Most mornings, Brent Demarest rises at 5 a.m. and makes his way from his family's home on James Island to the Park West pool in Mount Pleasant, a journey of about 45 minutes, if traffic is right.
At Park West, Demarest spends about two hours in the water, grinding out 8,000 to 10,000 yards with the Mount Pleasant Swim Club while his father, Lee, naps in the car. After a shower, it's off to school at Porter-Gaud by 8 a.m., then back to Park West after school for two more hours in the pool.
On days when Brent does not swim after school, he runs with his teammates on the Porter-Gaud cross-country team. If he does have an afternoon swim, he'll run by himself through the well-lighted Park West neighborhood to keep up his cross-country training.
"I sleep pretty well," said Demarest, a 16-year-old sophomore at Porter-Gaud. "I'm pretty done in by the time I get home."
Demarest's hard work paid off recently in Beijing, China, where he claimed the title of world champion in the 2011 International Triathlon Union's Aquathlon World Championships. Demarest won the 16-19 age-group title in the run/swim/run event, covering a
2.5K run, a 1,000-meter swim and another 2.5-K run in 32 minutes and 50 seconds. That time was good enough for fourth overall among males in all age groups.
Demarest was not the only Charlestonian crowned world champion in Beijing. Marshall Wakat, a 70-year-old retired physician, won a gold medal in the male 70-74 age group of the ITU Sprint World Championships, and also took a silver in the Aquathlon.
Both athletes were among more than 250 Americans who made the trip to China for the ITU World Championships, which were held at the site of the Olympic triathlon competition in 2008. It was the third trip to the worlds for Wakat, who took up the triathlon 25 years ago, but only got serious about training when he retired five years ago.
Wakat swims about 3,000 yards three days a week and takes a spinning class once a week. He says training across three disciplines is a good way to avoid injury.
"Exercise is controlled injury," he said. "Trying to get all your exercise in one activity is dangerous. I think everybody should do triathlon, even if your three sports are dancing, gardening and walking."
Few of the American athletes in China had a more hectic schedule than Demarest, who won his gold medal on Sept. 7. He ran a cross-country meet in Charlotte on a Saturday, boarded a plane with his family for the trip to China, won his title on Wednesday, flew back home on Thursday and ran another cross-country meet on Saturday.
"I won the first meet," said Demarest, who has won S.C. Independent Schools Association state titles in swimming and cross-country. "But I didn't do as well in the second one. I was pretty tired."
Tired would seem to be a permanent state for Demarest, who began swimming when he was six years old. But whatever engine that drives him is self-starting, says his mom, Joan.
"I don't know where that drive comes from, but he is a very motivated person," she said. "He's always been willing to put in the extra time. He doesn't grumble too much about getting up to do what he needs to do, and has just always been really driven that way."
Said Brent, "I just want to be the best I can be."
Porter-Gaud swim coach Mike Walsh says Demarest has good genes -- Joan ran track at the University of Connecticut, and father Lee was a wrestler at James Island High School.
"He's just a natural," Walsh said. "But he builds on that with hard work."
Demarest, who qualified for Team USA by winning his age group at the U.S. Nationals in Denver, went to China with modest expectations.
"I really surprised myself," he said. "I didn't think I was going to win. I just went into it like, whatever, I'll just do it and see how I place."
But in the 1,000-meter swim portion of the race, Demarest began to pick off the competition and pull away from the field.
"He killed them in the swimming part of it," said Walsh. "A lot of those runners aren't swimmers, and he is both. He can do it all."
Demarest wants to do it all. His goal is to make the U.S. triathlon team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, which means he will have to add bicycling to his skills.
"That's what I want to do," he said. "I know I have to get on the bike and put in a lot of hours and miles. It's going to take a lot of hard work."
The good news -- he already knows how to do that.
Follow Jeff Hartsell on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC.