Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 26, 2013

Chasing the dream once again

World Championships has Stanford grad Godsoe thinking Olympics again

by Mike Watkins

Once his swimming career is over, Eugene Godsoe — an accomplished pianist and musician — hopes his fans will be able to enjoy his music online as much as they enjoyed cheering him on in the pool.

Until that happens and while he is swimming some of the fastest times of his career, Godsoe remains focused on his current career as a professional athlete — and for the next few weeks, his events at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.

"I know swimming is an incredibly tough sport to make it as a professional, and I beat the odds on that," Godsoe said. "I'm not sure if that means I'm more or less likely to make it as a musician later on, but we'll just have to see!

"I try to play a good amount of piano and other instruments every day. I just finished up a class learning some music recording software, so I think it's time to put some more songs online soon."

Godsoe's current path in swimming hasn't been without its share of hiccups and obstacles.

A member of the 2009 World University Games and 2011 Pan American Games teams (where he won silver in the 100 backstroke), Godsoe nearly ended his career after a very disappointing Olympic Trials last summer in Omaha.

Now, a year later and following a great meet last month at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis where he won both the 50 and 100 butterfly events, he has a renewed interest in and excitement toward his future in the sport.

"I had very high expectations going in and big disappointment coming out (of Trials)," said Godsoe, a 2010 graduate of Stanford University. "The cameras at Trials always show the first- and second-place finishers' celebrations, but rarely capture what the third- through eighth-place swimmers are doing after the race.

"It's tough to look up at the board and see you didn't make it. I was able to sit down with my club coach from high school (Kevin Thornton) and decide I wasn't ready to retire. I'm glad I didn't."

Instead, Godsoe said he rededicated himself to his future in the sport, making some stroke and lifestyle changes to be in the best possible position to make future international teams.

He went to Indianapolis feeling very optimistic and happy with where he was in his training and outlook, especially after returning to his home and college team at Stanford last summer to live and train.

"I knew I'd made a lot of positive changes with my strokes and lifestyle, and whether or not it was enough to put me on a World Champs team or not, I knew I was going to swim fast," said Godsoe, who gives a shout-out to Tony Batis (at Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics) for making him do breaststroke relays, Scott Armstrong for helping him think outside the box and Ted Knapp for believing in him since he came to Stanford many years ago. "I'm just continually trying to learn more about the sport and myself in this process.

"I learned some great things the past couple years at SwimMAC, and I'm adding on to that here back at Stanford. In my eyes, it's the perfect place for a guy like me who loves swimming and wants to reach the highest level but also embraces everything else that's going on in Silicon Valley."

One positive Godsoe (and the rest of the world of swimming) knew going into Nationals was that, unlike past meets, both spots in the butterfly events were wide open for the taking.

While he admits the absence of Michael Phelps — he retired following last year's Olympics — for the first time in over a decade opened up the competition, Godsoe said the real coup was securing the first spot in the dominant U.S. 400 medley relay team.

"In all honesty, I don't think there was any direct impact (of Michael's absence)," Godsoe said. "In the back of your mind, as I'm sure with all the guys in the 100 fly final, I knew that the coveted medley relay spot was now open. Getting a chance to swim in probably the most esteemed swimming event and team is a huge honor. I'm really excited about that."

And while this World Championship team isn't his first international competition — he was on the 2005 National Junior team as well as World University and Pan Am teams — Godsoe knows this time, it's different.

He sees this year's team as the "next step" in his swimming evolution as he progresses and works toward making his first Olympic team in 2016. Godsoe also has a renewed love and passion that he knows will carry him through the next three years toward Rio de Janeiro.

"This is the next step I've been waiting (forever) for," said Godsoe, who returned to Stanford to fine-tune little details, keep my strength up and get some good sun" before leaving for Spain on Tuesday. "Realistically, my goals (at Worlds) are to fine tune and find ways to be faster than I was at Nationals. With the stage being bigger, it's important for me to be cool and collected going in. This will give me the best shot to add a medal or two to the USA tally.

"I'm more in love with the sport now than ever before. As long as I truly believe I can be a contender for 2016, I'll be there. If I feel like I've given it my all before then and that's all I have in the tank, I'll retire. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to being a part of Team USA at one of the highest levels, learning from the veterans, and doing my best to contribute to the overall team goals."

Godsoe will get his first World Championships under way Sunday with the 50-meter butterfly. The 100 fly will be Saturday, Aug. 3 with the 400 medley relay capping the meet on Sunday, Aug. 4.

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