Fletcher Madsen is a man on a mission to prove himself right in the pool.
A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Madsen always dreamed of following in his parents’ footsteps by attending Brigham Young University (BYU). But when he was recruited by the Cougars out of high school as a 400 IMer, his times were slightly too slow to make the team.
Madsen decided to attend BYU anyway with the goal of working his way onto the team through the club program. His journey took him from Utah to Angola, where he was a missionary for about six months before the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to finish his mission in Colorado.
During his experience as a missionary from 2020-21, Madsen stopped swimming and started lifting weights instead. But the more time he spent out of the pool, he began to realize just how much he missed the water. His time away from swimming didn’t only give him space for a mental reset — it also helped his physical transformation from a lanky 400 IMer to a bonafide sprinter.
At the Utah Short Course Senior Championships in February — about a year and a half into his comeback — Madsen clocked lifetime bests in the 50 free (20.62) and 100 free (44.69) to earn a spot on BYU’s roster this season. The 23-year-old senior still has two years of collegiate eligibility left.
“As it is with a lot of swimmers, you leave the sport for a few months and then you just start itching to get back in the pool,” Madsen said. “So that happened for me a couple of times and luckily I was a little more dedicated the last time and was able to get on the team.
“For me, I kind of had to prove to myself that I was able to do this,” he added. “I thought I was good enough, you hear you’re not fast enough, and you can let that wreck you. It definitely affected me at certain times. I think what helped me was being able to step back after taking some time off and realizing that I do love the sport.”
Madsen said he hopes other swimmers can look at his atypical path to a Power Five program as inspiration that there’s always more room to improve — and that it’s never too late for a comeback.
“I didn’t become a sprinter until I was 21 or so,” he reflected. “I hope people can look at my career and see that there’s always more room to improve. I’m still making time improvements, and I’m 23. I probably made more time improvements last year than I did in a lot of events throughout high school. So there’s always room to improve, but sometimes you just got to stick with it or change things up.”
Madsen’s first NCAA campaign marks a new era for BYU, which officially joined the Big 12 in July. The Cougars are coming off an excellent season in which the men’s team won its third Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) title in a row, while the women’s team came in 3rd. BYU also had two swimmers advance to the Men’s NCAA Championships in late March. Brad Prolo competed in the 200 IM, 100 breast, and 200 fly, while diver Mickey Strauss competed in all three diving events.
The Cougars open their season with the Intermountain Shootout from Sept. 29-30 at Colorado Mesa University.