Just a way to stay healthy, that’s all swimming was for six-year-old Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez when he picked up the sport with his brother. It was a way for them to motivate each other. And after 13 years and a trip across the Atlantic Ocean it seems to have worked.
Solaeche-Gomez started competing only one year after he began training – a race he still remembers.
“I was probably seven years old, and it was the 25 (meter) breast stroke. I remember that I was really nervous and I missed the first start because someone made a noise and I made a false start, but at that point they let us have two so I got back in and raced,” said the UF Junior.
He would go on to win that race, the first of many. But it wouldn’t be until high school that Solaeche-Gomez noticed his potential when he won his first junior national title in the 400-meter individual medley (IM) by, as he recalled, about five seconds – practically an eternity in the pool. From then on, swimming became his main focus.
Now a Gator and four-time All-American swimming 7,000 to 12,000 yards a day, this has become an identity for him.
“Swimming is my life,” he said. “We train a lot…If you don’t really like it you wouldn’t be doing this.”
Originally from Madrid, Spain, the swimming culture there is much more intimate.
“We’re more close to each other I would say. So for example the relation I had with my coach was almost the same as I have with my father,” he said.
A relationship he has since lost after coming to Florida because his coach from Spain no longer talks to him.
He chose Florida because it has always been a well-known school around the world for IM and middle distance events – Solaeche-Gomez’s forte – as well as being able to swim under a renowned coaching staff and the chance to train with a swimmer like Ryan Lochte.
Coming off eye surgery last year – the seventh or ninth in his life – from an old injury he sustained as a child when his brother hit him in his right eye with a rock that almost cost him his eye, Solaeche-Gomez was feeling down after last season. Then his moral would take another blow.
Solaeche-Gomez was snubbed from the Spanish national team this summer and therefore not allowed to compete in the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona. It wasn’t something he or UF head swim coach Gregg Troy, took lightly.
Troy told him the best thing he could do to let the Spanish national team know he was a good swimmer was to break a national record. The 200-meter IM, his favorite swim, was his goal.
“I feel really strong in that event,” he said. “You have to sprint all the time… It’s not as long as the 400 (IM) since you have to be a little patient. In the 200 (IM) you can just go all out probably since the first 25 (meters).”
On August 8, his goal was actualized when he swam his best long-course 200-meter IM at the 2013 Spanish Nationals in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.
“When I got off the blocks I just thought about all the hard work that I was doing, about all my teammates and all the support the coaches gave me here,” he said. “I thought about all those guys, all the mornings, all the stuff that we’ve been going though and, you know, the hard work and I saw myself ready and I said ‘now is the moment to do, all year training for this’ so I was really ready. I wasn’t even feeling pain or tired I was just focused on keep swimming fast.”
He touched at 1:59.39, making him the fastest Spaniard to ever swim the event.
After his strong summer, Solaeche-Gomez is poised for a big year.
Troy called him one of his potential breakout swimmers this season at the All-Sports press conference on Sept. 16.
“It’s always good hearing that from your coach. That means he has his confidence in you,” Solaeche-Gomez said. “He makes me feel important on the team…I just decided to change my mind. I give my best all the time.”
And a confidence boost at this point may be all he needs to reach the next level.