Fernandez, Grishaw attend Pan Am Sports Awards in Florida
December 13, 2019 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Liberty University senior Charles Fernandez, who qualified to represent Guatemala in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo by winning his second Pan Am Games gold medal in the modern pentathlon, traveled with Flames men's swimming Head Coach Heath Grishaw for the inaugural Pan Am Sports Awards on Friday at the Marriott Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"Only two athletes from every country in Central, North, and South America were invited, whoever was most prominent," said Grishaw, who met the president and vice president of Guatemala's Olympic Committee for the first time. "We had our picture taken with Carl Lewis and it was basically a meet and greet with the Olympic Committee of Guatemala and a fun time to celebrate and enjoy. They're really proud of him and loved meeting us both."
Grishaw, who coached Fernandez at the Pan Am Game in Lima, Peru, accompanied Flames freshman swimmer Matt Davidson to Atlanta for the previous weekend's Toyota U.S. Open, formerly known as the Winter Nationals.
"I am thankful I was able to go down to the U.S. Open and then on to the Pan Am Sports awards," Grishaw said. "One weekend, I was on the same pool deck with (American swimmers) Caeleb Dressel and (five-time Olympic gold medalist) Katie Ledecky, and then just a few days later to meet (nine-time Olympic track and field gold medalist) Carl Lewis and so many other Olympians and be around that caliber of athlete, it's crazy to reflect on it."
Grishaw is serving as one of a handful of coaches to help Fernandez train and prepare for his second Olympics in the modern pentathlon, which includes equestrian, fencing, running, and shooting as well as swimming competitions. He previously represented Guatemala in Rio, Brazil, in the 2016 Summer Games.
"He has a main head coach and an equestrian coach and fencing coach, different coaches for all of those events," Grishaw said. "He has a swim coach, but (the Olympic Committee) trusts me to be Charlie's swim coach over here. They see what Charles had been able to do, and they're happy with it."
Fernandez will travel to three of the four Pentathlon World Cups of 2020, starting with Cairo, Egypt, from Feb. 26-March 1 before going to the first of two events in Bulgaria from March 25-29. He will miss the second one there so that he can join the Flames at the April 10-12 Collegiate Club Swimming National Championships in Greensboro, N.C. He will then compete in the April 29-May 3 World Cup in Budapest, Hungary, and the May 14-17 World Cup Championships in Seoul, South Korea.
"World Cups are mainly for those athletes still trying to earn world ranking points to qualify for the Olympics," Grishaw said. "Charles will take each one individually and compete in them to train for the Olympics, to assess what he did well and how he can perform better."
Grishaw is taking a holistic approach to preparing Fernandez for Tokyo.
"There is so much that goes into that sport," Grishaw said. "My job is to improve and help him be ready to go for the swim portion, and to be there for him spiritually and mentally, and as a friend. That's all part of being a coach."
Fernandez has been running and swimming three or four times per day for conditioning that will ramp up in the New Year.
"The past few months have been about maintaining," Grishaw said. "His training is going to change when January arrives. That will be prime time. He is definitely already at the next level. Now, it's about really making sure he's dialed in."
At the same time, Grishaw wants to make sure Fernandez strikes a proper balance between his athletic training, academic pursuits, and spiritual and social activities, keeping the sport in proper perspective.
"Endurance sports such as running, pentathlon, swimming, and triathlon can be very easy to burn out in," Grishaw said. "Athletes need to take care of their mental side of their sport and see that they love it and are being pushed in a healthy way."
Fernandez, who is currently traveling with his girlfriend in Spain, will spend the second half of his Christmas break at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., to work with American athletes while receiving online feedback from Guatemalan coaches in his all-around training approach.