WoW Celebs: An Interview with Olympic Gold Medalist Matt Grevers

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With 11.5 million players, it comes as no surprise that World of Warcraft has a player base that includes a variety of celebrities: professional athletes, best-selling authors, and Oscar-winning visual effects artists. But how many games, even including single player titles, can include Olympic gold medalists in their player list?

After our last WoW Celebs article, Ten Ton Hammer was contacted by Olympic swimmer Matt Grevers who wanted to chat about his own experiences in WoW. Although he was a bit difficult to track down between his practices and photo shoots for Tyr Sports (the swimwear company he co-represents), we eventually caught up with the lean swimmer. Matt's unbridled enthusiasm for both swimming and  online gaming is readily apparent, and we hope you can take a moment to read about his online life story.

As always, please feel free to email me if you are a celebrity, run in a guild with a celebrity, or simply have a unique life story to tell. Don't be shy!

Ten Ton Hammer: I hear you're a big World of Warcraft guy. That's pretty cool.

Matt Grevers: Yeah, I guess so. I think it's pretty fun.

Ten Ton Hammer: For those readers that may not be familiar with your accomplishments, could you give us a brief rundown of your career?

Matt: I was a sophomore in college when I won my first NCAA title in the 100m backstroke beating Ryan Lochte who's pretty much second in the world to Michael Phelps. Then I won again my junior year and my senior year I won the 200m backstroke.

After college, I moved to Arizona and made the Olympic team. I earned a silver in the 100m backstroke and qualified for the 400m freestyle relay and the 400m  medley relay. I swam in the preliminaries for both races, and so I got a gold in both.

Ten Ton Hammer: Did you get to see much of China while you were there? Did you stop in any of the infamous gaming cafes? Maybe put in some hours on the Chinese WoW client?

Matt: I actually did get in some WoW while I was there. When I made the team, I actually decided that I'd earned a laptop. I'll tell you what it is, even though most gamers will yell at me.... I got a Mac. Shame on me, I know.

Ten Ton Hammer: Hey man, my laptop's a Mac too. They're practically indestructible.

Matt: I know! On top of that, it runs the game just fine.

So I make the team and we go straight from the meet to Palo Alto for a training camp there. That whole camp lasts about a month, and luckily I brought the discs with me because I knew if I made the team that I'd buy a computer. So I loaded WoW on for that month in Palo Alto, and I pretty much played WoW every day that month.

Ten Ton Hammer: You don't have anything else to do, right?

Matt: Right. People were getting bored out of their minds, and I was doing just fine.

Ten Ton Hammer: So did you get gaming time in Beijing?

Matt: Yeah, but my latency was pretty high. I couldn't do much, but it was a a great way to talk to all my friends at once. I'd just hop on Vent, and it was the best way to communicate with mass amounts of people.

Ten Ton Hammer: So did you get done with your races, log-in, and talk about how you just won the silver medal?

Matt: Pretty much. It was cool. Some of the guys in my guild actually ended up taking me - and this was before level 70 of course - on a raid and got me some Tier 6 pants and shoulders.

Ten Ton Hammer: So tell us a little bit about your training regimen. What's your day-to-day schedule like?

Matt: I usually have practice from 6-8 AM, then I eat until 9 AM. After that I'll hop on to WoW and play a few games of PvP or do some daily quests. I won't raid during the week very often unless my friends give me a text and let me know that there's a good tank or healer on with the group, because that makes things go a bit quicker.

Sunday is my biggest WoW day and when I put in the time to do the 25-man raids. During the normal week, I mostly PvP.

I've been playing this game before it actually came out. I was in the beta. I mean, when I was in college I skipped class the day it came out to play. I bought three copies, because I knew my roommates would need it to.

Ten Ton Hammer: So you eat from 8-9 in the morning?
Matt: Yup. I don't even like to eat, to tell you the truth. For me, it's a chore, because I get full pretty quickly. When I'm not in the hardest training, it's hard to get in the calories that I should. My weight fluctuates like ten pounds within just a few days. It's crazy.

Ten Ton Hammer: Tell us a little bit about your gaming history. It sounds like you've been a big gamer, so where did you start?

Matt: I've always enjoyed Blizzard games, but my sister's boyfriend introduced me to Starcraft. That was pretty much the end for me.

Ten Ton Hammer: Hooked?

Matt: Yeah. And then I played the original Warcraft and Diablo on the Playstation.

