I met Davis Tarwater sometime around 2004 and his story of persistence and triumph are what inspired this song.
He grew up in Knoxville and started swimming competitively at age 7. Coaches noticed that he was gifted from an early age and his personal dedication to becoming faster and stronger eventually propelled him to a state title in high school and an opportunity to swim collegiately at the University of Michigan alongside teammate Michael Phelps. The opportunity was incredible, and Davis grabbed it by the horns. While at Michigan, Davis broke all kinds of records, got named an All American multiple times, and he qualified for the Olympic trials. Most interesting to me though is that while at Michigan, Davis switched his competitive focus from the freestyle to the butterfly.
All of these honors were huge achievements, but the paragraphs that follow are what inspired me to write this song.
Tarwater qualified for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials and finished fourth in the 200-meter butterfly, missing the Olympics by less than half a second. (The Top 2 Qualifiers from each event make the Olympic team.) He was heartbroken, but knew that he could give it another run in 2008 so he continued to train for 4 more years alongside Phelps and other Olympians.
In 2008 he qualified for the US Olympic Trials once again, and Tarwater was quoted by the Knox News Sentinel as being “stronger than ever.” In the prelims and semi-finals he swam two of his fastest times ever, placing him in the finals where he needed to place in the Top 2 to make the 2008 Olympic team.
Tarwater swam his personal best time ever, but he fell short and placed 3rd… missing the Olympics by 6 tenths of second.
Heartbroken again, Davis formally announced his retirement from swimming and decided to attend graduate school at Oxford.
But sometime around 2010, he got the itch one more time… and he decided that he wanted to compete at the 2012 Olympic Trials not only in the butterfly, but also in the freestyle.
It was definitely the best decision of his life. Davis trained harder than ever, and swam faster than ever.
In 2012, Davis Tarwater made the Olympic team as a member of the 4 x 200 Relay Team.
Upon hearing this news, I got so pumped up that the lyrics to this song literally just flowed out of me in an afternoon. Michael crafted all of the music and recorded a demo. We sent it to Davis while he was in London prepping for his Olympic race, and according to Davis he listened to it right before he got in the pool to swim the race of his life.
If you’re wondering, that big heavy thing around his neck is an Olympic Gold medal.