Swimming with Olympic medalist Brendan Hansen at new Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy

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Brendan Hansen heads up the swim program at the new Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy on Southwest Parkway. CHRIS LEBLANC photo.

A huge new swim facility just opened in southwest Austin, so I grabbed my suit, set my alarm clock for 4:50 a.m. and headed to practice.

After all, six-time Olympic medalist Brendan Hansen, who heads up the swim program at the sparkling new Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy, was coaching.

Chris Lewallen, left, and Brendan Hansen, right, at the new Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy.

Chris Lewallen, left, and Brendan Hansen, right, at the new Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy. CHRIS LEBLANC photo

During his career, Hansen collected three gold, one silver and two bronze medals, which we hope are now tucked away for safekeeping. (Remember back in 2008, when he accidentally left a gold one on a Southwest Airlines flight and it went missing for a day until another passenger found it and returned it?) Now he’s heading the swim program at Austin’s newest big-league swimming pool.

You should see the place. The Olympic-sized 25-yard by 50-meter pool grabs your attention first, but there’s also a 5,500-square-foot indoor training facility, spacious dressing rooms with showers and lockers, outdoor training spaces and an on-site running trail.

“Austin really needs this – everything’s under one roof,” says Hansen. “It’s the whole concept of parking the car, coming in and swimming, biking and running in one place.”

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Nate O’Brien, right, and Mattew Willenbring, left, test out the bikes at the new Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy. CHRIS LEBLANC photo

 

SolarWinds CEO Kevin Thompson and his wife Patti built the facility, which offers a competitive age group swimming program, U.S. Masters Swimming, triathlon training and water polo.

It opened to the public for a sneak peek this week. You can still drop by tomorrow for a free masters’ swim practice at 6:30 a.m. and a free community strength and conditioning workout at noon.

A trio of friends joined me for pre-dawn practice Wednesday. Hansen stood on deck while swimmers churned back and forth across 20 lanes of water.

Thoughts? Water temperature, perfect. Size of pool, enormous. Atmosphere, dark. (These 5:45 a.m. workouts give me tunnel vision …) General vibe, kicked back and fun.

Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy opened this month. CHRIS LEBLANC photo

Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy opened this month. CHRIS LEBLANC photo

Hansen loves to joke around, but I have a sneaky feeling that the hammer drops when you’ve been training with him a few weeks. It wasn’t until the hour-and-15-minute session was nearly over that Hansen doled out a nice lung-burning sprint set, reminding us that “sometimes I like to drive fast.” He’s coaching the masters program now, but says he’s looking for a world-class coach to take over that program while he focuses on the club program.

The place impresses out of the water, too.

Chris Lewallen, the center’s director of strength and conditioning, worked with Hansen before the 2012 Olympics. He’ll lead four types of classes here – one based on stretching, another based on strength, one based on speed and a fourth, a boot camp dubbed “scorch.” The training room is outfitted with snazzy bikes, exercise machines and stretchy harnesses designed to provide gut-wrenching core workouts.

The training room at Austin Academy & Sports Academy. CHRIS LEBLANC photo

The training room at Austin Academy & Sports Academy. CHRIS LEBLANC photo

“It’s all about atmosphere. The way people go to the next level in training is the people,” Hansen says. “I want people to walk in the door and be excited about taking it to the next level. That could be to drop 50 pounds, or it could be to go to the Olympics.”

The Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy, 3315 Southwest Parkway, is home to the Austin Swim Club competitive age program and CenTex Water Polo Club. The Austin Academy Triathlon Club and multi-sport programming will launch in March, with the addition of cycling and running classes. A four-week triathlon clinic and a water polo training camp for youth are scheduled for February. Small group fitness classes, personal one-on-training and private swim instruction.

For more information go here.


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