BY LUCIANA PAZ
It’s 5 a.m. and Norwegian senior, Martin Hammer, a psychology major, is up and ready. The 6 foot 4 inch tall swimmer, wearing a man bun, eats a coconut chocolate chip cliff bar and drinks c-vitamin water every morning when he is on season. He carries his mirror gold or silver “Swedish goggles,” and dons a red or black UT Nike bathing suit. He is ready to ride his motorcycle to school for his 6 a.m. morning practice.
Hammer is the fastest man on UT’s swim team, and the fastest swimmer UT has ever had in the 50 short course yards’ freestyle event. At the NCAA Division II Championship his junior year, he achieved a 19.67 second record for this event. This human torpedo, after graduating in May, is on the road to qualify for the 50 and perhaps the 100 meter long-course freestyle events in the 2020 Olympics held in Tokyo.
At only 11-12 years old Hammer had the dream of going to the Olympics. “When I was young my main goal, first of all, was swimming for a swim team in the US and I made it happen,” Hammer said. “Two years ago, I really started to train and eat healthy in order to make it to the Olympics in Rio but I didn’t make, I was close-ish but not close enough. Since then I have kept training and staying in shape to reach my goal.”
The qualification period for the Olympics begins in August 2019, meaning swimmers have one year to qualify within that time interval. The qualifying mark is 22.10 seconds and Hammer has a time of 22.75 seconds.
“It’s a little stretch but then again it’s three and a half years, so hopefully that should be enough,” said Hammer. “I’m just trying to become as fast as possible until then, so for me it’s important to not take breaks, you have to keep training, and training, and training and training all the time.”
Before the end of the week during a full training season, Hammer is able to get a full-body workout by the end of the week and get in at least 3 hours of swimming per day. Although he is off-season now, he continues to swim with the team in the mornings, by himself in at noon and lift usually in the morning or afternoon, depending on his classes and what he has time for.
“Hammer is a special swimmer because he not only does his full performance in the pool, he gives his all outside the pool,” said Stefano Vrolijk, a junior International Business and Marketing major and teammate of Hammer’s. “For instance, the diet, the hours of sleep, the gym, the not going out…everything. There are many things he sacrificed to be what he has become.”
Hammer has trained with UT for four years and has been named UT-All American for four consecutive years since 2014. As a senior he registered top times in the 100 free (44.03) and 50 free (19.87) at the 2017 NCAA Division II Championship festival, and the 200 free (1:42.42) at the 2017 Sunshine State Conference Championships.
“This past season it was pretty much him against the clock but he was always looking back to the underclassmen encouraging them to keep chasing him up and down the pool,” said Ed Brennan, head swim coach. “His example let everyone in the pool know that there is no substitute for constant dedicated effort.”
For his three previous years, Hammer was challenged daily by his teammates.
“I learned from him more than being a good swimmer and being disciplined, I learned to be a leader because he was a leader in the team and gave us all great confidence,” Vrolijk said. “He has helped us maintain ourselves together in the good and bad times.”
Although he did not break his record this year at nationals in Georgia, Hammer explained that he has grown even more as person and athlete and learned about what it takes to improve. As result, this mentality gave him the momentum to shatter the national record in Norway the weekend after nationals in the U.S.
“I swam and I just touched and I just heard the speaker going crazy, I heard everyone going crazy, so just those moments where everyone is cheering for you in a sense, it’s just, pretty big,” Hammer said.
Hammer says he is 90% sure that after graduation he is moving back to Norway where he will train in a brand-new swimming facility with the national Norwegian swim team. He will follow a three and half year program centered around him to reach his full potential.
“I’ve always had a dream of making it to the Olympics and I’m fairly close so that’s kind of [what] really motivates me even more,” Hammer said. “It wouldn’t be right to quit now I wouldn’t feel finished. I wouldn’t feel like I tried everything so I’m going to give it an honest trying now, everything I can for the next three years and see how fast I can go.”
Hammer has mixed feelings about leaving UT but he said, “I know I will miss it a lot, I have so many great memories from here, but it’s time to take the next step and I’m excited about that too.”