Greggmar Swift lived a dream few athletes ever realize … competing in the Olympic Games. Although the Indiana State junior fell short of his goal to reach the semifinals of the men’s 110 meter hurdles, he is determined to continue working hard and compete again in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the Olympic Flame will again be lit for the 2016 Summer Games.
“I was truly blessed to be able to compete in the Olympics,” Swift said after his competition in London. “To represent my country in the Olympics was a great experience. I am looking forward to a break from competition but I am also looking forward to competing for my country again.”
Swift admitted that he was not able to sleep the night before his heat as the realization sank in that he was about to compete in the Olympics.
“Ryan (Brathwaite) and I sat up and talked,” Swift said. “He told me to remain focused and make our country proud.”
Warm-ups before his competition were a little different at the Olympics as Swift and his competitors waited in the staging area for almost an hour before they were called into the stadium.
“I was able to calm myself and focus on the upcoming race while sitting in the staging area,” Swift said.
That nervous energy resurfaced as Swift walked into Olympic Stadium for the first time.
“I have never seen so many people at a track meet and they were all cheering,” Swift said. “By the time I got to the start line, I was able to calm myself again and was ready to race.”
Swift was assigned to lane one with Jeff Porter of the United States next to him in lane two. Down at the other end of the heat, in lane eight, was the world record holder, Daron Robles of Cuba.
In what was arguably the toughest of the six heats in the preliminary round of the 110 meter hurdles, Swift bolted from the starting blocks and was leading his heat after the third hurdle.
“I was leading early and that brought the nerves back,” Swift said. “That caused me to nick a couple of the hurdles which really didn’t slow me down but allowed the field to catch back up to me.”
Swift went on to finish fourth in his heat with a time of 13.62.
“I looked over at the guy from France near the end of the race and that cost me a tenth of a second,” Swift said. “That allowed him to just beat me and he was the last one in for the semifinals.”
John McNichols, Indiana State men’s track and field coach and coach of the Sycamore hurdlers, was in London for the Olympics.
“I didn’t have a ticket to the preliminary rounds so I had to watch the heats from my hotel room,” McNichols said. “Greggmar ran well in his heat and made Indiana State and his native Barbados proud.”
McNichols noted that Swift’s time would have advanced him out of the preliminaries in most meets and he was still one of the top collegians in the competition.
“He has the desire and the ability to become one of the top hurdlers in the world,” McNichols said. “This experience will serve him well in his future training.”
Although the Sycamore did not advance to the semifinals, his first experience of Olympic competition has served to crystalize his desire to be the best in the world.
“I know that I can compete against the world’s best,” Swift said. “I have a lot of goals for the upcoming season as I compete for Indiana State and for my country at the World Championships next summer.”
Swift spent two weeks living in the Olympic Village before his Olympic debut as he continued his training and became acclimated to the climate in London. He went to London after competing at the 2012 Flanders Cup in Belgium on July 21 where he placed second with a time of 13.81. That was not his best effort but served as added inspiration to train hard during his Olympic preparation in London.
Working with fellow countrymen Ryan Brathwaite and Shane Brathwaite, and his coach Alwyn Babb, Swift spent the days leading up to the competition working on every aspect of his race. He also found time to do some shopping.
“I really loved England,” Swift said. “I could see myself living there In the future. I was able to meet and train with many of the top athletes at the Olympics. There was also a great mall near the Village where we spent a lot of our free time.”
Ryan Brathwaite won the 2009 World Championship and won the 110 meter hurdles at the Barbados National Championship with a time of 13.39. Swift was second in 13.52 which matched the Olympic “A” standard for the event and qualified him to be one of the three representing his country at the London Games. Shane Brathwaite finished third at the Barbados Championship (13.63) but had previously bettered the Olympic “A” standard.
“Until the Olympics, I have never experienced such an electric atmosphere as I did at the National Championships,” Swift said. “The whole stadium was filled with anticipation that three Barbados athletes would make it to the Olympics in the same event. That put a little pressure on me but I ran a good race and equaled the ‘A’ standard to make the team.”
McNichols was on hand in Barbados for the national championship.
“The whole stadium just exploded with cheering when they realized that their country would be sending three athletes to the Olympic Games in the 110 meter hurdles,” McNichols said. “That is a very rare occurrence for any country.”
Swift is back in Terre Haute where McNichols has given his star hurdler a couple of weeks off before starting to train for the 2013 indoor season.
“I am enjoying this time away from the track,” Swift said. “It has been a long season for me but I am already focused on the upcoming season.”
Kevin Jenison, ’07, is the media relations coordinator – athletics at ISU.