“One Of The Hardest Years Of My Life:” Armstrong Opens Up About Struggles, Alexy’s Support

Hunter Armstrong just completed one of his most successful meets ever at the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials, taking an individual Olympic spot in the 100 backstroke and making the Team USA 4×100 freestyle relay team with a personal best time. However, behind the scenes, he was struggling.

At a press conference on Friday night, Armstrong opened up about a period of time in the past year where he was really struggling, which caused him to frequently miss practices and oversleep — sometimes up to 16 hours in a day.

“This has been one of the hardest years of my life,” Armstrong said. “Just so much has happened and I’ve gone through so much.”

To get out of his practice slump and seek help, Armstrong sought the USA Swimming staff, which provided him with a sports psychiatrist. However, another person who was critical to helping him through his troubles was his training partner at Cal, Jack Alexy.

Because Armstrong was skipping practices earlier on in the day during his “down” period, he would a few hours later practice to make up for missed time. And although Alexy had already practiced with the rest of the Cal team, he’d still show up to the pool every day after class to be alongside Armstrong.

“He showed up just so I wouldn’t have to swim alone,” Armstrong said. “So Jack is truly one of my best friends.”

“You just have to surround yourself with good people. When I came out and expressed that I was struggling to my teammates my coaches, and they truly rallied around me. So I may never actually be a Bear, but they are my family.”

Alexy also attested to Cal-Berkeley’s acceptance of Armstrong, who swam at West Virginia and Ohio State but moved to Cal in 2022 to train as a pro. In addition, he believes that Armstrong makes him a better swimmer.

Now, Alexy will not only be Cal teammates with Armstrong, but also Olympic teammates. Alexy finished second in the 100 free at trials, and will likely swim together with Armstrong on the 4×100 free relay. Last year, the two swimmers were on the 2023 World Championships team together.

“Seeing [Armstrong] train every single day and being by his side, I’ve learned that he’s probably the most talented swimmer out there,” Alexy said. “He does things in practice that I’m like, ‘how the hell are you doing that?’ And it’s just, you know, inspiring. It pushes me every day.”

Although Alexy doesn’t see a sports psychiatrist, he also emphasized the importance of prioritizing mental health in swimming. In addition to helping Armstrong, he took the time to start journaling his own career, analyzing everything from his preparation process to his training both in and out of the pool.

Cal swimmers like Alexy and Armstrong have had strong showing this week in Indianapolis. But behind it all were the ups and downs that got them to this point.

“Swimming is a very unique sport — you can get really mentally and physically drained really quickly, so I think it’s really important to check on the mental side just frequently as the physical side,” Alexy said.

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Calswimboy
18 days ago

I met Jack at a restaurant during the trials. He’s a class act. He’s a great role model and very nice guy

Last edited 18 days ago by Calswimboy
SwimMom
23 days ago

The friendship and support that Jack and Hunter have given to each other is awesome. A support system is needed to get through some of the tough stuff life throws at you.
A couple of Indiana high school boys shared their message on mental health earlier the night of the 100 back finals. One of them was rooting for Armstrong, I think. What perfect timing.
So grateful for these amazing athletes that have opened up about mental health struggles and overcoming those hurdles. It’s inspiring to everyone!

Tani
23 days ago

Everyone and their mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle is depressed these days…what is going on??

chlorine mami
Reply to  Tani
22 days ago

sometimes we go through tough times in the seasons of our lives. I’m glad people are talking about it instead of hiding it or pretending it doesn’t exist. depression has been a thing, we’re just working toward de-stigmatizing mental health challenges, which may be why it seems like “everyone” has it.

STE
24 days ago

Bear brotherhood is special

Tracy Kosinski
24 days ago

Omg I’m like bawling. Bros for life ❤️

Swimz
24 days ago

We all need that one Jack..😍..hunter you are amazing..your 7 medals from Doha, is something awesome task..stay strong and keep shining..🥰

HeatFan14
24 days ago

Major respect to Hunter for speaking out, but huge respect to Jack as well. So happy we get to root for these two gentleman in Paris.

jdf
24 days ago

2 ULTIMATE STUDS… first GREAT PEOPLE…then… GREAT ATHLETES!!

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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