Gunnar Bentz is a versatile U.S. National Team member from Atlanta, Ga.. Born Jan. 3, 1996 to business owners, Steve and Missy Bentz, he was raised in an athletic environment – both Steve and Missy were collegiate athletes at Berry College on the track and field team. He also has two sisters, Kenzie and Raleigh, and a beagle/lab mix named Boston. Bentz was in the water at a young age. He was swimming at 3 years old, but claims it was because he wasn’t good at any other sports. Bentz graduated from St. Pius X Catholic High School where he was a Georgia state champion, national champion and record holder. Bentz was the number two recruit in the class of 2014, and although he’s most known for his success in the IM events he also has impressive breaststroke and freestyle abilities. Bentz received the rare honor of being named a cover personality of Swimming World Magazine because there’s only 12 each year – he was named one of four athletes to watch at the National Championships.
The 2016 Olympian became the first ever University of Georgia swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal for his heat swim in the 800 meter freestyle relay.
University of Georgia
As a freshman Bentz earned the SEC Freshman of the Week twice and earned NCAA ‘A’ cuts. At his first SEC Championships Bentz took 10th in the 200 IM, sixth in the 400 IM and 11th in the 200 breaststroke.
At the NCAA Championships as a sophomore, Bentz made the final in each of his individual events. His best finish came in the 400 yard medley where he finished 4th. In the 200 yard medley he finished 5th and 7th in the 200 yard butterfly. He was also named the recipient of the Reed Patterson Swimming Scholarship.
As a junior, Bentz secured a bronze medal in the 200 yard butterfly at the 2017 NCAA Championships in 1:40.07. He also picked up a pair of 4th place finishes in the two medley events.
Bentz has made waves in the international swimming scene. He’s competed meets across the globe including 2013 FINA World Junior Championships where he won two gold medals setting Junior World Records in the 200m IM and the 400m IM. He then followed his performance up by competing at the 2013 FINA World Cup in Beijing and Tokyo.
A year prior Bentz represented the U.S. at the 2012 FINA World Cup as well as the 2012 Junior Pan Pacific Championships in which he brought home two bronze medals. At the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Bentz finished 12th in the 400m IM, just four spots out of the final, and he also came in 24th in the 200m IM.
2015 Pan American Games
In Toronto Bentz finished with a bronze medal in the 200 meter medley, finishing behind two Brazilians. He was also a part of the silver medal winning 800 meter freestyle relay, again finishing behind the Brazilian team.
2016 U.S Olympic Trials
Bentz secured his spot on the plane to his first Olympics with a 5th place finish in the 200 meter freestyle.
2016 Rio Olympic Games
In his Olympic debut, Bentz won a gold medal for his heat swim in the 800 meter freestyle relay. He combined with Clark Smith, Jack Conger and Ryan Lochte to qualify Team USA in second place for the final in 7:06.74. Connor Dwyer, Townley Haas, Lochte and Michael Phelps swam to gold in the final.
After swimming concluded in Rio, Bentz was caught up in an altercation with other U.S. swimmers Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen and Jack Conger at a gas station in Rio that led to police involvement. Different stories emerged regarding the situation starting with the swimmers being robbed at gunpoint. It was later discovered that a false statement had been given and the swimmers were then accused of vandalizing the gas station and then forced to pay the security guards in order to leave.
Bentz or Conger were never indicted because they never filed any report about the altercation but the pair were taken off their flight home for questioning as witnesses. Upon his return, Bentz made a statement on the University of Georgia website to apologize and explain the situation. The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA swimming handed Bentz a four-month suspension from national team competitions. As he was under 21 when the incident occurred he also had to serve 10 hours of community service for breaking USA Swimming’s curfew rules for under 21’s.