'One of the Lucky Ones'

Tim Hamlet’s black baseball cap and infectious laugh are almost as much a part of the Forest Grove Community Pool as the smell of chlorine.

Hamlet has been the assistant swim coach at Pacific University for five years and is the head coach of the Forest Grove swim team. As he prepares to follow his wife to a new job in Virginia, Hamlet leaves a legacy in Forest Grove swimming — one that can only be gained from a full life and a long journey.

Hamlet’s journey began with his battle to stay clean in college.

“I decided I liked to drink more than go to class. I would drop out, go home, dry out, come back, drink again, and repeat,” he said.

After returning to college for a third time, Hamlet dropped out to join a rock and roll band, where he spent the next 10 years touring the world.

Folding his arms behind his head, a reminiscent smile spreads across his face. He describes the time he spent touring as the best of his life, aside from meeting his wife.

“I wish I hadn’t caused my parents so much pain and sleepless nights. I don’t regret my life or my mistakes though,” he said. “They made me who I am.”

After the band wrapped up its tour, Hamlet came to Forest Grove to coach the community swim team.

At age 32, Tim came out of a 10-year retirement to swim for Pacific University, making him the oldest swimmer on the roster to date.

“I thought I was going to die! But it was such a blast. The kids embraced me as a teammate,” Hamlet said, that smile again on his face. “One of my fondest memories is how they all went crazy for me in finals at conference.”

Hamlet graduated from Pacific University in 2006, at age 35, with a degree in English literature.

After eight years he continues to be an inspiration to the Pacific swim team and the Forest Grove community. As a coach, he stands apart to his swimmers because of the passion he pours into their well-being.

“I made a decision a long time ago that I want my kids to know I care about them. If my kids have a bad day it pains me because I feel like I did something wrong,” he said.

“I want my swimmers to leave swimming and love it. I don’t care if they never get a title. I just want them to leave and say, ‘This was awesome, all of it.”

Hamlet is breaking the hearts of his swimmers as he follows his wife across the country, but few can blame him for choosing to be with the woman labeled “Love of my Life” in his phone.

“Meeting my wife was my life defining moment. I was so angry when I met her,” Hamlet said with a cheesy grin. “She saved me.”

Born and raised 45 minutes from Forest Grove, Hamlet considers Oregon home. The corners of his grin fade as he talks about how he will miss the seasons, the summers and, most of all, his teams.

He plans to coach wherever he ends up, to continue working on a novel about his life, to move back to Oregon when he can, and to keep lounging on the side of the pool until he dies.

“If I didn’t have swimming, I wouldn’t be alive. It is my music,” he said. “I am one of the lucky ones. I do what I love. You know, I have a good freaking life!”

Friday, March 22, 2013