When Scott Weltz stands on the deck coaching his Davis AquaMonsters youth swimmers, an observer wouldn’t know he’s a former UC Davis star and 2012 Olympian who is headed to this week’s FINA World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
Weltz doesn’t wear his 200 breaststroke gold medal from the U.S. Olympic Trials or don a garment that says “I took fifth place at the London Games and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” But there are two things different about Weltz since his Olympic summer:
First, the 2010 UCD graduate is now an elite member of the U.S. National Team, which means he gets a stipend for living expenses, temporarily ending his financial stress and allowing him to coach the AquaMonsters three days a week.
The second thing — which is most important when he’s passing along his swimming knowledge to local youngsters — is Weltz’s increased patience, a trait he learned from, of all people, his American teammate Michael Phelps.
“(Weltz) came back from Europe and the first day he came up to me and said, ‘You know what I learned at the Olympics? Patience. I learned patience and to be a way better coach,’ ” says Pete Motekaitis, the director of the AquaMonsters as well as Weltz’s personal coach.
“And the crazy part is he learned that from Michael Phelps. Scott watched him for six weeks, every day having people line up to talk to him, ask him for autographs on toilet paper, and through it all, he was patient with everybody.
“The crazy thing is the trickle-down effect. Michael Phelps helped Scott Weltz to be a better coach and now that is benefiting the (kids) that Scott is coaching, who will probably never be NCAA Division I swimmers, but are getting fit in a positive environment. That is a big win.”
After Weltz’s big win, an exciting come-from-behind victory at the Olympic Trials in June, and his fifth-place finish at the Olympics, the former Aggie spent some extra time in Europe with his girlfriend Amber Bonds.
It was during that time that he was selected for the national team as one of only 26 men and women on the squad who receive stipends. That honor goes only to swimmers ranked in the world’s top 12 in their event.
When Weltz came back to Davis, it was time to return to his hard training, as well as put in some extra work in the weight room.
“He came back (from Europe) emaciated and skinny. He had lost 12 pounds of muscle,” Motekaitis says. “Some of the national team coaches were saying, ‘He looks a bit on the skinny side,’ and I said, ‘No kidding.’ So we really had to get back into it.
“I call it the ‘Olympic hangover,’ and if you haven’t done it you don’t really know. It’s hard to come back to the same coach and the same (training routine) after that high of being at the Olympics.”
The extra weight-lifting wasn’t just to get Weltz back to his optimum body type, but also in direct preparation for his next big meet, this week’s Short Course Worlds. As opposed to the Olympics, which are contested in a long course (50-meter) pool, the World Championships feature a 25-meter pool.
For Weltz, whose ability to stay strong during longer stretches of strokes is his best asset, long course is a better match. That talent was on display in the trials, where he won the 200 breast despite being in fifth place at the midpoint of the race, and the Olympic semifinals, when he moved up from sixth to third in the last stretch to reach the finals.
“Short course isn’t exactly his wheelhouse,” Motekaitis says. “In long course, you get maybe 18 or 20 strokes before the turn, while in short course it is more like six or seven.
“He’s way better at long course. You can see it when you look at him, because he is just an average-looking guy, not all muscled up (like some of the short-course specialists). But I think he is going to do fine, get a best time and represent the U.S. to the best of his ability.”
Weltz will compete in the 200 breast prelims at midnight Thursday PST, with the finals set for 9 a.m. Friday PST.
After the Short Course Worlds, Weltz and Motekaitis plan to step up his training even more with an eye on next year’s U.S. Nationals, which is a long course event.
“When he comes back, we are going to get into intense training for the next two months,” Motekaitis said. “We call it the dog days. And we are going to be in our own little world, so everyone else might say it’s March, but for us, February may extend to Feb. 90th.”
Notes: The World Championships can be streamed online at http://www.fina.org/H2O. The event is being contested at Istanbul’s Sinan Erdem Arena. Motekaitis says the location, in itself, is a new challenge for Weltz. “This is just adding to his body of work, adding to his experience,” he says, adding that Weltz is going to a place where “he can’t brush his teeth with the water.”
— Reach Chris Saur at [email protected] or 530-747-8049.