians who have made their mark in their respective sports. In today’s “Olympic Spotlight” feature, we take a look at the Olympic swimming careers of Tom Dolan of Michigan and Northwestern’s Matt Grevers.
TOM DOLAN, SWIMMING, MICHIGAN, 1992-96
Former Michigan swimmer Tom Dolan was a three-time medalist in the Olympics, having excelled in both the Atlanta and Sydney pools in 1996 and 2000, respectively.
In his first trip to the Olympics in 1996, Dolan earned the first gold medal for the U.S. in Atlanta when be defeated 1992 silver medalist Eric Namesnik of Michigan in the 400-meter individual medley. Dolan’s victory made him the first American to win the event since 1976. The battle with Namesnik, which Dolan won by a mere 0.35 seconds after rallying in the final 50 meters, was a long-standing rivalry as both trained under head coach Jon Urbanchek at Michigan.
Often slowed out of the pool by exercise-induced asthma and an obstructed windpipe, Dolan was also expected to medal in the 200-meter individual medley and the 400-meter freestyle as well. He finished a disappointing seventh in the 200 IM and failed to qualify for the 400 free finals. Not all was lost in Atlanta however, as Dolan’s gold-medal performance in the 400 IM earned him the cover of the Wheaties box.
Dolan successfully defended his gold medal in the 400 IM at the 2000 Games with a world record time of 4:11.76. In fact, Dolan held the event’s world record for eight years, longer than any other swimmer in history. His victory made him just the second swimmer to win back-to-back 400 IM gold medals in Olympic history. Dolan also rebounded from a disappointing 200 IM finish in 1996 to capture the silver medal in Sydney.
Dolan was a 14-time U.S. national champion and was named the 1994 and 1995 U.S. Swimmer of the Year and Sullivan Award nominee. At the 1994 Spring Nationals, he won four events – the 400, 800 and 1500-meter freestyles and the 400 IM – the first man since Mark Spitz in 1972 to win four events. Dolan was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2006.
While at Michigan, he was named the Big Ten Swimmer of the Year and Freshman of the Year in 1994. The two-time first-team All-Conference honoree, who was also named the Big Ten’s top swimmer in 1995, broke three American records at the 1995 NCAA Championships, becoming the first person since Matt Biondi in 1987 to accomplish the feat. His record-setting performances came in the 500-yard freestyle, 1650-yard free and 400 IM, which led him to be named NCAA Swimmer of the Year. In 1996, he became the first since Biondi to win three events in back-to-back years as he successfully defended his national titles from a year ago.
MATT GREVERS, SWIMMING, NORTHWESTERN, 2003-07
Northwestern’s Matt Grevers earned his first Olympic bid in July when he finished second in the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Arguably the most decorated swimmer in Wildcat history, Grevers was a four-time NCAA champion and a 27-time All-American.
As a freshman during the 2003-04 season, Grevers was a four-time conference champion in the 50 and 100 freestyle, the 100 backstroke and the 400 medley relay team. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Co-Swimmer of the Year, and first-team All-Conference. During his first season, he broke school records in the 50 and 100 free and the 100 backstroke.
Grevers than became the school’s first national champion in men’s swimming since 1958 when he captured the 100 backstroke crown as a sophomore. He was a seven-time All-American in 2005 and was honored as Big Ten Swimmer of the Championships and named first-team All-Conference after winning five events and placing second in two others. He again was a seven-time All-America honoree as a junior and was named the Big Ten's Co-Swimmer of the Year and first-team All-Conference. A five-event winner at the conference meet, Grevers earned the distinction of being the first league swimmer to win the 50 free and 100 back at the Big Ten Championships in three-consecutive years. He successfully defended his NCAA title in the 100 back, becoming the first back-to-back NU champion since Bill Heusner in 1948 and 1949.
In his final year at Northwestern, Grevers captured the 200 back title for his third overall NCAA crown. The talented Wildcat again made school history as he was NU's first three-time NCAA champion in individual events since Al Schwartz in 1930. Grevers also swam the backstroke leg of the 'Cats 400 medley relay that claimed NU's first NCAA relay title since 1932. For his efforts, Grevers won the outright Big Ten Swimmer of the Year honor and was awarded six additional All-America accolades to total a school-record 27 career citations.