Before he started setting world records, three-time Olympic medalist Matt Grevers was a 6-year-old sitting on a bench beside a YMCA pool in Waukegan.
The 6-foot-8 qualifier for the 2012 Olympic team started his swimming career early with the Lake County Family YMCA Northern Lake Seahorse Swim Team.
Mike Hewitt, who has been head coach of the Seahorse team for the past 27 years, said Grevers came to swim team practices with his mom to watch his older brother, Andy, and sister, Caroline. One day, Hewitt persuaded Grevers' mom to let him swim.
"I said, 'If he's going to come with you all the time, why don't you put him in the water?'" Hewitt said. "We put him in, no pressure, just to see what he could do."
Starting in the shallow end of the pool, Grevers' talent progressed.
"It was obvious early on that he had a special ability," Hewitt said.
Grevers continued swimming with the YMCA team in Waukegan for another year before moving to Lake Forest, where he joined the Lake Forest Swim Club. Years later, Grevers joined the Lake Forest High School swim team, which led him to a successful college swimming career at Northwestern University.
In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Grevers won two gold medals by swimming in the preliminaries of the men's 400-meter medley relay and 400-meter freestyle relay and took the silver in the 100-meter backstroke.
Jerod Schroeder, head men's swimming coach at Northwestern, worked with Grevers for his first three years there as a volunteer coach.
Although Grevers has trained in Arizona for the past five years, Schroeder said he keeps in touch with him. Schroeder said he is currently at the Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb., watching Grevers from the pool deck.
"Watching him the other night, he's the top guy in the world right now," Schroeder said. "He'll be the favorite to win the gold in London. I don't think there's anyone that can come close to him right now."
Grevers recently set the second-fastest world record at the Olympic trials with a time of 52.08 in the 100-meter backstroke final. He is expected to compete in the 200-meter backstroke and 50-meter freestyle trials this weekend.
Hewitt believes the several Illinois swim teams Grevers participated on throughout the years played "a small part" in his success.
"The only credit we can take is that we got him started," he said.