For most college students, a lot of time is spent trying to find our purpose in life. We spend much time worrying over whether we are taking the right career path and fretting over what life will hold after college. Ben Griffin, however, is clear and exact when speaking about his main aspiration.
“My training partner Brendan (Hyland) and I want to be the first ever Irish male swimmers that never left the country to qualify for the Olympics,” says Griffin, barely blinking.
“There aren’t any Irish swimmers that qualified for the Olympics having stayed in the country. They’re all training in Canada, in Edinburgh or in Loughborough (Leicestershire). So (for us) to qualify would be massive.”
Indeed, Griffin is not short of inspiration when he splashes into the pool every morning at 5 o’clock in the National Aquatic Centre, when he trains with Irish Olympian Shane Ryan, a native of Drexel Hill, Pa. – nine miles west of Philadelphia.
“It was an inspiration to watch Shane Ryan qualify for the Olympic semi-final. For people like myself, who haven’t got that far yet, it’s a massive motivation to see that it can be done.
“It’s brilliant to get to train with him, seeing the way he does things and the positive mind frame that he approaches training with.
“It shows that it’s not just the elite American and British kids that can make it, the Irish can too, which is a massive mental block for us.”
Griffin, a second year student of Sport Science and Health, considered going to college in America before opting for DCU.
“It’s hard to argue that America isn’t the best place for a swimmer to be situated. They have the best swimmers and the best trainers in the world.
“I really wanted to stay close to my family, though. My main coach, Paul Donavan, has the experience of having coached in the University of Florida too.”
Along with international team mate Hyland, Griffin acts as assistant coach for the DCU Swimming Club. His main aim for the season is to qualify for the World University Games next August, as a representative of DCU. The competition takes place in Taipei, Taiwan.
“That’s the biggest International competition for somebody my age. I have until May to qualify. I’m confident I’ll get there once I keep my head down and work hard.”
Griffin, formerly an underage hurler with St. Sylvester’s in Malahide, is hoping to qualify for the 200 metres and 400 metres individual medley.
“At the moment I’m about two seconds off the qualifying pace for the 200s and four or five seconds off for the 400 metres, so there’s a bit of work to be done yet.”
Balancing his studies with his sporting career is a massive challenge, meaning that Griffin has to be very disciplined in how he leads his lifestyle.
“Normally I wake up at 4am, have breakfast and leave the house by half four. I’ve to be in the pool at five, but I try to get there ten or 15 minutes early to do a bit of stretching.
“I then swim from five to seven. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I do two two-hour sessions, and on Wednesday and Saturday I do a single session.”
All of these sessions take place at the National Aquatic Centre with the High Performance Unit. When core sessions and time spent in the gym are factored in, Griffin spends up to 35 hours a week in the gym.
“It can be tough if I have to go straight from the pool to college. If I can fit in a two-hour nap that helps massively.
“When I get home it’s about making sure that I don’t just fall into bed or watch Netflix. I have to be disciplined enough to actually get work done.
Griffin appreciates that his course is so intrinsically linked with his sporting career.
“We do a lot of stuff on nutrition, sleep cycles, macro and micro cycles. It’s good to be able to take stuff from the course and implement it straight into my training programmes.
“I already knew a lot of the stuff before I came to college, but to have a better understanding of how it affects my body is an added bonus.”
Incredibly, he manages to fit a part-time job in with his hectic schedule.
“I work part-time as a sales assistant in Elverys. I work in a sports store, I study sports and I play sport, so I don’t really have much time for anything else…I am big into my shoes though.”
College student by day, Elverys assistant by the weekend and swimming extraordinaire in between – Ben Griffin could yet be the man to take Irish swimming to the next level.
Image credit: Sportsfile