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For Those Who Want Swimming Content While We Are Away

For those who are missing swimming while we are off during this public health emergency, please come here and get a daily dose of swimming goodness.  The idea will be to post some local, national, and international swimming content for you to enjoy while we are away.

FRIDAY, APRIL 3

I have another special guest today, Mike Thompson Head Coach of Swimming Canada's Para-swimming Centre De Haute Performance - Quebec.  Mike coaches the best of the best in Canadian Para swimming and he was appointed as a Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Coach.  Mike is a long-time friend, a great guy, and he is doing an absolutely fantastic job in his current role.  I asked Mike for a contribution and he did not even flinch and sent in a moving story of Benoit Huot's 400FR at the 2016 Paralympics.  Benoit is a titan of para swimming and a really good person.  Here is Mike in his own words...

In September 2015, Benoit was battling performance anxiety and was reaching the end of his career. He knew that he needed to make a change in order to have a chance in the 2016 Paralympics. With the new Para Swimming Intensive Training Program opening in Montreal, Ben had an opportunity to have a lot of preparation, sport science and effort geared towards him. He was going to have to take a chance with a new coach in a crucial year, but he decided to take that chance.
 
As the year progressed, 3 new Ukrainian athletes were classed into para swimming as S10s (Benoit's class) who were VERY fast. They came out of nowhere. Now a class that Benoit was dominating, he was barely top 5. He faced motivation issues, anxiety and doubt. In December, Ben could barely talk himself into swimming a race at finals. 
 
After accepting help from INS's mental preparation specialist, Ben decided to focus on 100BK, 200IM and 400FR for the Paralympics. His demeanor changed and he was far more positive and seemed to enjoy what he was doing more. After a disappointing cycle, Ben really thought that he could surpass the 20 Paralympic Medal mark. Ben was 32 years old at the time.
 
The 3rd night of the Paralympics was Benoit's 100BK final. Ben set a new Canadian Record in a time of 1:00.33 (which is VERY impressive at 32) but finished 5th. This time would have won in 2012. Now it was 5th. Ben was disappointed, but had to refocus for 200IM the next day.
 
The next night, Ben was ranked 3rd going into the final of 200IM but struggled in the breaststroke leg and, admittedly, gave up when he saw he was locked into 4th place. "I'm 100% in for the 400FR, I just couldn't do it tonight," he said to me as he was leaving the pool and heading back to the village.
 
I was concerned a bit, but the sincerity of his voice gave me confidence that he was going to put all of his chips into the 400FR. We had 2 days of no racing, the two of us. We laughed, focused on other things. Then it was time for 400FR. Ben was excellent in the prelim swim. After he was done, he didn't stick around to shake hands and chat with competitors as he usually did. He was unusually silent until he chatted with me in the warmdown pool. "That was good," he said "I'm going to go back to rest. I've got this". The conviction in his voice told me that he was not nervous, but very confident.
 
All season, Ben and I had been training to have a solid first 200m, then build into the 3rd 100. If he was able to be out under 2min in the first 200, these other guys were in trouble.
 
Watch the race, I could barley watch as it was unfolding live. I didn't take my eyes off of Ben. Once he was past the 150m mark, I knew he was going to add to his legacy. It was a great celebration of achievement and hard work paying off.

Lesson learned: Ben had to learn to enjoy what he was doing before he could get over the anxiety. He also needed to be able to stick to the plan, to what we had been training, in order to be successful. I have never coached a more determined athlete in my life.

Thank you Mike!

THURSDAY, APRIL 2

For this week's Throwback Thursday, I went back out to the swimming world and enlisted some help from a great colleague, friend, mentor Brian Lindsay Head Coach at the Chatham Y Pool Sharks.  Brian is one of the good guys in the swimming community and he was enthusiastic to help... as long as the subject was Canadian IM ace Curtis Myden.

The breakthrough swim... 400IM at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta (video coming below but please follow the context).  Curtis Myden is in lane 2 -- he goes out like a rocket early in the race and it took a great deal of courage considering what happened 2 years earlier at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, BC (sorry I was not able to source video from that swim). 

Rewinding back to 1994 where Curtis Myden was poised to capture gold on Canadian soil but he would have to go head-to-head with Australia's top IM swimmer Matthew Dunn.  This is where I caught up with Brian who has an extensive knowledge of this swim.

"He [Myden] went for it at the Commonwealth Games in 94 in Victoria. Ahead of Alex Baumann’s record, well ahead of Matthew Dunn after the breastroke. Then everything came crashing down on him. Dunn caught him and won. Curtis blacked out and had to be taken out on a stretcher to the hospital." 

Brian told me after that set-back in 1994 "Myden spent the two years after Victoria working on his conditioning and freestyle so that the performance in Victoria did not duplicate itself in Atlanta. He could have packed it after Victoria but he did not. He gave Dolan and Naismith all they could handle in the 400im and did not allow Dunn to catch him."

