Swimming next to Michael Phelps can be intimidating, but Champaign native Tyler McGill knows how to turn that intimidation into something more.
The Olympic swimmer managed to earn second place in the trials against Phelps and he's now set to compete for his title at the 2012 Olympic Games in the 100-meter butterfly event on Aug. 2.
McGill talked to NBC Chicago from his training camp in France about how he's preparing for the grueling Games, his nerves and his experience so far.
What is your favorite part of being in the Olympics so far?
I would say probably just being with the group we’re with. It’s a group that has a lot of new faces but it’s some of the same team members I’ve been with in the past too and it’s only about once a year that we get to get together like this and really enjoy each other's company. And to be with both the guys and girls that have made this Olympic team, it's just so great to be a part of. Everyone is so genuine and it’s a special group to be a part of.
What are you focusing on now in your preparations for the event?
My main focus has been on the little things that I can do to get better with my butterfly and staying focused on myself because there’s a lot of distractions that come with being an Olympian. So I guess my first focus would be to make sure I’m getting the work in and focusing on the details to be faster in London, and the second has been to enjoy this whole process. You know, it’s my first time going to the Olympics and nothing's for certain so this might be my last time. So I’m really just trying to enjoy everything that comes along with that title but at the same time taking care of the smaller things in the water to do a better performance in London.
After trials you said you had to “let your body take over” to get second place. Do you plan to use that strategy in the Games as well?
There’s going to be an aspect of that, yes. That whole comment was in the lines of that it’s possible to let your mind get in the way of what you’re doing so to that extent yes. So in order to swim my fastest I’m going to have to let my body take over and do what it’s supposed to do and swim within myself and not try to overdo things and let my body do what it’s been trained to do for the last four years.
What do you think about when you envision your upcoming race? Are there any nerves or stress?
Since trials it’s something I think about every single day and it’s something that we do as a team. Within the preparation of London there hasn’t been a whole lot of stress that I’ve experienced since the trials, but that’s something that builds as you get closer and as it gets time to race. Most of the athletes at world championships and here do a great job of managing their emotions up until the race and even at the race they can focus on themselves and do that pretty well. They’re just here taking care of the business they need to so when they get to London they can still enjoy the experience and at the same time do what they came here to do.
What is it like swimming next to a legendary swimmer like Michael Phelps? Is that more intimidating or challenging or motivating?
It’s a little bit of all those. When I first started swimming next to Michael there’s definitely that, well, that intimidation factor and so it's hard to keep that attention on yourself, but as I’ve gotten more comfortable swimming next to Michael I’ve become more aware of the all-around energy that comes with swimming in a race next to him. And you find a way to harness all of that and put it in your own race because he’s always going to do what he’s done, which is swim really fast. So it’s become a more comfortable process over the last few years and it’s something I look forward to every time.