Competitive swimming at the world-class level takes dedication, persistence, focus and a positive mental attitude, attributes that Steve West, at age 40 the oldest American male to ever qualify for the Olympic swimming trials, has in spades. It’s these very characteristics that have made West equally successful as co-founder and president/CTO of Irvine-based Project Insight, an online project management software provider. OC METRO recently touched base with Steve, who will compete against men half his age in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke to represent the U.S. in this summer’s Olympic Games.
OC Metro: How do you train for the Olympics while running a company?
Steve West: My family and work comes first, and swimming is part of my exercise routine. I swim anywhere from three to five times per week, for one hour only. I also try to lift weights at least once during the week and have added on one Pilates training session every Monday morning. When I do swim, I usually work on just my events, and I work very hard with the time I have.
OCM: How has your life as a competitive swimmer translated into business success?
SW: One of the most important lessons that swimmers learn is the ability to set goals and then stay focused on those goals and learning to take challenges head on. Swimming also teaches you how to accept and overcome setbacks when they occur. Starting and running a business is very similar. You have to work at being the best that you can possibly be … just like in swimming.
OCM: What are some of your swimming accomplishments?
SW: I am proud of being a member of the four-time Big 10 Championship and 1995 NCAA Championship team with the University of Michigan. Some of my personal achievements include placing third at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials. At the international level, I earned silver medals in the 200 Meter Breaststroke in the 1994 Goodwill Games, the 1995 World University Games and the 1999 Pan American Games.
OCM: How does training at 40 differ from training at 18?
SW: At 18, I was working out 20 or more hours per week. I just don’t have the time or the willpower to train like that anymore. I’m perfectly okay with that because my only goal is to stay in shape. I really have no expectations, so when I compete I just go with it and see what happens.
OCM: Do your younger competitors treat you differently? If so, how?
SW: I really don’t know what they think about having 40-year-olds swimming with them, but hopefully it shows them that they can swim longer and with more success than they previously thought. I know that when I was growing up in the sport, the “older” swimmers were just starting to stay into the sport longer. Some of the Masters swimmers are still competing well into their 80 and 90s, which is incredible!
Keep your eyes out for West at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials June 25–July 2.
Fact: Steve West’s company, Project Insight, has donated funds to the Surfrider Foundation, the Orange County-based nonprofit that’s helping to clean up the oceans.