After experiencing a frustrating 2017, Markus Thormeyer decided some changes were necessary in his life.
After some thought, the 21-year-old from Tsawwassen realized balance was important to him. Achieving that balance led to performances that resulted in Swimming Canada selecting Thormeyer the Male Olympic Swimmer of the Year for 2018.
“2017, straight up, was like a bad year,” said the former Winskill Dolphin standout. “I wasn’t enjoying swimming or a lot of aspects of my life.
“Learning from 2017, for my swimming to get better I just can’t be a swimmer. I also have to devote time and energy into academics and my social life. It was a huge shift in my whole lifestyle. Coming into 2018 I decided I was going to work on that.”
Thormeyer trains at the High Performance Centre – Vancouver with coach Tom Johnson, who receives the corresponding Coach of the Year award.
The changes Thormeyer made proved beneficial in all aspects of his life, particularly his swimming.
At the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, he earned his first medal at a major international competition, a bronze in the 100-m backstroke. He also was fifth in the 200-m back and swam personal best times in both races.
Later in the year, at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo, the South Delta Secondary graduate was sixth in the 100-m back plus was part of the 4×100-m and 4×200-m freestyle relays that finished fourth and fifth.
For Thormeyer the award was a vindication.
“It was pretty important because I felt like I proved to myself I was able to accomplish my goal,” said the University of British Columbia student.
“I learned what I needed to do to make my swimming better. My swimming did get better. It was kind of cool to see me make a decision, follow through with it, and then achieve my set goal.”
Johnson said winning the Commonwealth Games medal was an important step in Thormeyer’s progression.
“For him to go to the Commonwealth Games and stand on the podium on his own merit is the kind of thing you want to see as a coach,” said Johnson. “I think that has launched him into a different orbit where his mindset is about winning medals individually.”
Backstroke is Thormeyer’s premier event, but he also likes freestyle. At the 2018 Canadian Swimming Trials in Edmonton he won gold in the 200-m freestyle and silver in the 100-m.
Swimming freestyle gives Thormeyer some variety in training. It also allows him to compete on Canada’s up-and-coming relay teams.
“It’s another added layer of excitement,” he said. “Sometimes you finish an individual race, you touch the wall, and it’s not the same when you touch in a relay. There are three other people there and you can high-five or hug it out. You get a different kind of pride. You’re proud of your teammates as well as yourself.”
Next summer’s focus will be on the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. A strong performance would be a stepping stone toward the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Johnson believes Thormeyer is capable of a podium performance in Gwangju.
“The first thing he needs to do is make a final,” said Johnson. “If he gets that, then I think he could get to a medal. We are talking medals.”
Thormeyer is realistic about his medal hopes.
“It’s always a goal to medal,” he said. “If you asked me at the beginning of last year, I would have said not a chance. Ask me at the beginning of this year I say more of a chance.
“There is definitely a lot of things I need to work on to get to that level. If I do everything I can, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to.”
Thormeyer’s podium quest is being assisted by having a better understanding of what is important in life.
“Good people and happy people make good athletes,” he said. “I need to be happy.”