After having earned 5 Pan American Games medals, as well as a 2015 World Championships bronze in his signature 50m freestyle sprint event, Brazilian Bruno Fratus appeared primed to make his mark in Rio at the 2016 Games. Clocking a swift 21.93 in heats, followed by an a head-turning 21.71 in semi-finals, Fratus wound up finishing 6th in the Olympic final, touching in a time of 21.79.
Devastated from not landing on the podium in front of a home crowd, 27-year-old Fratus took some time off to recover both physically and mentally and is now back in the pool with a new training plan of attack. Already ranked among the world’s best with a mark of 21.70 from May’s Maria Lenk Trophy, Fratus says he is still ‘shooting for the stars’, but remains grounded in enjoying the process along the way.
Here’s what Fratus had to say during our exclusive interview this week.
Did you take any time off after Rio? What was your overall assessment of your performance?
FRATUS: Swimming and preparing for Olympics at home was an intense experience, I remember Rowdy Gaines tried to tell me how crazy the LA Games were for him, but you don’t really realize until you actually live it, so I think you can have an idea of how much heart and dedication I put into it.
Unfortunately, for a series of factors I couldn’t perform the way I’d like to and it was devastating for me, specially knowing that a few months earlier I’ve swam a time that would’ve won the race, plus give a medal back to all that people chanting my name in the Aquatic Stadium would’ve been a dream coming true. So it was extremely necessary for me take a good time away from the pool deck, or at least from the hard high level training mindset… 3 months to be more specific.
How would you describe your attitude or outlook having changed since Rio?
FRATUS: 4 years is a lot of time, so heading to what is going to be my 3rd Olympic cycle I’m still shooting for the stars goal wise, but at the same time I’m trying to go a step at a time and enjoy the process, going all out for 4 years straight (12 if you add up since the London prep) can drive you crazy. I’m lucky to have a coach and friend like Brett that makes the season flow in a really motivating, but easy and pleasuring way.
What is your training like nowadays in terms of frequency, intensity? What’s a typical week look like?
FRATUS: After my “Rio break” I couldn’t stand to even put a swim suit on, so it was a bit of a challenge for Brett to come up with a plan that would bring back my love for the sport and competition at the same time that would prepare me for World Trials 20 weeks later.
So he draw a 5/week training program that kept it at the same time really intense and challenging, with very specific goals week by week. That gave me a lot of time out of the pool but once we were there it was GAME ON!
Bringing Michelle (my wife) as an assistant coach was also crucial to keep the energy up, she has a lot of attention to details and that helped me a lot, plus she and Brett together know exactly how to get under my skin and squeeze the best out of me every single day.
At the gym he gave me the freedom (under his supervision) to write my own plan based on my experience and what I know that works the best for me.
Brett is my primary coach and Michelle takes care of the sessions when he’s away, I truly believe that he’s one of the best sprint coaches ever, extremely creative and motivating, his experience as an Olympic finalist in the 50 gives him the athlete perspective so we “speak the same language”. It’s really not that easy to find a coach that knows what you need just by looking at your facial expression during the sessions.
Are you targeting both the 50 and 100 for World Championships and beyond?
FRATUS: For trials I just wanted to race as fast as I could, no matter the event and it was good I was able to defend my national title in the 50 and make it to the relay team. Now heading to worlds I’m focused on the events I qualified for and on my role in the team, it is always motivating to swim the 4×100 and I want to make the best out of it and the 50… well, it’s the 50.
What specifically are you doing to prepare for the 50 versus the 100? How does your training approach differ?
FRATUS: I think I’m a very explosive swimmer, so my focus should always be on swimming as fast I can no matter the event, can’t be stuck on paces and splits… Just get on the block and go!
Lots of news on the CBDA so far this year…what’s your overall take on the federation’s situation? How has the shake-up impacted you personally?
FRATUS: Swimming it’s not just something I do, we swimmers know how big this sport is in our lives. It breaks my heart to see Brazilian swimming struggling despite of all its talents, but I have all the reasons to believe that we will come out much stronger out of this unfortunate situation and ready to fulfill our potential.