Brent Hayden of Canada prepares for his 50m freestyle semifinal at the Olympic Games in London on Thursday August 2, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Brent Hayden of Canada prepares for his 50m freestyle semifinal at the Olympic Games in London on Thursday August 2, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Canadian swimmer Brent Hayden hopes his swim comeback is for Tokyo

Hayden got back into the pool after a seven-year hiatus because he fell in love with swimming again

Brent Hayden will take that “seniors discount” at the pool in order to swim fast.

Almost nine years after winning an Olympic bronze medal in the men’s 100-metre freestyle, the 37-year-old from Mission, B.C., says quality training, not quantity, will get him back on the Olympic starting blocks.

“For me, I call it the seniors’ discount when the group’s doing three rounds and Brent is only doing two rounds. Perfect,” Hayden told The Canadian Press on Thursday.

“Training programs need to be tailored to the athlete.”

Rest and recovery are important for Hayden particularly during his current arduous training block at the University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre.

“We’re in a work phase right now and he’s getting a little beat up, but he’s swimming fast,” his coach Tom Johnson said.

“He can’t do the work that a 22 or 24-year-old can do, but the work he does is high quality. The respect factor the people in his training group have for him is really high.”

Hayden, the 2007 world champion and 2011 world runner-up in the 100 freestyle, got back into the pool after a seven-year hiatus because he fell in love with swimming again.

“I’m excited to get up on the blocks and put a real stamp on this whole comeback thing,” Hayden said.

Canada’s Olympic swim trials in April in Toronto and by extension this summer’s Tokyo Summer Olympics are his goals if the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t derail them.

“My wife and I were already discussing what if Tokyo doesn’t happen?” Hayden said. “Does that mean this whole comeback would have been for nothing? I don’t think so.

“I’m feeling like I’m only getting stronger and faster, so if Tokyo doesn’t happen, do I just commit and decide ‘you know what? I’m going to go to Paris in 2024 and compete as a 40-year-old.’ Is that what my story is going to be? That is a possibility.”

Nutrition, training methods and sport science have extended athletes’ careers.

Brazilian swimmer Nicholas Santos still competes internationally at age 40 and American Dana Torres was 41 at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Less than six months into his comeback, Hayden swam under the 50-metre freestyle Olympic qualifying standard in Des Moines, Iowa.

He captained the International Swimming League’s Toronto Titans in Budapest, Hungary in October and November.

Hayden swam mostly relays, but banking 15 races in a pandemic-decimated season was key to shedding race rust.

“”He just got better and better swimming against the best in the world over a five-week time period,” Johnson said.

Hayden had fallen out of love with swimming by the time he stepped on the podium in London in 2012.

Back spasms that made walking painful and the immense pressure Hayden put on himself to produce an Olympic medal on his third try put him in a dark place.

“I was teetering on the edge of depression there for awhile,” Hayden recalled. “That definitely weighed into my decision to retire when I did. If I continued swimming, I saw myself going deeper into that hole. It’s not a place I wanted to go.

“When I did leave, the sport was not in a good place in my heart.”

Hayden continued to hold swim camps across Canada, but rarely worked out in the pool.

He searched out a pool to shoot an instructional video in the summer of 2019, when he and wife Nadina Zarifeh were in Lebanon.

“Getting in the water and putting myself through these drills, I started to realize I felt amazing,” Hayden recalled.

“My stroke felt really finely tuned, which was weird. I started playing around with my speed a little bit.”

He returned to competition with a different lens on his sport and himself. Hayden is comfortably frank about the mental struggles that contributed to his retirement at 28.

“Coming back into the sport now, I’m in such a healthy state of mind,” Hayden said.

“I definitely came up through the (ranks) feeling if you were struggling emotionally, you don’t want your teammates or your competitors to see that because you don’t want to be viewed as weak.

“What I’m hoping others will see is allowing yourself to be vulnerable actually takes more courage than holding it in.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Glenalee Berarducci Zooms with her daughter Deanne in Kenya. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
Inspiring women: one Revelstoke woman shows the power of parental support

Glenalee Berarducci is a pillar of help for her children

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Mary Clayton testing her ski and avalanche gear. As communications director, Clayton helped create Avalanche Canada into the success it is today. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
Inspiring women: It was a men’s world – until Revelstoke’s Mary Clayton broke into it

She helped create Avalanche Canada into the internationally recognized organization it is today

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
One of two Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreaks declared over

One outbreak declared over after two deaths, seven cases; another outbreak remains ongoing in the hospital

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna care home after 12 cases noted

Two staff members and 10 residents at Cottonwoods Care Centre have tested positive for COVID-19

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

There is no true picture of how many youth in Penticton are experiencing housing instability or true homelessness. The Foundry and the city of Penticton are trying to find that out.
How many youth are experiencing homelessness in Penticton?

Foundry Penticton and the City have partnered on a youth survey open until March 13

Chelsea Ishizuka was borned and raised in Penticton but has now moved to Japan. When she found out there was a popular restaurant there named after Penticton, she had to go check it out. Here she is with the owner (right). (Facebook)
Popular restaurant in Japan named after city of Penticton

A Pentictonite now living in Tokyo discovered the eatery and the history behind its name

Coldstream’s Kalamalka Secondary has teamed up with Globox on a fundraising raffle for its graduating class of 2021. (Photo supplied)
Okanagan secondary school grads glowing over fundraiser

Kalamalka Secondary teams with company on fundraising raffle, replacing annual apple pie fundraiser

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Most Read