Michael Phelps has 22 career Olympic medals — 18 of which are of the golden variety. Fellow U.S. teammate Missy Franklin matched him with four gold medals of her own this year in London. While those two dynamic swimmers are a long way from Rock Island, Ill and Augustana University, their efforts have reverberated through the swimming community there.
"It does provide motivation, but no so much as motivation as getting to the Olympics," Morris native and fourth-year swimmer at Augustana Chris Greaves said. "But it is motivation. When you see how good the U.S. team is doing that makes you want to do it for the program you are in. I know I am itching to get back with my teammates in September."
Greaves points out that the summer Olympics is the pinnacle for the sport of swimming though there is also World Championships every year.
"Still, the saying goes, 'it doesn't really matter unless you do it in the Olympics," he said. "The best part is that the U.S. is so dominant in swimming and I'm fine with that."
Augustana coach Scott Johannsen ways that he has been following the swimming events at the Olympics the best he can.
"With access to the games being what it is these days, I've been able to get the results on my phone," he said. "But I'm not watching the events until late night and it makes it hard to be a surprise when watching it. I look at it more like watching re-runs."
Johannsen said that he can see how the Olympics being held right now has helped all competitive swimmers.
"What it does is helps to re-motivate the athletes. When they see what Phelps and (Ryan) Lochte and Missy Franklin are doing, it restores their work ethic. You wouldn't believe how many swimmers call me out of the blue and ask me what they can be doing to get better," Johannsen said. "One of our new recruits is from the Netherlands and he spent his last semester of high school in Spain. He's a decent swimmer but he didn't know if he could handle swimming and academics at the same time. One of the Dutch swimmers won a gold medal (Ranomi Kromowidjojo) and he was all of the sudden motivated to do it. Others see Michael Phelps and what he's done and understand the work that has been put in to get it done."
Getting the work done is something both Johannsen and Greaves have been a big part of as Augustana swimming has improved in each of the last four seasons.
"When I got here, we scored maybe 100 points in the conference and we've triple that now," Greaves said. "When I got here we were bordering on an intramural team but because of coach's style, the team has gotten so much better."
Nobody embodied that more than Greaves.
"He (Greaves) was one of the first recruits I had. I got there a year before Chris and the team was pretty established. He was the first one who came in and showed he could handle the athletic part of it at Augustana and also be successful in the classroom," Johannsen said. "I made Chris a captain halfway through his sophomore year. I could tell that he had a certain level of maturity and that he could handle it. He understands my sprint-based philosophy and that we are going for quality over quantity. We want them to practice as fast as they can and then go and do it over and over again. That's my philosophy - sprint, die, repeat."
Greaves is getting ready for his senior year and everything that goes with it at present, even though he doesn't set goals of any particular kind.
"I don't set down and write them out," he said. "I feel that it's better to just go out and train the best I can and I'll find the times where they need to be. It's about working hard and at the end of the season, the times will be there."
Johannsen once again emphasized the ethic of Greaves as being ideal.
"He's been a leader in the classroom. He got a 3.80 GPA going into his senior year and he's a biology and pre-physical therapy major. He's taken a killer class load, yet he has shown that he can be a leader in both the pool and in the classroom," he said. "Especially at the Division III level where we don't have scholarships and the only aid you get is merit based. Athletics has nothing to do with it. It's that kind of leadership he shows. He's on our record board twice and he's in the top 10 in probably six other categories all time. It's huge that he's been able to maintain his grades and also be successful."
Greaves says that getting both done the way he has been able to has been a badge of honor for him.
"I'm glad to be able to, not only do it athletically, but to also help instill a good work ethic academically," he said. "Augustana's now a DIII school who is in the top 25 in GPA and I can tell you that it wasn't like that when I got here. It's all about having the right attitude in both the pool and the classroom."
With the dawning of the new school year a week away and practices starting in about seven weeks, the expectations have only just begun for Greaves as his senior season rolls around.
"He's gotten all of his really hard things in the classroom out of the way so he can now concentrate on his senior season," Johannsen said. "I'm looking for really big things out of him this year."