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  • Jul

    Catching Up with Brent Hayden

    Brent Hayden is a world champion, Commonwealth Games champion and Olympic bronze medalist who finished third in the 100m freestyle at the 2012 London Games under unlikely circumstances. His perseverance through tough competitive times and some unlucky breaks earlier in his career made Hayden’s bronze medal in London all the more special. 

    We caught up with the Canadian freestyle legend in time for the launch of our latest Gold Medal Delivery video and with the start of the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, Ontario just days away.

    So catch us up on what you’ve been doing in swimming since you retired.
    I’m still active primarily with doing clinics and private lessons. We go around to different clubs – mostly in British Columbia but we've also ventured into Alberta as well – and run camps over the weekends called the Brent Hayden Swim Camps. Clubs get 10% of the profits to cover the costs of lanes and room rentals and anything left over gets rolled into their yearly operating budget, so it's a really unique fundraiser opportunity. I had so many people that inspired me when I was younger in my career and that motivates me to give back. I’m glad I’ve been able to figure out a way to make that work with these camps and working with the kids. 

    What do you miss most about your competitive days since retiring?
    I miss everyone who was involved with my success. My teammates, competitors, coach and support staff. You get to see people sporadically and try and talk to them when you can. I’m going to Brian Johns's wedding in a few weeks so I'm looking forward to seeing so many faces there. It's just so unfortunate that it seems only these kind of big events are able to bring everyone together. I do try to talk to a lot of my former competitors as often as I can on facebook, such as Roland Schoeman, Nathan Adrian, James Magnussen, Eamon Sullivan, George Bovell, Filippo Magnini, Stefan Nystrand, Matt Abood and others. It's something about competition that forges something different than your regular friendships and I really miss that I think the most.

    So be honest, what do you miss the least?
    The early morning workouts! No question. I don’t miss that and I don’t miss pulling on my suit and diving in to that icy water at 5am.

    How connected do you stay to the current competitions and performances by swimmers out there?
    I still follow it, mostly through my social feeds when the news pops up on twitter, for example, of a good race or performance. I don’t actively seek out all the results and stuff.  When Rio is on, I’ll be watching it all on TV. There’s still this sense for me that I could be out there competing, that I could still have what it takes, but the time was right for me [when I decided to retire].

    You won that bronze in London under such incredible circumstances, now that you’ve had some perspective talk to us about what that medal meant.
    You know, it was my third Olympics, I had probably missed my best opportunity in Beijing for a medal, when I should have been on the podium but made a mental error. In London, it was the total opposite. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to compete or swim at all due to the back spasms. Then I was the oldest one in the final by 5 years, definitely something I was never used to or never really realized until that moment. It all seemed to be stacked against me. Then I go out and reached the ultimate goal. I learned a lot about myself through it all and that’s probably what has meant the most to me, more than the medal itself.

    What are your other career highlights when you reflect back?
    Winning silver in the 06 Commonwealth Games in an event (50m free) that I didn’t even want to swim. I was begging my coach not to enter that. It wasn’t my best event but it ended up being my best result and that was a big lesson for me. Another big memory is my swim at the 2009 World Championships in Rome. I had the fourth best time (100m free) and just missed the podium, but I was the only swimmer in the final wearing the Speedo LZR suit [non-poly]. I know I was the fastest swimmer out there that day so it’s still something I think about.

    Let’s talk about one of your passions outside of swimming: your photography.
    Yeah, I started doing that in High School, working with film photography in particular. I kept doing it and switched over to the digital medium but continued to shoot as if I was still shooting with film. I like to focus on minimalist landscapes in black and white and also contrasts in colors and tones. My style of shooting has me pushing my shutter speed to around 4 minutes per exposure. Something about taking dramatic clouds and choppy waters and calming the world down, even if only through a view finder, is very meditative for me. 

    Lately, I've done an artistic series with gas masks called Atomic Gas. Masks are usually such macabre and dark imagery, but I wanted to make it beautiful at the same time. So I contrast and juxtapose my subjects on a clean white background, nice clothes, beautiful lighting, and it makes for an interesting dynamic and interplaywith a message that is open to interpretation for whoever is looking at it. Everyone seems to react differently. If I'm not working on my photography, I'm also working on a new clothing line that I'm calling "Ad Astra". Just have to finalize some details and hopefully you will see it soon!

    You lived in Egypt with your wife for a stretch two years ago, how was that?
    We were there from October 2013 to January 2014. At the time, the military was still keeping a curfew. Tensions were definitely high. My wife was there working on her music career and her business partners ended up being dishonest and trying to steal much of her work and our money, so it was actually quite a negative experience for us in that respect. But we lived within minutes of the pyramids in Giza. I got to go by the pyramids on camels and take photos in the same spot that my grandfather had taken a photo of the pyramids. That’s just amazing. Living there definitely gives you a crazy appreciation for what we have here.

    So it sounds like you plan to stick around in Vancouver for the time being. Tell us what you like about it.
    Just being by the ocean and the water here is amazing. The people here are great. We regularly get voted as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s just a world-class place. I don’t see us anywhere else, unless we left for some sort of other opportunity that comes up.

    Is there a core message from your competitive experience that you give to kids, something you’d like to leave with?
    In the end, it’s really about doing your best AND having fun while doing it. If you finish first, second, third or DQ, it doesn’t really matter. You have to be enjoying yourself because that’s where the desire and the commitment and the discipline will ultimately come from.

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