Jason Louser very well may have what it takes to become a world-class swimmer. What fuels him?
Would you believe disappointment?
Disappointment fired up Louser’s determination after he failed to earn a spot in the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships that were contested last August in Fiji.
“I kind of became more determined,” Louser told the Riverhead News-Review in a phone interview Friday from Palo Alto, Calif., where he competed earlier this month in both the USA Swimming National Championships and Junior National Championships.
Now, however, the 18-year-old Shoreham man is moving on to bigger and better things. He will swim for the United States in the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, having qualified for the 400-yard individual medley. The meet will be held in Budapest, Hungary Aug. 20-25.
“I was just kind of shocked because I really didn’t think that I would be able to do it after the summer that I’ve had,” said Louser, who calls this the greatest achievement of his accolade-filled swimming career. “I was amazed because … I kind of proved myself wrong.”
Louser, an incoming freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, said he has a history of underestimating himself. This time, though, there seemed to be significant cause for doubt to creep in. Louser said he had been ill for a couple of weeks earlier this summer with “severe asthma” and a cold and had trouble breathing. His prospects for competing in the national meets didn’t look good. “I was definitely very frustrated and almost thinking about giving up on the year,” he said. “I didn’t think I would make it.”
But Louser said his Long Island Aquatic Club coaches, Dave Ferris and Ginny Nussbaum, encouraged him and kept his spirits up. Then, about a month before nationals, he started feeling better.
The pressure was on Aug. 2 when he hit the water for the 400 IM. “I was trying to keep my energy under control,” he said. “My coach talks about it. When you get nervous, it’s your body getting ready to fight or flight … I just had to trust the training that I did.”
That training helped him place 15th in 4 minutes, 23.66 seconds, securing for him a spot on the team for the world junior nationals.
Louser had originally planned to swim up to eight events in the junior nationals — also held at Stanford Avery Aquatic Center’s outdoor pools — later in the month. However, his was among the prominent names scratched out of almost all of those events so he could focus on training in the morning and early afternoon for the world junior championships.
Louser swam in five events (400 IM, 200 IM, 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 fly) at the nationals and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in all of them. The trials will be swum in Omaha, Neb., next June.
The 400 IM combines four swimming styles: the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Louser’s best time in the event is 4:18.7.
In high school, the 6-7 Louser was an independent swimmer for Shoreham-Wading River. He graduated as a two-time All-American, a five-time state champion and the New York State record-holder in both the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke. He was twice named the state meet’s most outstanding competitor. The Riverhead News-Review bestowed another honor on him in June, naming him its SWR Athlete of the Year for 2018-19.
Louser is looking forward to representing the U.S., something he has done twice before — with the junior national team earlier this year in Canada and last year in the Irish Open in Ireland. Does representing the stars and stripes energize him in competition?
“It really does,” he said. “It’s hard to explain. It’s just a whole other meaning of competition and who you’re representing.”
Photo caption: Jason Louser, 18, of Shoreham will compete in the 400-yard individual medley later this month at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)