Kurt Grote

They are some of the best swimmers in the world and yet some, including several on the U.S. Olympic team, share a medical condition that most people would consider a handicap -- asthma. Greg Lyon reports on Stanford's Kurt Grote.

He is one of the strongest swimmers on the U.S. team -- ranked as the fifth fastest in U.S. history in the breast stroke. But 23-year-old Kurt Grote didn't even start swimming until he was 15, and then only because his doctor recommended it to help with his asthma.

"[Asthma] is really common," says Grote. "As a matter of fact, a few people on the Olympic team are asthmatics. It's because the humidity of the surface of the water is good for people with asthma. It strengthens your lungs and your heart and allows you to improve."

Asthma also gave Kurt Grote a calling in life. He has been accepted at Stanford Medical School and wants to be a pediatrician. "That was my earliest goal," he recalls. "I was always really sick as a kid and spent a lot of time in my doctor's office, and he was a hero to me. You know, he always had put a smile on my face and always made me feel better, so I'd love to be just like him."

A lot of swimmers would love to be just like Kurt Grote. He is an intensely focused young man who often swims 10,000 meters a day in practice. "I actually keep a journal of all my workouts," he says. "I started this last fall. And so every time I do a workout, I write it down. I compare it to past workouts so I know exactly where I should be every single day."

Even a horrible bicycle accident could not prevent Grote from working out. Skip Kenney is his coach, "You know, [Kurt] had a bike accident and lost 17 percent of his skin and never missed a practice. Now, he couldn't do breast stroke in some of those earlier practices, but he never missed."

That dedication paid off. At the U.S. Olympic trials, Grote won the 200 meter breaststroke and finished second in the 100 meter. It was the culmination of an entire, if short, career. "I mean, that's what I've been doing since I started swimming seven or eight years ago; just trying to get ready for the times when you're supposed to be on fire, you know."

Grote credits his former teammates on the Stanford men's team with helping make him the athlete he is today, "The people on the team have just improved me as a person incredibly. They've improved my work ethic. They've made me care more about swimming because I love...to workout and I love swimming with them."

That feeling is obviously returned, as the men's swim team made clear during our poolside interview with Grote at Stanford. They were saying his name -- Kurt Grote -- something a lot of people may be doing before the games in Atlanta are over.

Kurt Grote enters medical school at Stanford this fall, after the Olympics.