BUDAPEST • At the United States Olympic trials last year, Matt Grevers clocked 52.76sec in the 100m backstroke and was devastated.
A year later, Grevers clocked 52.71 at the US World Championships trials and was overjoyed.
To be a world-class swimmer in the US is to teeter on an emotional, and often a financial, see-saw.
In 2016, Grevers finished third at the US trials, missing by one place to gain a spot in what would have been his third Olympic team.
Last month in Indianapolis, he finished first to secure a berth in this week's World Championships in Budapest.
Grevers, 32, is three months older than Michael Phelps, who was the capital that lifted all bank accounts for the United States' best swimmers.
Comparatively, after he failed to make the Olympic team, Grevers said that his earning power short-circuited.
A four-time Olympic gold medallist, he entered this summer knowing that he had to qualify to compete in Budapest or he would lose his contract with his primary sponsor, the swimwear company TYR.
Unlike athletes in other sports, swimmers typically do not receive guaranteed money.
Their contracts are performance-based, "so if you don't perform, you don't cash in," Grevers said.
"It would have been over if I hadn't made the team. I would have had to face the reality of 'I need income' and my career probably would have been done."
Fortunately for him, that did not happen.
And there may be more financial redemption to come after winning a 4x100m mixed medley relay gold and a 100m backstroke silver this week.
On top of those, he will also be hoping to do well when he competes in the 50m backstroke today.
Grevers is married to Annie Chandler-Grevers, a former US national team swimmer who works for the magazine Swimming World.
In November, the couple had their first child, which gave Grevers a richer perspective on life but also another mouth to feed.
LAST ROLL OF THE DICE
It would have been over if I hadn't made the team. I would have had to face the reality... and my career probably would have been done.
MATT GREVERS , four-time Olympic gold medallist, admits it was breaking point.
Grevers declined to disclose his annual income, but he is fluent in finance. He used the US$25,000 (S$33,978) from USA Swimming for each of his four gold medals and the US$15,000 for each of his two silver medals toward the purchase of four investment properties in Tucson.
Rental income from those properties helped pay bills this year.
But all the fat in the household budget was pared, starting with restaurant meals.
"When you go from having a constant flow of income coming in to the prospect of having no foreseeable income, you've got to think differently," Grevers said.
"You've got to form a budget and stick to it. And I think there will be a little scar from 2016 trials forever in me."