By Jim Morris
The progression continues for Markus Thormeyer.
Thormeyer took another step along his career path in 2019, reaching the final of the 200-metre backstroke at the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, and setting a Canadian record.
This follows on the heels of Thormeyer winning his first medal at a major international competition when he was third in the 100-m back at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
His performances have resulted in Swimming Canada naming Thormeyer the Male Swimmer of the Year for 2019. It’s the second consecutive year the 22-year-old has won the award.
“I think it’s pretty cool to see that happen,” said Thormeyer, who trains at the High Performance Centre – Vancouver with coach Tom Johnson. “Last year I built up some momentum in my swimming career. This year I was able to keep that momentum going.
“I just kept on doing what I did last year.”
Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson said Thormeyer has followed a steady upward curve since 2015 when he made his first senior team for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.
“This year again another step forward and showing what his capabilities are,” said Atkinson. “I think there’s much more to come from Markus as he continues to develop over the next few years.”
Thormeyer attributes some of his success to a decision he made last year to better balance his life between swimming, school and friends.
“Last year I made some good changes to get a better focus in the water and better communication with my coach about what I need,” he said. “This year I continued that and refined it.
“It’s kind of like I figured out what I needed to do. The balance between life outside the pool is really helpful as well. I had goals that I didn’t accomplish last year (but) I’m not beating myself up over it. I took everything form last year and I’m (looking) toward this year.”
At the 2019 Canadian Trials Thormeyer became the first male swimmer to win the 100-m and 200-m backstroke plus the 100-m and 200-m freestyle. He broke the Canadian record in the 100-m back and swam personal best times in the 200-m backstroke and the 200-m freestyle.
At the world championships Thormeyer followed a twisting road to the 200-m backstroke final.
Thormeyer had originally failed to qualify for the semifinal after finishing 17th in the heats. He was back at the athletes’ village when he received a text telling him to get back to the pool because China’s Xu Jiayu had scratched.
Despite the short notice Thormeyer swam one minute, 56.96 seconds in the semifinal, breaking the previous Canadian record of 1:57.34 set in 2009 by Matt Hawes. He finished eighth in the final.
“It was kind of random how it all happened,” said Thormeyer. “In that situation I was given an opportunity and I realized I had to move on that opportunity and capitalize on that.
“I hadn’t made a final that meet yet. It was another chance. I took it and it worked.”
Being able to respond to the late scratch showed Thormeyer’s ability to focus despite adversity.
“I guess that comes down to professionalism and already having a set routine so that when I’m in that situation I know exactly what to do and I’m not freaking out,” he said.
Atkinson said Swimming Canada emphasizes the importance of adaptability to coaches and athletes.
“You have to be able to adapt to any given situation that comes your way and take your opportunity,” said Atkinson. “That’s what he did.”
In other events at the world championships the versatile Thormeyer finished 11th in the 100-m backstroke and 22nd in the 100-m freestyle plus swam in the mixed 4×100-m freestyle relay that finished fourth. He also was part of the men’s 4×100-m medley (10th), 4×100-m freestyle (13th) and 4×200-m freestyle (17th).
Thormeyer recently won the 100-m backstroke at the U.S. Open swimming competition. He is already looking forward to 2020 and hopes to compete in his second Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I have a lot of goals,” he said. “For me to achieve my goals I want to swim fast.
“My goal isn’t to make the Olympics, it’s to swim fast. If I achieve my goals I will probably go to the Olympics and do well there.”