TORONTO, Feb 29 (Reuters) - The lure of an Olympic medal after an agonising near-miss in Beijing four years ago convinced Canadian breaststroker Mike Brown to ditch a career in real estate and come out of retirement for the London Games.
Brown hung up his goggles after placing fourth at the 2008 Olympics, where he missed out on a medal by .09 of a second, but after staying out of the water for 18 months he decided selling real estate was not enough to satiate his competitive appetite.
“I was wearing a suit and tie every day which was a bit far removed from my Speedo and sweatpants that I wear on a normal basis,” Brown told reporters at a Canadian Olympic media summit.
“But sports is a great thing and I missed the competition, I missed competing for Canada, I missed the travel and I missed everything that comes with it.”
The two-time Olympian, one of Canada’s most successful international swimmers over the past decade, played recreational basketball and spent time in the weight room after announcing his retirement from competitive swimming in May 2009.
But according to Brown, 27, retiring and freeing himself from the rigours of early-morning workouts in the pool was the best thing he could have done for his career.
“When you take a break knowing you’re coming back in a couple months you don’t have a clean mental break, you always have it in the back of your mind that you’re coming back,” said Brown.
“I had a clean break, mental freshness, and came back with a whole new perspective of the sport and am just enjoying every moment of it.”
Brown was among the favourites to medal in the 200 meters breaststroke in Beijing after winning one of the two semi-finals, in a Canadian national record time of two minutes 08.84 seconds.
But he missed out on the podium after going fractionally slower in the final, coming fourth in 2:09.03.
His goals for London are to break his Canadian record and make the podium and the early signs are good.
He won at the Eastern Canadian Championships on Feb. 17, his final tune-up up ahead of the March 27-April 1 Canadian trials, despite the pain his body is experiencing through training.
“Oh it hurts,” said Brown, who has since shed the 20lb (9kg) he gained during his retirement.
“As I get older my body seems to be hating me more and more as the training keeps going but that’s part of sport and I love it.”
While the real estate job in the western Canadian city of Calgary did not offer Brown the challenge he was looking for, it was the performance by his winter counterparts at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics that ultimately inspired his comeback.
But rather than get caught up in the excitement of watching Canadian athletes capture 14 gold medals in Vancouver, a record for any country at a single Winter Games, Brown decided to let his enthusiasm simmer before announcing his comeback.
“It just reminded me of competing in Beijing and in Athens and having that pride of being Canadian and watching my fellow team mates on the winter side compete and seeing their passion, their excitement and their disappointment and everything that goes in with the Olympic Games,” said Brown.
“It’s something that I am never going to get back again. I am only going to be able to do this for so long ... so I said let’s do it.” (Editing by Julian Linden)