MEDFORD, Ore. – In Olympic swimming, there’s Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Among 8-year-olds, there’s Marcus Gentry. Gentry is one of the top 8-year-old swimmers in the country. He’s so good he competes against kids sometimes five years older than him.
“He’s not the tallest of the 8-year-olds,” his coach John Cooper says, “but he’s definitely the strongest and he works the hardest.”
You’d know his age by his slight stature, his kid-like energy and his noticeable shyness, but you’d never know by watching him in the pool.
“I just got the magic touch when I was born,” Marcus says. “I think I was born to swim.”
In fact, when he was just a baby, Marcus learned to swim at his family’s lakehouse.
“He actually started as a baby with the mommy and me classes at nine months old,” his mother Melissa Gentry says. “I would let go of him and he would bob in the water, and the instructor said, ‘He’s swimming.’”
Although Marcus says he was born to swim, the path to becoming elite took work.
“Everybody says they want to win, but he really puts the time and effort into doing it,” Cooper says.
Marcus says his success stems in part from going to every practice.
“I make sure I don’t get sick and I eat good foods,” Marcus says.
“Go to every practice, make sure you don’t get sick and eat good foods,” I said. “Is it that easy?”
“Yeah,” he said.
It may be rare that an 8-year-old is so concerned with his physical health. His diet includes plenty of veggies, egg whites in the morning and a mom-made smoothie at least once a day.
“She puts orange juice in it, spinach, oranges, bananas and berries,” Marcus says.
It’s all part of the process that gives Marcus an edge on his competition. His healthy approach also has added benefits like bigger muscles, and Marcus reaps the benefits of his sculpted physique.
“It makes it easier to kick and take strokes,” Marcus says. “It makes you get more power.”
The hard work, the healthy eating and the focus… It’s the same approach of star swimmers like Phelps and Lochte, but in this case it’s Marcus Gentry, the top 8-year-old swimmer in the state.