For a lot of athletes the big question is what to do when your playing days come to an end. These days you'll find Gabe Woodward at a Wells Fargo in Bakersfield as a financial advisor.
If swimmers are obsessed with their times and numbers, a glance at Woodward's computer filled with information on the latest stock exchange numbers shows to some extent, he still is.
"Training for the Olympics is much harder in a tiresome way," said Woodward. "You're exhausted. This (banking) you get mentally tired but it's a lot easier."
Born and raised in Bakersfield the Stockdale grad made the US 4x100 relay team and traveled to Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games where the Americans took home a bronze medal. "The more you look back the more you see how special it was," he said. "Especially now that I have kids and I look back like 'Man, making the Olympics is really hard!"
He would miss making the 2008 relay team by a tenth of a second but still has fond memories of his time swimming four years prior. He remembered one story of meeting Muhammed Ali as the boxing legend was getting ready to do an interview for ESPN. After taking a picture, Ali jokingly acted like he was running off with Woodward's wife.
He also remembers a "pep talk" he gave to the swim team that included Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. He said, "Guys, this is the Olympic Games. They're like yeah we know."
After the Games he returned to Bakersfield where he bought the Bakersfield Swim Club (BSC) with the hope of preventing childhood drownings.
"It's not cancer, it's not something that's like wow, we couldn't have done anything or we did the most we could. This is teaching kids how to swim," he said.
From time to time Woodward stops by BSC and if those appearances don't inspire the next generation, events like this weekend certainly will. Through his connections he brought fellow Olympians to a watch party at the Fox Theater. Olympians like Jason Lezak, Woodward's roommate in the '04 Games, who famously came from behind in the '08 4x100 relay to win gold for the US. "To come back to the community and now for the first time I'm actually not competing in the Olympics in 20 years," Lezak told 23ABC. "I get to become a spectator and appreciate the Olympics for what they are and cheer my country on."
Two time medalist Larsen Jensen, who graduated from Garces Memorial, was also at the watch party saying," It starts in this great Central Valley of California where hard work and determination is really what's looked up to."
"I just want our kids here in Bakersfield to be able to get the best," Woodward said.
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