This was a single-minded pursuit featuring an elite Canadian swimmer for the next two years.  Brian continued" Myden put his education on hold to perform at the Olympics till 2000. Now he is a doctor. He lived his dream. While he had had the physical capabilities he swam at the highest level he could get to and when age was past, he continued on with his education, became a doctor and was recently inducted into the Calgary Sports Hall of Fame."

Brian was generous enough to take his observations and put it into perspective and what young swimmers should learn from Myden's grit and determination.  "Simply put, Curtis was willing to put everything on the line in Victoria. He went for it. He did not achieve his goal. What that swim did for him was focus him even more to get a medal at the Olympics. It took a world record swim by Tom Dolan to win it. Curtis was right there. Kids, a majority of them can’t handle setbacks. They let the setback define them when they should grinding their teeth to take another crack at achieving their goal. That is where we come in as coaches. We have to let them know that F. A. I. L. just means Failed Attempt In Learning and that they are fine. That is what Curtis demonstrated to me in that two year span."

Great stuff from a class act coach, thank you Brian!  ... and now for the classic Curtis Myden 400IM 1996 swim in Atlanta...

TUESDAY, MARCH 31

This is a great one.  I asked my friend Nate, perhaps more popularly known as SwimNerd on social media, to contribute to this series.  Nate is a great guy, takes his social distancing very seriously, and he lives up to his name because he knows swimming as well as anyone.  Without further ado, here is the contribution from @SwimNerds in his own words...

Coach Dave Ling asked me to write about an inspirational swim…

So, I choose the Women’s 200 Freestyle from 2017 World Championships!

Background

Federica Pellegrini, born in 1988, is in Lane 6 (3rd from the bottom). Katie Ledecky is in Lane 4 next to Emma McKeon in Lane 5. Nobody is talking about Pellegrini everybody is talking about Ledecky & McKeon. Australia vs. USA.

Ledecky hasn’t been beaten internationally maybe ever at this point.

Pellegrini is old news – she got 4th in her pet event the year prior at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was devastating to her.

The Race

When I watch Pellegrini, I see someone that is superiorly focused yet relaxed. And her first 50 was exactly that.

She’s 5th at the 50.

From the onset of the 2nd 50, Pellegrini is now on the lane line and about a half a body length behind McKeon. It’s almost like she is sizing her up.

She’s 4th at the 100.

The 3rd 50 is a typical place to attack the race but Pellegrini is maintaining her same stroke rate/breathing pattern/kicking style while Ledecky and McKeon are going at it in the middle of the pool.

She’s again 4th at the 150.

Rewind and watch the last 10 meters going into the final wall. Pellegrini builds into and attacks this wall. She’s in full on beast mode from the push off. Her kick is now full blown.

Pellegrini rides the lane line, looks right into Emma McKeon’s eyes, and crushes her spirit.

Her finish is like a dart coming out of Michael van Gerwen’s hand.

Pellegrini gets out and abruptly retires from the 200 Free.

MONDAY, MARCH 30

I had a request come in for some local focus on some Legends swimmers.  And just like the O'Jays we have to Give The People What They Want.

For those a little newer to the club I would like to introduce you to Noah Cumby.  Big Noah has a multitude of nicknames but most importantly he is already one of the best Legends swimmers of all-time and does not turn 20 until later this year. 

Noah graduated from high school in 2018 and took his talents on scholarship to Texas Christian University (TCU) in Ft Worth, TX.  In the summer of 2018 Noah qualifed for the Canadian team headed to the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Fiji.  The local CBC came by and did a feature on Noah...

In Fiji, Noah would anchor Canada's 4x100 medley relay team and claim a bronze medal!

After a successful first year at TCU Noah would go to the Canadian Swimming Championships in Winnipeg in August 2019 and earn his first Sr. National medal with a silver medal performance in the 100FR (50.70).  This was the first Sr. National medal for a St. John's Legends (/NAAC) swimmer since the days of Paula Kelly.

Noah will now reload through this COVID-19 situation and prepare for the 2021 Olympic Trials -- and I know he could not be more excited!!  Watch out for Noah in 2021!

FRIDAY, MARCH 27

Nice guys sometimes finish first and break world records.  Canada's Kylie Masse might be the nicest person you may ever meet in competitive sport and it's not an act, she's genuine and she's really fast.  On Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 Kylie forever etched her name in swimming's history books with a World Record and winning the World Championship one year after winning a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.  Check out this gutsy swim, Kylie is third at the 50 and showing (AGAIN!) that races are won and records are broken in the second half of races!!  Young swimmers need to watch, learn and practice this skill of finishing fast because it is what the best in the world are able to do!!

THURSDAY, MARCH 26

I asked my wife (who was a decent swimmer back in her day) for a Throwback Thursday contribution and she came up with a gem of a swim in Canadian swimming history that unfortunately should have been a Canadian 1-3 but........

1996 in Atlanta in lane 4 of the women's 200IM you will find Atlantic Canadian swim icon Marianne Limpert win the silver medal (and the cheater in lane 1 steal the gold medal).  Joanne Malar from Hamilton in lane 7, stormed back on the second half of the race and finish a heartbreaking 4th. 

