Main Line Media News Monday, December 10, 2012
Three-time Olympian Brendan Hansen reflects on his swimming career
By David Block
After swimming in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, former Main Line Times Athlete of the Year Brendan Hansen swore that he would not vie for London and the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Haverford High School grad had already swam in two different Olympics: 2004 in Athens, Greece and 2008 in Beijing. That was Hansen’s limit, as he stated in 2008.
But deep down Hansen knew that he didn’t mean it, and wound up earning an Olympic spot at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England.
“I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try one more time,” said Hansen, a 2000 graduate of Haverford High.
Shortly after Hansen won the bronze in the 100 meter breast in London (with a clocking of 59.49), he told the media that he worked harder for that medal than any other he won.
In early December, Hansen said, “It summed up my entire career. I had always considered myself the underdog, and definitely not the most talented. I won that medal out of lane eight and everyone counted me out but I showed up and won a medal. For that, I am proud.”
His finishing time in London was faster than when he won the silver medal in that race at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games (1:00.3).
But Hansen’s 59:49 finish in London is not his best time. Rather, it is 59.13, a world record, which he set Aug. 1, 2006 at the ConocoPhillips National Championships in Irvine Calif.
Two years later, Hansen’s rival, Kosuke Kitajima of Japan, broke the record with a 58.91 finish at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. (The current world record holder in the 100-meter breast is Cameron van der Burgh at 58.46.)
Another high point in Hansen’s swimming career came on Aug. 21, 2006, at the 2006 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships held in Victoria, Canada, when he set a world record in the 200-meter breaststroke by winning it with a 2:08.50 finish.
The previous world record of 2:08.74 was Hansen’s, set Aug. 5, 2006 in Irvine Calif. The world record before that was 2:09:04, also set by Hansen two years earlier. The previous world record holder was Hansen’s nemesis, Kitajima.
In 2008, two years after Hansen set the world record in the 200-meter breast for a third consecutive time, Kitajima shattered it with a 2:07.51 clocking. (The world record for the 200-meter breast is now held by Akihiro Yamaguchi, 2:07.01.)
Although Hansen had beaten Kitajima over the years, he couldn’t at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympic Games. However, London was different story. In the 100 -meter breast, Kitajima finished fifth, two notches behind Hansen.
The media has focused on Hansen and Kitajima’s rivalry because, according to Hansen: “We were the two best breaststrokers in the world at the time, for almost six years. It made for a great story.”
However, Hansen’s wins over Kitajima, his world record times and his medals are not his proudest accomplishments. Rather it was being captain of the USA Olympic swim team in 2008 and 2012.
“I think that shows my character as a athlete and person more than any medal I have,” said Hansen.
In November, Hansen came home for a number of reasons. One was to be honored by the Philadelphia Eagles, and another was to visit his dying 97-year-old great-uncle Al.
“He (Uncle Al) was my second biggest fan,” said Hansen. “My grandfather, who was his brother, was my first. They were huge influences on my sports career and how I approach competition. I am forever grateful for the lessons that I have learned from them.
“I wanted to get home and see my Uncle Al in his nursing home to show him the medals. He had the whole nursing home cheering for me and half probably didn’t believe him until I walked in the door. I got to spend some quality time with him and tell him about my experience. He passed away two weeks later. I truly believe he hung around just to see those medals.”
Hansen’s reaction to the Eagles recognizing him: “Being recognized at the Eagles game was great. It was nice to see my home town support me like that, and hopefully there were some young kids in the stands coming to the realization that dreams do come true if you believe in yourself enough.”
Hansen still misses the Main Line.
“I miss my family,” said Hansen. “I live in Texas, and we never have snow days. I miss the chance you wake up in the morning to look outside and realize that everything is shut down because of snow.”
Hansen’s key goal right now is preparing for fatherhood. In January, he and his wife Martha will have their first child.