Publication Date: Wednesday Feb 9, 2000
Kurt Grote is taking his time to hopefully have the swim times of his lifeby Keith Peters
Some time this year, Kurt Grote will hang up his competitive swim suit and turn his energy toward earning a doctor's white lab coat or surgical greens. The end of Grote's swim career could come in August at the U.S. Olympic swim trials in Indianapolis, or it could arrive in September following the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
The important thing at this point is that the 26-year-old Grote has the time to give himself a real chance of becoming a two-time Olympian. Were the Olympics being hosted in the northern hemisphere, the Stanford graduate might be running out of time in his quest to qualify for the Games in the 100- and 200-meter breaststrokes.
"I had planned on doing a lot of road biking this year, but I had a knee injury last September," Grote explained recently. "It actually kept me from kicking the last 4-5 months. It's been a real serious problem for me."
The injury might have proved disastrous for Grote had the 2000 U.S. trials been held the same time as in 1996.
"In '96, with the trials in March, it was a much different season," Grote explained. "By January of that year, I was swimming really fast. I was really focusing on speed and pretty much all my conditioning was pretty much behind me.
"This year, it's still early in the season--quite a while before the trials and Games."
That gives Grote plenty of time to get in the kind of shape he was in '96, when he made the U.S. team in both his events--winning the 200 breast and taking second in the 100.
"I think this injury has almost been a blessing for me," he said. "It's given me time to focus on my pulling, which is the weak part of my stroke. And it's kept me from focusing too early on swimming fast. The last four months have been just base training. That's really what I needed."
Grote's knee injury, a "frayed quad tendon", came about when he began his road biking and pushed himself too hard early on.
"By day 4, I noticed some pain, but I biked through it one day," he said. "And ever since it's hurt."
While recovering from his injury, Grote concentrated on a lot of upper body weightlifting and a lot of upper body pulling.
"I feel like I'm stronger in that area than ever before," he said. "It (the injury) has forced me to work on a weakness. My legs have always been my strength. Now that it was taken away, it allowed me to focus on something else."
Grote, who lives in Mountain View with his wife of 2 1/2 years, Amy, trains six days a week. He arises at 6:15 a.m., swims from 7:30-9 a.m. at the Santa Clara Swim Club, returns home to have breakfast and take a nap, lifts weights at the Decathlon Club in Santa Clara for an hour or two and then swims for another couple hours. Then it's time for dinner, some relaxing and bedtime.
Because of his busy schedule, Grote has taken the year off from his medical training at Stanford.
"It's not that I couldn't do classes and at the same time swim, but I'm at the point of my medical training where I start working in the clinics," Grote explained. "And the schedule for that is really grueling--6-7 a.m. to whenever they keep you. There's just no time for training. I'm putting off the clinical training until I'm done with the Olympics."
With a career in medicine awaiting him and his impending retirement hanging over his head, Grote must find a way to recover from a fairly disastrous 1999 season in order to go out on top.
"It was pretty brutal," Grote said of last season. "Last year, for three months, I was studying the board exam for medicine and I was swimming once a day (until April). And, I had (right) knee surgery the previous fall so I was re-habbing that.
"So, it was just a really screwed up season," Grote continued. "My focus also was on school. I came back really ready to train June 1st when I finished the boards (that certify doctors), but I only had two months. The calendar just didn't mesh with the swimming calendar."
As it turned out, Grote wasn't able to put in the time he needed to be successful. Nor was he in the best of shape.
"I swam way off my best times," said Grote, whose personal records of 1:01.22 and 2:12.35 rank him No. 3 on the all-time U.S. lists for the long-course breaststroke events.
To put it in perspective, Grote reached a peak in 1997 when he won three gold medals at the Pan Pacific Championships and finished the year ranked No. 1 in the world in both his events. In 1999, Grote was ranked 30th in the 100 and 18th in the 200 breast.
It would seem, then, that Grote has a lot of lost time to make up.
"There's two ways to look at it," he said. "One is that I have to make up time that I lost. The other is that I just have to get back to a little bit better than I've done before. That's the attitude I'm taking.
"I have eight months right now, set aside, just to train. That's enough to make a lot happen."