He likens it to traffic, when you’re driving amid cars crowded alongside you on the roadway. You know you’re surrounded, but you don’t have to look at each one — just like racing against Michael Phelps at the Summer Olympics.
At least that’s what swimmer Adam Madarassy, who competed for Hungary in the 2008 Beijing Games, says when asked, “Did you swim against Phelps?”
But the questions are different now. So is the scale of the pool and the crowd around it, at Miami Shores Aquatic Center. Madarassy runs the Miami Shores Eagles swimming club. About 95 young participants, ages 5 to 18 (and over) joined the club before summer started. Madarassy also instructs adults. His students compete in Florida Gold Coast Swimming. The club has been around for nearly two years.
“I want to see a lot of kids go off to college and swim for a college because that experience was one of the best experiences of my life,” Madarassy said. “I learned a lot, especially from my coach there that I can use for the rest of my life. So I can see the kids move onto college swimming and then Olympic trials and make it to the Olympics and the big picture. But overall, I’d just like to have a group of kids who want to get better and do something active and live a healthy lifestyle. Not everybody is going to be an Olympic swimmer obviously, so I just want them to have fun and be active instead of sitting in front of their TV playing Xbox.”
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Madarassy, 31, was born in Budapest, where his parents still live. He left at age 19 to attend the University of Louisville on a swimming scholarship.
The 100-meter butterfly was Madarassy’s best event. After partaking in all of the elation of the 2008 Summer Games opening ceremonies, Madarassy failed to make it past the preliminary round in the pool that year, despite a personal best 53.93 swim.
“There is nothing like it,” Madarassy says. “It was an incredible experience. Everybody that was a part of the group was so cool and everybody was there to compete against each other and the atmosphere was crazy. We went to the city. Everybody wanted to take pictures with you and all that craziness. They opened the door for you. ... They did a very good job. It was definitely a memorable experience. It was cool to see a lot bigger, faster, a lot better athletes around me in different sports and different events.”
Madarassy said he had a tough time watching the 2012 London Summer Games because he missed qualifying by 0.2 seconds.
“I definitely get my heart rate up and I feel like I want to jump in and do the race again. ... Now it was a little bit easier but it was still definitely. … I got the goosebumps and all that.”
Before taking on Phelps and Ryan Lochte, Madarassy stayed focused by swimming the races in his head before doing it for real. Still the other swimmers seemed as though they were just bodies to Madarassy, who stayed within himself during the biggest swims in his career.
“You acknowledge it, you don’t really think about it,” Madarassy said. “It’s kind of like when you are driving down the street. You acknowledge that there are cars around you, but you aren’t thinking about it really. You try to focus on your racing and once your mind goes onto something else, you are already not concentrating on what you are supposed to be doing.”
“It was an incredible honor,” Madarassy said. “It’s a huge accomplishment. … Growing up I remember watching the TV and watching the opening ceremony and seeing some of the people that I swam with when they were older and walking out … I’m just like ‘Oh my God, they’re so cool. I know that person.’ At that point I didn’t have it in my head that that was my goal and I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer when I was little. But as I was getting older, I saw that I had a chance and was training for it. Once I made it, and I was the one walking on the TV for the opening ceremonies, obviously it was an awesome feeling and I can’t really compare it to anything else.”
Madarassy moved to Colorado after eight years in Kentucky, before moving to Miami. His new team has several swimmers who have qualified for the Junior Olympics, including 8-year-olds.
“It feels good (being trained by an Olympian),” Brooke Mundy, 13, said. “He knows everything and I love it. It’s like everyday we do something different. It’s not like we do what other clubs do.”
Brooke is an eighth-grader at Doctors Charter School of Miami Shores. She qualified for the breaststroke, butterfly, and free style events at the Junior Olympics in April, placing 17 out of 109 participants.
“(We have) a year round USA swimming team for kids ages 5 and up,” Madarassy said. “For ages 18 and above I have a master’s program as well. So really anybody older than 5 can join the team and find what they are looking for, even if it’s just a healthy lifestyle and a good workout, or actually want to compete, do triathlon, open water swim, or in kids case, they do a swim meet every month.”