Team Santa Monica’s Jordan Wilimovsky will compete for Olympic Gold in Rio

By Max Rothschild

Jordon Wilimovsky, the first American Olympian to qualify for both pool and open water matches, trains by swimming 45 to 50 miles per week

Jordon Wilimovsky, the first American Olympian to qualify for both pool and open water matches, trains by swimming 45 to 50 miles per week

If at first you don’t succeed at becoming a Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguard, train to represent your country in the Olympic Games.

In other words, persistence has paid off for Jordan Wilimovsky, a member of the Team Santa Monica swim club who is on his way to Rio to represent Team U.S.A.

Wilimovsky’s Olympic journey began at age 9, when he decided to take swimming lessons because he wasn’t a fast enough swimmer to qualify for the junior lifeguard program. He didn’t become interested in competitive swimming until years later, when he won his first open water race — from Will Rodgers State Beach to the Santa Monica Pier — by a remarkable 15 minutes.

Last year he decided to take a year off of his studies at Northwestern University to take a shot at the Olympics, a risk that paid off twice. In October he qualified for the 10k Marathon Swimming competition in Rio by winning the 10k Open Water World Championships in Russia. On July 3 he qualified for the 1,500-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, which makes him the first American athlete in history to qualify for both open and closed water Olympic competition.

While other competitive clubs tend to focus on pool events, Team Santa Monica puts equal if not more investment into distance swimming.

“It’s not just a sideshow for us; I would say it’s a priority. We believe that it allows swimmers to expand to other events later on, and I think that’s probably the biggest difference between us and other programs,” Coach Dave Kelsheimer said.

Wilimovsky held a meet-and-greet for fans on the July 9 at the Santa Monica Swim Center, where he answered a few questions from local reporters.

What’s your training regimen like?

A typical week is 10 pool sessions. In the mornings we’ll do between 6.5 and 7.5 kilometers [4 to 4.6 miles], and then in the afternoons we’ll do like 8 to 9 kilometers [5 to 6 miles] just depending on the day or the set, or what we’re focusing on.

How do you avoid monotony?

Just mixing it up — what you’re working on day to day. If you want to do distance swimming or any kind of swimming you have to work your anaerobic system, aerobic system, your kick, your pull. So in one single day you can have a single focus or you can work on a bunch of different stuff, and each of those different aspects of the sport involve different skills and training methods.

How does it feel to be the first American athlete to qualify for both pool and open-water swimming races?

It’s pretty cool. I mean, any chance you get to represent the U.S. is awesome, but with that being said open-water is relatively new to the Olympics. I think 2008 was the first time they had it. I was lucky enough to be the first person, but I definitely won’t be the last. There’s a lot of very talented guys that are coming up who are doing both.

Do you have any concerns about the water conditions in Rio?

No, but that’s a question we get a lot. USA Swimming isn’t going to make us swim in water that they think is dirty and unsafe. They’ve been down there and they’ve tested the water and said it’s perfectly safe to swim in. It’s one of the most popular tourist beaches in the world, so if it was a problem they’d know about it.

For more information about Team Santa Monica, visit