Champion swimmer returns to his old stomping grounds to volunteerMoorhead, Minn. (WDAY TV) - A champion swimmer, who spent years training in a Moorhead pool, is now spending time out of the water, helping young people who also have Olympic dreams. 25-year old Ronnie Hehn had a stellar career swimming at the University of Indiana. He has qualified twice for Olympic Trials, including the ones in 2012. More on how Ronnie is not only paying it forward, he says he is giving back.
By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY
Ronnie: “Luke, I like that tempo. That is what we have been working on, that nice slower tempo, perfect.”
Ronnie Hehn is at his old stomping grounds. But this time, he is out of the water, shouting encouragement, coaching, and supporting.
Ronnie: “A little change seems like a huge change, but it is not. Let's go to back stroke, good technique. Let's see what you got.”
Several nights a week, Ronnie works with the Marlins, a local swimming club. He got his start with the Marlins, long before he shined as a standout swimmer at Indiana.
Ronnie: “Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect, heard that one before.”
But this swimmer, who studied philosophy Greek and Latin in college, will tell you, he is more than just a mentor or coach to these kids.
RONNIE HEHN - Volunteer Swim Coach: “Surprisingly, the swimming is the smallest part of it. I try to help them with their lives and personal growth as much as possible. That is what I took out of swimming. Swimming is not life, but swimming can teach you a lot about life.”
There were times Ronnie wanted to quit swimming as a child, growing up in a single parent home, money was tight and swimming required so much focus and attention. But his coach Pat Anderson proved to be a mentor who would guide Ronnie thru his swimming journey that would take him to the Olympic trials.
PAT ANDERSON - Ronnie's Former Coach: “For me and Ronnie, we are not looking for the glory as much as we are impacting kid's lives for the better.”
Swimmers like Ronnie could be charging big bucks to coach and teach future champions. He volunteers.
“He is trying to give back, in the same way. He knows there are kids out there not as fortunate. If he charged what he could or would, they are just not going to hear what he has to say.”
“Just life lessons and you learn them in the pool.”
Now, as he trains for another round of the Olympic trials, Ronnie finds himself changing the lives of young swimmers.
Madeline Johnson: “Someone who has gone so far in the sport, just helping you and taking the time to want you to do better. And he believes in you.”
Abbie Gerdes: “A really good role model to look up to and really good at swimming.”
Who like himself, dream of ruling the water.
Ronnie: “There are ups and downs. That is life. There are times in life things don't turn out the way you want it, but if you stick with it and persevere, good things happen.”
Ronnie's Olympic Trials are set for July of 2012 in Omaha.