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by Cheryl Wagner

July 19, 2000

Also a dietician and coach

Jerry Frentsos was a 1988 Olympic alternate in the 400 IM. He's also a dietician, and coach for the DCAC team. He's a thoughtful and interesting person as well as an excellent athlete who recently set a Masters world record of 4:32.23 in the 400-meter IM and a USMS record of 2:08.42 in the 200-meter IM. Here is an interview with Jerry with his thoughts about training, coaching and nutrition. For more about Jerry see his website, Nutrition Intiution

Q: Where are you from and when did you start swimming?

A: When I was six I followed in my brothers' footsteps and began swimming. I saw how much they enjoyed swimming and all of the new friends they made. I swam all year round although my parents encouraged us to also play basketball, soccer and baseball to find out what we liked doing. Around the age of 12, swimming became a priority. I wasn't the fastest and rarely made finals, but I worked harder than any of the other kids on the team. I was one of the smallest kids but my coach believed in me and told me I'd be the best someday.

Q: Did you swim in high school and college?

A: I swam in high school and at the University of Florida for 3 years. I raced the 400 IM, 200 IM and some backstroke events. I returned to Cincinnati each summer to swim under Chuck Warner because I knew that was when I made the most progress. In 1987 I decided to leave the University to train for the Olympic trials with Chuck.

Q: What was that year like?

A: During this year I lived with my Dad who had developed prostate cancer. The year was bittersweet for me; the trials were coming up but the closer they got, the sooner my Dad would pass away. I began doing extensive research to learn what habits had lead to the development of my Dad's cancer and also wanting to know the best way to prepare my body each day for my workouts.

In 1987 my best time for the 400 IM was 4:26; I needed to drop 6 seconds to qualify for the Olympics! I only had one year to accomplish this and I knew every workout had to count. I began studying nutrition to learn how many calories I needed to consume, how to decrease my recovery time and what to eat before, during, and after workouts. I knew that with the correct nutrition, I'd have the best chance of having a good practice.

Q: Was this a big adjustment?

A: No, not really. I think most people are confused about nutrition. It was more a matter of fine-tuning. I spread out my meals, found out what to eat before, during, and after practice, and also how to stay properly hydrated.

Energy level goes with your fluids—hydration status impacts athletic performance. For example, too much protein dehydrates the body since the body has to flush out nitrogen with water. But for every gram of carbohydrate ingested, the body retains three grams of water. As an athlete that's what you want—to stay properly hydrated.

Q: What happened at the Olympic trials?

A: At the trials, my dad smiled at me and waved, to wish me luck. I did the best race of my life, dropped 6 seconds and swam a 4:20. But when I touched the wall and looked up, I discovered that I was 3rd. I missed going to the Olympics by 0.18 seconds and become an alternate.

Q: I understand you coach the DCAC team.

A: I enjoy coaching. I coached at the college level in Cincinnati and I also coached older kids. I started a Masters team there, and coached them for 10 years. Often kids' motivation is weak. Masters choose to be there and like to improve and compete against their age. I love when a Masters swimmer comes to me and says, "I haven't done a best time since 1990. How can I improve?" I think that's a challenge. To see someone get better as they get older is exciting. I like seeing them get more technically advanced as they learn the mechanics and peacefulness of the stroke. Once they pick up a new technique, they want to improve and their enthusiasm picks up. I like watching people take it to the next step. That's what makes it fun for me. I will always coach Masters swimming.

Jerry Frentsos , R.D., from the Potomac Valley Newsletter.