Ed Moses suffered the biggest disappointment of his life at the 2004 U.S. Olympic swim trials. The 2000 Olympic gold and silver medal breaststroker, a co-American record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke, finished fourth and sixth in his events. Only the top two in each made the Olympic team.
Moses was denied a trip to Athens, but only 24 years old, he stayed determined.
"You are going to have to drag me out of the pool and kill me before I quit," he told reporters at those July 2004 trials.
By the next spring, he was done with swimming.
"That year was a pretty hell of a year for me," Moses said of his tribulations after the trials. "I didn't know what to do at that point. I thought I had it all planned. My initial instinct was to get back in the water and grind this out, see what happens. Over the next six, seven, eight months, I really couldn't find myself, couldn't find that passion for swimming that I thought I had.
"I ran away. I had to leave. I had to get away. I had to leave swimming. I had to leave my home in Virginia. I couldn't hear it anymore, day in and day out. Why are you not swimming well? Why do you want to stop?"
Moses moved to Orlando, took up golf, hobnobbed with Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill and watched Tiger Woods hit balls two stalls over on the driving range at Isleworth. He turned pro in golf, entered PGA Tour qualifying school and failed -- twice.
Moses moved to California, started an entertainment company, piloted a
He enjoyed life.
"I worked out and played golf all day long for four years," he said.
Moses went five years without a swim practice but still had plenty of friends in the sport. The two biggest swim meets in 2010 were near his Southern California home, so he was a spectator at the August 2010 U.S. nationals and Pan Pacific championships in Irvine.
The U.S. didn't win breaststroke gold at the Pan Pacific championships, and the top American in the 100 -- Moses' best event -- swam 1:00.21, the same as Moses' former national record from seven years ago.
The ban on high-tech suits coupled with a lack of star power brought the 100 breast back to turn-of-the-millennium levels in the U.S.
USC swim coach Dave Salo pointed out the ordinary times to Moses on the deck and, in jest, urged a comeback. Moses laughed it off, but it got him thinking.
Shortly thereafter, Moses flew to Las Vegas with swim pal Ryan Lochte.
"Ryan goes, 'Look man, you're in great shape, and I know you told me you never want to swim again, but breaststroke in the U.S. isn't anything amazing right now, and your times from 10 years ago would make the Olympic team,'" Moses recalled.
Moses was convinced. Needing a coach, he emailed Salo and then USA Swimming. He filed the necessary paperwork and got back in the pool.
Those coming out of retirement must wait nine months before competing internationally due to drug-testing rules. So Moses is cleaning up on the U.S. Masters circuit, lapping a competitor on his way to sweeping the breaststrokes and shattering age-group records at April's short-course Masters national championships.
His most recent Masters swim was a 1:05.16 in the 100 breast last weekend, four seconds slower than the best overall U.S. time this year. He won't be able to measure himself against the best until August, when his nine-month wait ends and he enters the national championships.
In the meantime, he's been filming another TV show -- this one with Lochte, titled
Moses' goal is to make the Olympic team at age 32 in 2012. If he does, he would be the second-oldest U.S. male Olympic swimmer since 1924 (behind Jason Lezak).
"I'm having to boost my own confidence and get it back to the level that I had 10 years ago where I was taking no prisoners," Moses said. "I need a little more of that, and that bar that I have is just continuing to get higher every day."
Another U.S. breaststroker makes his return at the final USA Swimming Grand Prix meet of the season in Santa Clara beginning Thursday.
Four-time Olympic medalist Brendan Hansen will compete for the first time since the 2008 Olympics in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke.
Moses and Hansen are the latest in a long line of international swimming comebacks in the past year. Australians Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim, Geoff Huegill and Libby Trickett are training again, as is 39-year-old Janet Evans.
The FIVB Beach Volleyball world championships take place in Rome this week, and American teams are the top seed on both sides.
2008 Olympic champions Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers go in as favorites, though they had to withdraw from a tournament in Beijing last week after Dalhausser sprained his ankle. Dalhausser and Rogers captured the world title in 2007 and settled for bronze in 2009.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won in Beijing last week and will go for their fourth straight world championship (excluding 2009, when they did not compete). The defending world champions, Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, enter Rome as the top-ranked pair.