March 26, 2013
BY MARK BENNETT
UW Athletic Communications
MADISON, Wis. -- Senior Michael Weiss will be the first to tell you that talent alone only takes you so far. It’s hard work that gets you to the top.
“In high school, I struggled with my work ethic,” Weiss said. “I was always there and I was really riding off talent. And it had always gotten me what I wanted in high school, so I settled with that. And then I came here freshman year.”
“I got crushed in everything.”
Coming from Nevada—a smaller swimming state—to competing with the best in the Big Ten was a big adjustment for Weiss.
“I just had to re-zone in and re-think. I know this is what I want, so what am I going to have to do to get there. Right after Big Tens freshman year is when this phase of my swimming career started. I just sort of refocused and knew what I wanted to do, and what I have to do to make that possible.”
Far from the high school pool, Weiss today has established himself as one of the elite swimmers in the country and one of the emerging world stars. In mid-December, Weiss represented Team USA at the FINA Short Course World Championships in Istanbul.
Weiss won a gold medal for Team USA, anchoring the eventual gold-medal-winning 800-meter relay squad in the preliminary race.
“Going to that meet really did change a lot,” Weiss said. “To be with Team USA and be with those names that I’ve been watching on TV and reading about since I was 12 and to be in a relay with them and have them up in the stands cheering for me is a great feeling.”
Weiss says that gold medal has propelled him through the rest of the collegiate season.
“It just gave me a craving of, I want more,” Weiss said. “And I think that’s kind of the craving I’ve gotten over the last two years when I’ve improved a lot. Anytime I do something really good, it’s awesome and it’s a great achievement. But it just gives me that, ‘I want more’ craving.”
Weiss will have one final shot at the end of March to satisfy that craving at the NCAA level when he competes at NCAA Championships in Indianapolis March 28-30.
For Weiss, his best shot at an NCAA title will come in the 400-yard individual medley. Weiss has good reason to head into that event with confidence. No NCAA athlete has swum the event faster than Weiss this season.
Weiss won the Big Ten title in the 400-IM with a top time of 4:39.17, four seconds faster than he had ever swum the event before.
“I know I swam a pretty perfect race at Big Tens for that win,” Weiss said. “And if I’m going to get faster, it’s going to be the little details that are going to make the difference.”
An NCAA title would top off what has already been one of the most impressive careers for a Wisconsin swimmer in the 110-year history of the program. Weiss owns four school records as an individual and two as a relay member. All six of those records were set this year, although in most situations he re-wrote his own top marks.
But there’s one school record Weiss will have his eye on in Indianapolis—and that’s the record he lost this season. Sophomore Nick Schafer, who joined the team mid-season, took down Weiss’ old record in the 200-yard breaststroke at the Big Ten Championships.
“No one likes to see their records get taken, but he’s an amazing 200-breaststroker,” Weiss said of Schafer. “My goal is to be able to beat him again at NCAAs and hopefully hold on to it for one more year. But in the long run, I know he is going to crush that record.”
Weiss admitted when he made the move from Nevada to Wisconsin four years ago, he had no idea what he was getting himself into. But with only a couple months left at UW, Weiss says choosing Wisconsin was probably the best decision he ever made in his life.
“I’ve changed so much as a person for the best and grown so much and learned so much,” Weiss said. “I just love it here and never want to leave.”
Luckily for Weiss, his future pastures are green. He has his sights set on the World University Games in Russia this summer, or possibly even the World Championships in Spain. And beyond that, Weiss is already locked and focused on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
“The future—it gets better every day.”
Michael Weiss walked into the swim team’s brand new facilities at LaBahn Arena earlier this year and found a familiar face staring back at him on the wall. Among the photos decorating the walls featuring some of the best swimmers in program history, was one current swimmer-- himself.
That photo will stand as a reminder for future Wisconsin swimmers of a young man who figured out that talent isn’t everything. But hard work can take you anywhere.