Olympic Gold Medalist Rhi Jeffrey Talks 2016 Comeback (Exclusive Interview)

In today’s world of elite swimming, it is becoming more and more plausible for swimmers to stay in the sport and keep training for longer and longer, as opposed to around 10-15 years ago when many athletes were done after college swimming for good. With more money floating around for sponsorships, better nutrition options for higher recovery, and new training techniques that lend themselves to aging athletes, we have seen a definite increase in how many stick with the sport through their 20’s and well into their 30’s.

Not only do we see this through numerous athletes staying in the sport past high school and college competition (post grads), but we have also seen a dramatic increase in people leaving the sport completely, walking down different paths, and then eventually coming back to the sport to once again step into the ring (comeback).

In the past 4 years alone, I think we’ve seen more comebacks than in the last 40. Cal superstar and Olympic Gold Medalist Anthony Ervin, 3-time Olympic medalist Katie Hoff, Olympian and former world record holder Kate Ziegler, and most recently (sort of) Olympic gold-medalist and world record holder Dana Vollmer. Each has a different reason for leaving the sport, and each has most certainly had their own adventures along the way before getting back in the pool.

Perhaps one of the most unique stories is that of Rhi Jeffrey, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist and 2-time world champ gold medalist. After the 2004 Olympics, Rhi swam for the USC Trojans for 2 years under head coach Mark Schubert. After Schubert left USC, Rhi returned to train in Florida, though admittedly had lost her passion for the sport.

This caused her to stop competing in early 2008, and for the most part she was out of the pool until 2011, where swimswam reported she had popped up in New Zealand and was training for the 2012 Olympic Trials. She competed in the 2012 trials, where she placed 48th in the 50 free, 56th in the 100, and 57th in the 200.

After trials, Rhi returned to New Zealand for a time, but ended up relocating stateside to her original home town of Boston, where she is currently training for 2016 trials. Now 28, Rhi is still going at it, and just got her first trials cut in the 50 free at Arena Pro Swim Series stop in Santa Clara last month, en route to winning the C final.

We got the chance to catch up with Rhi about her training and what her last 8-12 years has been like. Not only is her story inspiring to all those still continuing their time in the pool, but it is safe to say that her passion for the sport is back in full force and more tenacious than ever.

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About Coleman Hodges

Coleman Hodges

Coleman started his journey in the water at age 1, and although he actually has no memory of that, something must have stuck. A Missouri native, he joined the Columbia Swim Club at age 9, where he is still remembered for his stylish dragon swim trunks. After giving up on …

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