But what really sealed the deal was Diablo II and its hardcore mode. One summer we played on the hardcore server, and my buddies and I got really high on that. My friend had an Amazon up to level 88 before she died. He's a pretty mellow guy, but he just about broke his desk when he lost her. He's been my best friend for 15 years, and it's still angriest I've ever seen the guy.

I thought the hours were ridiculous, but that was before World of Warcraft came out.

Ten Ton Hammer: So was WoW your first MMO?

Matt: I definitely tried a whole bunch of others. Star Wars Galaxies...that game was one of the first and it was HARD. Diablo II is a pretty easy game, you don't need any real strategies in it. SWG needed time, and lots of people. We tried to make buildings, and I thought we were doing great, but we still sucked.

I also tried Final Fantasy XI, but both it and SWG seemed so slow.

Ten Ton Hammer: Walking back and forth between places took so long.

Matt: Exactly!

Ten Ton Hammer: So what's your main character in WoW?

Matt: I play a mage. I've got some decent gear, a few epics but nothing too good.

Ten Ton Hammer: What are you specced in?

Matt: Right now, I'm specced in Frost for our PvP team, but I usually change over to Frost/Fire for our raids.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are you excited about the Dual Spec stuff coming out?

Matt: Oh yeah. I'm pumped.

Y'know, I don't get why my teams so bad at the Arena. We consider ourselves to be good players, and we've gotten up to 1600 a few times, but we always go right back down. It doesn't make sense. I've just come to realize that we're not that good.

I thought it took some coordination to do PvE, but PvP is just a step beyond that. I feel like we're doing everything right, but we still get rocked.

Ten Ton Hammer: Those gamers are hardcore. They're like, "You might be an Olympic swimmer but I play WoW all the time."

Matt: Yup. There was actually one Sunday where we decided to skip raiding and just play a bunch of arena games. We did get a lot better; we figured out our healer wasn't good. He doesn't line-of-sight well.

Ten Ton Hammer: What'd you like the most about the new expansion?

Matt: Mages got a lot better. That was nice.

As much as I say I don't like leveling, I really do like leveling.

Ten Ton Hammer: Did you try rolling up the Death Knight?

Matt: Yeah I did, but I think he's only up to 64 or something like that. But my friend rolled up a Death Knight and I had a Ret. Paladin that I could level up to 80.

Ten Ton Hammer: So what's your favorite achievement so far?

Matt: I know people go all out for the heroic achievements, and I've gotten into groups to knock a whole bunch of those out. But I think my favorite so far is a PvP achievement that wants you to kill 100 people in a gunner seat. That one was really cool because, for some reason, no one was killing my gun and I was just nuking people for ten minutes.

It's something like "ammunition master" or something like that.

Ten Ton Hammer: Gaming addiction seems to be the "hot new topic" for internet psychologists and pseudo-scientists. How do you balance WoW and your training?

Matt: To be honest, there were times during college where I did play WoW too much. I was pulling all nighters in raid groups to try to get the best gear, but then I was falling asleep in class, and I knew that wasn't right.

I had friends that did fail out of school because they played too much WoW, and there's also a guy that got suspended from the swim team in Arizona because he played too much WoW. It's addicting and a really fun thing to do.

But, for me, I made my mistakes in the past. I started taking things casually. I stopped raiding every night. I didn't want to screw up my college experience, because it affects your personal life too. Friends might want you to go hang out, but WoW has all your friends on Vent, and that's fun too. You can get carried away pretty easily. But a small upgrade in gear isn't worth your schooling or friends.

I've got it figured out now though. I know in my head that I won't become too committed to this game. I might do some PvPing, because it's easy to jump in and out and not disappoint an entire group of people.

Ten Ton Hammer: Off-topic question - you're a pretty tall guy [Editor's Note: Matt's 6'8" tall], what kind of desk set up do you have?

Matt: I actually took wood shop in high school and I built my own gaming desk out of pure lumber. I cut the lumber up and made a desk out of it. It's definitely higher than most desks, but I didn't have time to put the keyboard tray on wheels, so it just hangs there.

Ten Ton Hammer: *laughs*

Matt: It's a pain in the butt to move around.

Ten Ton Hammer: One day you'll be moving it and it'll just fall off.

Matt: That'll be fine cause then I will be forced to fix it.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are you looking forward to any of the new MMOs or games coming out?

Matt: I'm definitely looking forward to Diablo III. All the old crew got really excited about it when it was announced.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Matt! We hope we can talk to you again soon!
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