Three-Time Olympian (2004, 2008, 2012)
2012 Summer Olympics U.S. Team Captain
Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist
2008 Bronze Medalist – Men’s 200 Free
2012 Bronze Medalist – Men’s 400 Free
Current World Record Holder (800 Free Relay)
6-Time NCAA Champion
The name “Vanderkaay” is basically synonymous with the state of Michigan. The Vanderkaay family hails from Rochester, Michigan, and Peter is one of four brothers who all swam for the University of Michigan. Their mom Robin is also a Michigan graduate, and their father Mark swam for nearby Albion College.
(Blog post from the Vanderkaays: Swimming Advice from Legendary Vanderkaay Family)
That’s why it was so stunning when, in 2010, Peter announced that he would be moving to Gainesville, Florida to train with the Gator Swim Club and Olympic coach Gregg Troy.
The decision to move came from the most unlikely of sources: his coach at the University of Michigan, Mike Bottom.
After qualifying for two Olympic Teams in 2004 and 2008, Peter was on-the-fence about whether or not to continue his career and shoot for a third squad. But he had his coach in his ear telling him to “make changes, make changes, make changes.”
So he did. Peter packed up his car the week after Christmas and drove 1,000 miles south to Florida to begin training with Ryan Lochte and the rest of the Gator Swim Club.
“Sometimes I get sappy about it because I miss Michigan and the guys a lot,” Vanderkaay told the Detroit Free Press when reflecting on his move to Gainesville. “But the experience here is something I couldn’t duplicate there because I got out of my comfort zone and tried something new.”
This shakeup was exactly what he needed. Swimming lap after lap, year after year, can go beyond routine and into monotony. Sometimes, it takes a well-timed change to reignite a dormant passion. Vanderkaay was reignited and took a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the 400 free. Not only that, he was given the sign of ultimate respect by his teammates and was elected a captain of the U.S. Olympic Team.
Though he’d never admit it, a passionate Peter Vanderkaay is good for the sport. He is one of the true gentlemen of swimming, and that encourages others to match him and be better swimmers, better prepared professionals, and better people.