ORCUTT, Calif. - One month after his silver medal winning performance in Rio de Janeiro, Olympic swimmer Josh Prenot is back home on the Central Coast.
"It feels great to be back," said Prenot while relaxing at his parent's home in Orcutt Friday morning. "I love this place. I'm just glad to be home, spend some time with family. It's a good time."
It's been a great summer for the 23-year-old Prenot, who earned his first trip to the Olympics by setting an American record in the 200-meter breaststroke at the U.S. Trials in July. He followed that up by capturing the silver medal in the same event in Rio.
"It was obviously a dream for me," said Prenot. "To actually accomplish that and be in Rio competing for my country was an incredible experience."
Prenot, who has been swimming since he was about seven years old, said he always wanted to be an Olympian for as long as he can remember.
"It was unreal," said Prenot. "It was an incredible experience and everything that I hoped for and every step of the way I'd walk around the village and see some high profile athlete, like Draymond (Green) or Rafa Nadal and I'd say I can't believe I got to be here. I'd walk into the aquatic center, see the huge Olympic rings above the pool, and just try and appreciate the moment, and appreciate the fact that I get to do this thing I've been watching on TV for my whole life."
Early in his life, Prenot excelled competitively at the youth level with the Santa Maria Swim Club, which is based at the Paul Nelson Aquatic Center.
"All the years at Paul Nelson were the come up," said Prenot. "That's pretty awesome. I'm looking forward to being back there (Friday night) and feel the love of the community that helped me achieve this success."
While competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials, and later the Olympics, the club held viewing parties to cheer on the its most famous alum.
"I loved the viewing party thing," said Prenot. "That's sweet to watch the video of the young guys on the team as they watched me compete. I hope to see them at the Olympic trials in four years."
Thanks to his success on the biggest stage in sports, it wouldn't be surprising if Prenot inspires a wave of interest in the sport locally.
"If we can get a lot of people involved in that, that's great, and if several kids on the Central Coast want to pursue an Olympic dream, now they know, it's possible. Santa Maria got two dudes (boxer Karlos Balderas) to the Olympics, so you can make it big coming out of the Central Coast," Prenot said.
In Rio, Prenot entered the 200-meter breaststroke competition as one of the favorites. It turned out to be one of the most competitive races during the Olympics.
"200 breast was a hotly contested event this year." said Prenot. "Eight guys all within .09 of each other in a 200 meter event, so yeah, to get my hand on the wall and get on the podium and earn a medal for the U.S. was excellent."
Despite falling just short of winning the gold, coming in second to Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan by only .07, Prenot was thrilled to return home with Olympic hardware.
"My ultimate goal in sports was to become a U.S. Olympian, so everything on top of that is cake pretty much, so normally I'd be pretty mad about a second place, but not at the Olympics," said Prenot.
With the games over, Prenot has taken some much needed and well deserved time off, recently spending several days on a grueling backpacking trip on the northern California coastline.
Now, he's home on the Central Coast for a few days. But soon, he's set to start the phase of his swimming career.
"Pro swimming life, try and get this career started. Just got out of the NCAA, so free to go earn some money playing my sport," said Prenot. "I'm going to be traveling a whole lot in the next six months, doing come clinics, doing some competitions, we have the USA Swimming Golden Goggles awards in New York City this fall."
As he sets his sights on the start of his professional career, which begins with a competition in China at the end of September, he also is focusing on the next Olympics, to be held in Tokyo in 2020.
"That would be awesome, that would be amazing to do," said Prenot. "I'll definitely, barring injury or illness, I'll be in the pool for another four years at least, so I'll definitely be doing my best to get on that Tokyo squad."
Just like this year in Rio, Prenot is hoping to bring back a medal, although, the one he wants now is of the golden variety.
"I really do love the sport of swimming and I want to be the best in the world at it, so everyday that I go to the pool, that's my goal, I want to be the best at what I do," said Prenot.