In 2008, Chris DeJong went head-to-head with Michael Phelps in a qualifying race to earn a spot on Team USA for the Beijing Summer Olympics.
DeJong, who was ranked fifth in the world in backstroke, had narrowly missed qualifying for the 2004 Olympics and badly wanted to make it to Beijing.
But he lost to Phelps by three-tenths of a second, effectively ending his Olympic dream.
"I knew then that my competitive swimming career was over. I really didn't know what I would do next," said DeJong, who was 24 years old at the time. "It was a difficult, confusing time for me."
Yet, it was DeJong's loss to Phelps that also cleared the way for him to find his next pursuit.
Today, DeJong runs the Big Blue Swim School, a business he co-founded in 2012 that offers swimming lessons for kids. The school currently operates five locations in and around Chicago. After turning the operation into a franchise last October, DeJong is hoping there will be as many as 400 locations nationwide in the next 10 years.Read More