Excellent example of resilience and value of social support!
Excellent example of resilience and value of social support!
THEMAGIC5’s own Luca Armbruster won gold at the 2023 World University Games in the 50m butterfly with a time of 23.22. Armbruster also helped Germany place 9th in the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay at the World Aquatics World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, swimming a 48.82.
Coming off a challenging two year plateau, 21 year-old Armbruster was on the brink of quitting swimming until this season. After changing coaches and moving cities, Armbruster had a breakthrough performance, matching the decade-old German record for the 50 m butterfly with a time of 23.02. Going from a personal best of 23.49 that he set in 2019 wasn’t even his most impressive performance. At the same meet, he swam almost a full second faster in the 100 m freestyle, setting a new personal best of 49.11.
Armbruster, who is part of THEMAGIC5 marketing team and is studying real estate business, was a standout swimmer as a junior. “It was a little bit normal for me to swim the [butterfly] record at 15, 16, 17 years-old and then there were two years or three years of struggle that were so hard,” Armbruster says. “I didn’t get better and I worked so hard but nothing happened. I didn't know what I did wrong. I came to that moment where I didn't want to swim anymore. I had no fun with it and I thought I’m not good anymore so why should I do this? But sometimes through struggle, you get stronger and you look at the past and think everything was right.”
What was right was that Armbruster decided to make a change. He started training with a new coach and it wasn’t his times that improved first, it was his mindset.
“My coach and I built up a pretty good connection in the first few days. We talked a lot and he wanted to know everything about me and so every week we met for a coffee and talked. I think that's one key part why this season was the best in my life because he cares a lot for the swimmers and that gives you a feeling of ‘I'm important.’”
Simple questions—how are you doing? what are you up to this week? is there anything I can help you with?— invited Armbruster to open up, share his struggles, and the process freed him to not only enjoy swimming again, but believe he was capable of achieving big things.
“At the start of the season, all swimmers on the team came together and we all said what we wanted to achieve in swimming in a short period and over a long period. I said this season I want to swim my personal best times…and for the long period, ever since I was a kid I wanted to swim the German record for 50 butterfly.”
His new environment also empowered him to get even more support. Working with a sport psychologist, Armbruster made even more personal strides. Not only did he learn tools to help him be a better athlete but he started to understand his emotions, learn from his experiences, and move forward. “It was a big step forward to understand myself, why I wasn't happy, why I struggled with so many things, and they helped me. It’s also a part why I am happier and have more fun with swimming.”
"I learned that everyone is carrying a big backpack of struggle—everyone—and I didn't notice before. I thought I'm the only one that struggled and I was the only one that didn’t know what to do or wasn’t happy. But so many people are carrying a big backpack of struggle, of suffering.”
“Six or seven months in university and I met eight people who were amazing and after two weeks of knowing each other, we sat on my balcony at home and everybody took off the backpack, opened it and showed it to everyone. It was such an important moment for me and such a new experience to open up to some guys I only know for one week and the trust we gave each other was so amazing. It’s a big key point in my life where I learned that everybody is struggling. Everybody has his own backpack and you're not alone.”
Armbruster adds that having structure and journaling have also been crucial to finding happiness and success. “I have this book that I'm carrying around with me where I write everything single thing down,” he says, holding up the notebook. “I plan my day, I plan my week, what I have to do, and I also write down thoughts. I think it’s something everyone could do and everyone could learn from it. It really helps.”
By the time it came to race again, Armbruster’s “backpack” wasn’t weighing him down anymore. His first event was right in Heidelberg but it was more a test before a bigger race the following weekend in Berlin. “We just wanted to try and see what was in me,” he explains.
“The moment I jumped into the water, I felt something. What's different? I was under the water, I did my kicks, came out of the water and I felt, wow, what is this, what is this?”
“I came to the wall and I knew I was fast, but I didn't think I was that fast. Then I heard the scream of a good friend of mine and then I knew I did it. I turned and looked at the screen and saw the time but I didn't see the record. But then I heard that the speaker say ‘Luca Armbruster swam the German record’ and I was like, wow. All the suffering and all the pain and all the struggle paid off in that moment.”
Not only did he achieve his long term goal of swimming the German record for the 50 m fly in one season, but his time in the 100 m freestyle also qualified him for the national team and earned him a spot at the world championships.
Armbruster’s work in the pool was only matched by his work outside of the water. “Behind every rainy cloud there is sunshine. After struggle, you learn and grow,” he says. “This season was different from every season before. I had so much more fun. I wanted to get better every day and that was something I never had before."
“The struggle was right, the evolution of myself, how my mindset changed. I think everything was right and everything happened at the right moment to stand right here in Japan and be on the national team at the World Swimming Championships.”