Senior Gregor Greiner leads the BYU men's swim team in the sprinting events. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Olympic trials. Ranching. Portuguese. University of Texas. Namibia, Africa. Fortaleza, Brazil. German. Only a few words to describe the diverse life one BYU swimmer has lived.
Gregor Greiner is a 6-foot-5 University of Texas transfer senior sprinter for the BYU swim team. Even after having a variety of life experiences, the fastest BYU swimmer has more to discover, especially that of his potential.
Dieter, Greiner’s father, was raised in Windhoke, Namibia, Africa, a German colony. After attending school at BYU for an agricultural degree and marrying his sweetheart, Kathy, Dieter took his family back to Windhoke for four years where Gregor was born and lived for the first three years of his life.
Greiner remembers Africa being hot and always jumping in the pool to cool off. His father, Dieter, swam for BYU from 1979-80 and as a child, Greiner would go through his medals and trophies thinking those awards were fantastic.
“He’s always had a great desire to be like his dad,” said Greiner’s mother, Kathy. “He wanted to be a great swimmer just like his dad was.”
“As soon as I got a chance to swim competitively, I was in it,” said Greiner. “Since I was 12 I have been swimming competitively and I haven’t turned back.”
Kathy describes her son as someone who always sets goals. She said that even when he was very young he wanted to be a very good swimmer with high aspirations. She admits that she brushed that comment off to the side because he was so young.
When Gregor was only three years old his family moved to the United States for better opportunities, starting their lives in Carson City, Nevada for only a few short months, followed by Corpus Christi, Texas for a half year and then ended up in the panhandle of Texas for about five years.
After moving to another small town in Texas, Gregor moved to Wyoming, spending four years on a ranch, only to return to a town just outside of Abiline, Texas to work on a large ranch. After a drought hit early in 2001, the Greiners were forced to leave the ranch and started working for an engineering firm in Abiline.
Gregor has fond memories spending time with his family on the ranches he grew up on.
“We would hang out at home and play games and go to the movies together,” he said. “I would like to just sit around my family on a Friday night and spend time together in whatever we did.”
Gregor confesses that between spending time with his family, ranching and swimming, he didn’t have time for much else. He explains high school as a blur because of his successes.
“I had success so quickly that I didn’t even know it was coming—it kind of scared me—but I liked the success and I enjoyed achieving my goals,” he said. “But, my team was very antagonistic toward me because of my successes, so I tried to keep things as quiet as I could.”
However, his successes were so grand that it was hard to not notice. He was awarded the Texas High School State Swimmer of the Year as well as the Male Athlete of the Year at his high school his senior year.
In speaking of the Athlete of the Year award Karen said, “We live in Texas—this is football country. The award always went to football or basketball players, it never went to any other sport, let alone to a swimmer. When Gregor was awarded the Athlete of the Year, it was very special that they recognized a swimmer.”
Greiner describes these times as humbling experiences and ones that he didn’t need. Nevertheless, others knew he deserved these awards as he was undefeated for two years in the 50 and 100 freestyle—winning district, region and state for two years in a row.
His apparent success in high school landed him a spot on the University of Texas swim team out of Austin, Texas. He swam with the likes of Olympic swimmers Ian Crocker, Aaron Peirsol, Josh Davis as well as other NCAA Champions and Olympians.
“Some of the fastest swimmers in the nation were on that team and then there was little old me asking myself, ‘Why am I swimming here?’” Greiner said. “It was absolutely humbling where I went from a little high school program where I was the top dog, being the hardest worker doing the most yards, then going to UT where I was nothing.”
Although he felt uncomfortable swimming with such big names in the swimming world, he is grateful for the experiences he gained there.
“The things that I learned about training, about swimming, about what dedication brings and about what dedication is, are irreplaceable,” said Greiner. “I would’ve done it again if I had the chance.”
After deciding to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he struggled with the fact that he would lose his swimming scholarship and the University of Texas wouldn’t take him back. After two years of swimming for the Longhorns, he left for Fortaleza, Brazil to serve a full-time mission for the Church for two years.
“While I was still going to Texas I was dating a girl that was on the BYU swim team and I came to visit,” he said. “I was swimming one day and head coach Tim Powers saw me and when I called him, he was prepared to offer me an opportunity to swim here. It just opened up—I didn’t talk to any other coaches, I just wanted to swim at BYU.”
“Being at the University of Texas was an amazing experience and I learned some wonderful things,” said Greiner. “I still look up to those guys as friends who have taught me a lot, but BYU felt better, it just felt right.”
Gregor’s parents were very excited that he chose to transfer to BYU because they had met there. His mother Karen explains that BYU was a great place for him not only to develop his intellect and swimming, but his spirituality as well.
“The team of coaches at BYU have been a tremendous asset in his desire to move forward and be a contributing member of society,” said Kathy. “They not only help him improve his swimming abilities, but they support the spiritual demands of his life as well.”
“Gregor is a talented swimmer,” said BYU Head Coach Tim Powers. “He was on a team of Olympians and he didn’t always feel needed. Although when he came here he felt needed and swimmers always do better when they are needed.”
After returning from his mission to Brazil, he redshirted a year and competed as the top sprinter last season. And just as his parents met at BYU, Greiner also met his wife at BYU. On February 16 Greiner and Kate McMahan will celebrate their one-year anniversary.
As the bulk of rigorous conference competition begins this month, Greiner is ready to give it his all to achieve his goals. While this season is his last in eligibility, Greiner says he won’t be done with swimming just yet.
This past summer, Gregor was privileged to compete at the Olympic Trials for the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing.
“I have never been to a more intense swim meet in my life,” said Gregor. “The energy in the building was incredible and the production was just amazing. No one ever makes a production for swimming, but they had light shows and fireworks—usually they just give us a pool and say, ‘Go!’”
He explained that it wasn’t uncomfortable for him to walk around with the likes of Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak and other big swimmers. He said he had raced all of those guys before and trained with the majority of them.
However, Olympic Trials weren’t all that he was hoping they would be. Even though Greiner had a great experience, he had a disappointing swim.
“I didn’t improve at all,” Greiner said. “I didn’t come anywhere close to where I wanted to be. I haven’t reached my potential and I want to see where that is.”
Greiner has the goal of making it to the Olympic Summer Games in 2012 and will continue to train after his senior year of swimming at BYU.
“He sets realistic goals, sets out a plan and moves forward doing everything he can to achieve his goals,” said Kathy. “I have full faith he will achieve what he truly wants out of life.”