by Wyndi Kappes, Photography by Elle Wood
Nei-Kuan Chia | Age: 43
Atlanta Water Jocks Swimmer
It may be hard to believe now, but when Nei-Kuan Chia was just 11 years old, he was rescued from nearly drowning in a wave pool. The solution to her worries, his mom thought— putting him on the swim team. After a rewarding high school and college career and two Olympics, Nei-Kuan was burnt out and left the world of swimming. Nine years later, when his health declined, the Cox Enterprises senior director reignited his passion for swimming and competition, giving him a new lease on life, and earning him two gold medals at the 2019 World Masters Swimming Championships.
Q: How did you get back on the horse when you had become so unhealthy?
Nei-Kuan Chia: I started small. In the beginning, I just got in the pool every day and did a couple of laps. I’m not going to lie, in the beginning, it was torture, but then the more I went, the more I got into it. However, swimming by yourself is boring after a while, and I found myself wanting to quit again.
So I had advice from a friend to get back into competing with a club team, and that is really when I found a sustainable form of exercise.
Q: What is your advice for someone restarting their fitness routine?
NC: You have to find a strong purpose behind why you are getting fit. My purpose isn’t breaking records anymore; it is all about maintaining my health. Whatever else comes out of it, that’s just gravy. My main goal is to be healthy, so I can live a long life and see my son grow up.
Q: Do you put much thought/philosophy into what you eat? What is your favorite pregame snack?
NC: A while ago, I went to the EXOS performance training center, and they developed a nutrition plan for me that emphasizes lean meats, low sugars and fats, and light snacks throughout the day. I can still eat pizza and doughnuts every once in a while. For me, it’s just being mindful of what I eat and when I eat it.
Q: What would you say to men looking to get into nonprofessional sports?
NC: Don’t fear failure because it doesn’t matter; we are all going to fail at something in our lives. Also, don’t let pride get in the way. I thought I had a reputation to maintain, which I might not live up to by playing club sports, but that wasn’t the purpose of why I was doing it.
Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of competing?
NC: I am involved in Swim Across America, which helps raise awareness and funds for cancer research and treatments, as well as local charities like Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. I also spend my free time with my 9-year-old son, who trash-talks me while we play video games and aspires to be a professional esports player!