OTTAWA - The Gee-Gees swim team will be welcoming a nationally carded athlete to the team this fall. Senior national swim team member Matt Hawes will be joining the Gee-Gees after transferring from UBC last year to follow personal coach Derrick Schoof, who became the head coach of the Gee-Gees swim team in July 2009.

An Ottawa native, Hawes has been quick to follow in his father John Hawes' footsteps, a two-time Olympian who competed in swimming in 1972 and in the modern pentathlon in 1976.

But Hawes is no stranger to adversity.

The 24-year-old faced great disappointment in 2008 when he failed to qualify for the Canadian Olympic team at the national trials. But instead of letting it hold him back, he learnt to embrace adversity and use it to his advantage. In fact, strangely enough, he explained that this experience is his favourite swimming memory so far.

"Ironic, yes. But it's because of that heartbreak, and feeling like I lost a big dream and a huge opportunity, that I really learnt about myself as a person and as a swimmer, and that I gained valuable tools for the following year."

"When you are swimming fast, or not facing hardship, things go by quick and easy, but when the cards are against you, that is when you truly can learn about who you are as a person. I feel like I gained a lot by missing the 2008 Olympic team and that has made me who I am today."

Since then, Hawes has continued to excel in the pool. He is currently preparing for the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships taking place from August 18 to 22 in Irvine, California. He earned a spot on the team after winning the men's 200M backstroke at the 2010 Pan Pacific championship trials this past April.

Busy training and competing in preparation for the upcoming championships, the newest addition to the Gee-Gees swim team took some time out of his busy schedule to help us learn a little more about him.

Why did you choose to follow your coach Derrick Schoof to the University of Ottawa?

Derrick is a great coach, we work well together and he is someone I can confide in. Trust is a huge part of any relationship and I feel that it's what makes him a great coach. Derrick is also really passionate and really motivated about swimming. That is why I came to uOttawa.

Do you have a mentor in sport and/or in life that you look up to? If so, who and why?

I work with Etienne Couture, a mental training coach, who is amazing in dealing with athletes and sport and really makes me look at things from a different perspective. Also, my father has been a great mentor and has truly taught me everything I need to know about swimming and has always been there for me.

What do you find is the most challenging part of training/competing at such a high level?

Being at the top is a much different feeling than being second or just behind. In a way, you are fighting for the same thing: to be the best. But the feeling of being chased as opposed to being the 'chaser' is much different. I find that being chased is the hardest thing. At Canadian Nationals, for instance, you are in a final with seven other guys who all want what you have, and have probably all trained and sacrificed just as much as you. The expectation and the pressure make it more difficult than to be second and chasing and I find that to be the hardest thing about elite level competition. 

What are your long term goals in terms of swimming?

Truly, I'd be lying if I didn't say it was to compete at the Olympic Games. But really, I think at the end of the day, swimming will give me tools I will need to succeed in life. It will teach me true motivation, dedication and commitment, all of which will help make me a better person at the end of it all.

Source: Ottawa Gee-Gees

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