Rochester swimmer going for another gold medal during his third Olympic bid

Metro Detroit's Peter Vanderkaay is not only competing during the Summer Games, he is playing a key role on the team

A Rochester native will be competing at the Olympic level for the third time when the Summer Games open in London this Friday.

Peter Vanderkaay, 28, will be competing for another Olympic medal in the 400m freestyle in London this weekend.

"It means a lot. To be able to represent the U.S.A. once means a lot, but three times is incredible," Vanderkaay said.

Vanderkaay's parents, Mark and Robin, his three brothers Christian, Alex and Dane, his first swim coach Jeff Cooper and some other family friends will be traveling to England to cheer him on when he swims in the Olympic pool.

Although Vanderkaay already has two gold medals and a bronze, it's still a nail biter for his family to watch him compete.

Peter's mother, Robin Vanderkaay, said, "It's like the older I get, the more my heart races. At the trials, my oldest son's a family medicine resident, and I leaned over and said 'So Chris, if I faint, you'll know what to do, right?!'"

Vanderkaay will be competing in the 400 freestyle race on the first day, which he says he's excited about.

"I'm a middle distance freestyle, so it's right there in my wheelhouse," Vanderkaay said.

Vanderkaay started swimming at the age of seven for the Oakland Live Y'ers in Rochester. At 18, he began swimming and studying at the University of Michigan, under the direction of Jon Urbanchek, Mike Bottom, and Bob Bowman. Most recently, he moved to Gainesville, Florida to train with coach Gregg Troy.

Bob Bowman, who coaches Michael Phelps and Canton's Allison Schmitt, will also be making the trip to London as the assistant men's coach for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team.

"Peter has been just so consistent, and such a leader of the team. He's a very quiet leader, so it's great to see him back for his third Olympics," Bowman said.

Vanderkaay is one of six University of Michigan swimmers on this summer's Olympic team.

"I think that speaks volumes about the program there and what they're doing," Vanderkaay said.

For the Vanderkaay's, swimming is very much a family affair, his three brothers also swam for the University of Michigan.

"I never thought my boys would aspire to this level, and the fact that one of them did, feels amazing," said Mark Vanderkaay, Peter's father.

Vanderkaay made his Olympic debut in Athens in the 2004. He won a gold medal, and set a world record as part of the 800 meter freestyle relay team.

He returned to the Olympic pool in Beijing in the 2008 games, and came home with a gold in the 800 meter freestyle relay, along with a bronze in the 200 meter freestyle. Vanderkaay is training to win another medal in London.

"I swim every morning. We swim afternoons three times a week, and I'm still in the weightroom a little bit trying to keep my strength up and just staying in shape. There's nothing I can really do from here on out that's gonna get me in better shape, I just have to hold on to what I've done all year," Vanderkaay said.

Vanderkaay said he's not superstitous, and instead just tries to tune everything else out and focus on the things that he has to do in order to swim fast. For mom and dad, it's not so easy watching from the stands.

"It's kind of nerve racking as a parent because you don't have any control over what's going on down there on the deck," Mark Vanderkaay said.

" I just stare at him and watch his body language. It's kind of like everything stops. You don't see anybody around you or anything, you're just focusing on them," said his mother Robin Vanderkaay.

When the U.S. athletes parade out during the opening ceremony this Friday, Peter Vanderkaay will be missing, but for a very important reason.

"It's a lot of standing up and it can be kind of tiresome, so since I'm swimming the next day, I won't be marching," Vanderkaay said.

The Olympian's work is far from over after he competes in the 400 meter freestyle, Vanderkaay is a co-captain of the Team USA swim team. He sauid he hopes his experience helps impart on some of the younger team members.

Schmitt, a metro Detroiter, is also a member on the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team, said, "He's like a brother to me, and he's always there."

She will be competing in the 400m freestyle, the 200m freestyle, the 400m freestyle relay, and the 800m freestyle relay in London.

Vanderkaay's family is thrilled he will be playing an important role outside of the pool during the games.

"We thought it was fantastic because that tells us that his peers and coaches feel strongly enough about him and his leadership ability," Mark Vanderkaay said.

Although this veteran swimmer loves competing, Vanderkaay says he's looking forward to coming home to metro Detroit.

"I miss a lot about Michigan," said Vanderkaay. "You know what I've really been craving? A Tiger's game. I haven't been to a Tiger's game in like two years."

When the Olympic swimmer returns to metro Detroit , he plans to continue helping the Boll Family YMCA's Detroit Swims program, teaching Detroit children how to swim.

Vanderkaay plans to stay through the closing ceremony of the games, and also hopes to sight see in London with his parents and brothers after the swim team is done competing.

Vanderkaay said the really appreciates the support from the people of metro Detroit.

"It just means a lot to represent your hometown and the people in that area. They've given me so much support over the years, and I just can't thank them enough," Vanderkaay said.

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