This is a fine race from two great Canadian swimmers who both who swam great on the second half of the race and both deserved a better fate then the end result.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25

THE GREATEST RACE IN OLYMPIC SWIMMING HISTORY.  The year was 2004 at the Olympics in Athens.  The event was the 200FR.  8 grat swimmers, all with a legitimate chance of stepping up and winning.

For those not hip to swimming back in 2004.  In lane 4, the defending Olympic champion and former 200FR world record holder Pieter van den Hoogenband.  In lane 5, the best freestyler of all-time and world record holder at the time Ian Thorpe.  In lane 3, Michael Phelps who was the best swimmer on the planet at that time but not a natural 200 freestyler (until he did break the 200FR world record in 2007).  Throw in Klete Keller in lane 6 (an Olympic Champion), Grant Hackett in lane 2 (Austrialian distance star and Olympic Champion), British 200FR ace Simon Burnett (who is a great story for another time) and then a pair of great 200 freestylers with Emiliano Brembilla from Italy in lane 1 and Canadian star Rick Say in 8 (Dave distinctly remembers "racing" beside Rick in a 400FR back in 2003... that race did not go so well for me).

Enjoy watching this swimming at it's highest level.

MONDAY, MARCH 23

Last night the Canadian Olympic Committee announced that should the 2020 Olympics go forward as originally scheduled in Tokyo, Canada would forego participation in the Olympics.

We are clearly living in a unique moment in time. 

Today's swim story involves an icon of the NAAC/St. John's Legends swimming community telling her story, in her own words, 1980 Olympian Paula Kelly.  At our annual Awards Night each Fall we are fortunate to have Paula come out to present an award given in her honour to identify the swimmer in the club that best embodies the spirit of the programming we aim to provide.  Every interaction I have had with Paula has been exceptionally positive, she's a titan of swimming in our city, and I'm pleased to be able to share her story for those who might not know it.

Thank you to the City of St. John's for making this video available.

SUNDAY, MARCH 22

A couple days away for some family time.  Today's swim is perhaps the most exciting Canadian swim of 2020 (so-far) featuring an Olympic medallist who is back in the pool at age 36.  Brent Hayden won an Olympic bronze medal is 2012 in the 100FR and back in October Hayden announced he was coming out of retirement and focusing on the 50FR.

On March 7th, 2020 in Des Moines at the TYR Pro Series event Hayden showed on a big stage that he's ready to take on the world's best as Hayden sprinted to a 21.97 50FR.  21.97 is an elite 50FR time, it matches the FINA 'A' standard required to qualify to compete at the Olympic Games.  In the video below you will find Hayden in lane 5 finishing 3rd behind US sprint stars Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian.  21.97 is tied for the 11th fastest time in the world this season... not bad for a guy who has only been back for a few months.  Watch out for Hayden, whenever the Tokyo Olympics take place, he's delivered at the Games before and he is giving Canadians hope that he can do it again!

THURSDAY, MARCH 19

Time for a Throwback Thursday to the summer of 1992 and the Olympic Games that CBC's Byron MacDonald will call to-this-day the most fun Olympics in recent history in Barcelona.  Coach Dave was 11 years old, an aspiring backstroker with the COBRA swim club (note: the backstroke thing did not work out so well for me), and glued to the television to watch Mark Tewksbury race the 100 backstroke.  Tewksbury was "the guy" on the Canadian team and he was going into a super-competitive 100BK final with American super-stud backstroker Jeff Rouse.  What happened that day was one of the most inspiring swims in Canadian swimming history.  As has been the case all week -- watch the back-half speed and young swimmers take note - RACES ARE WON IN THE BACK HALF!

WEDNESDAY MARCH 18

When I started this series, Mack Holden the graduated captain of the Dalhousie Tigers swim team told me that if I did not post Jason Lezak's swim there would be "serious faults" with this series. 

The setting for those who were not woke to swimming in 2008... Michael Phelps is attempting to win 8 gold medals in a single Olympics and standing in his way is a juggernaut of a 4x100 relay team from France with the best 100 freestyler on the planet Alain Bernard.  Bernard was the world record holder at the time, he won the 100FR at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and he would be anchoring the French team.  Emotions were high, talk was silly, drama was at a fever-pitch

Phelps led off for the Americans and broke the American Record in the 100FR with a 47.51 but would be behind Australia's Eamon Sullivan who broke the 100FR World Record leading off in 47.24.  The story of this race would come down to the anchor leg with Bernard entering with a sizeable lead and only 32-year old Jason Lezak with a chance to save Phelps's quest for 8.

Lezak's 46.06 split remains the fastest 100FR (LCM) relay split of all-time.  Amazing.

TUESDAY, MARCH 17

Time for some local coverage with the greatest swimmer in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Swimming is a family task for Katarina and her father/coach Leonard Roxon.  I met Leonard back at a coaching course in Mississauga in 2013 and I was instantly drawn to his candor and class and with his enthusiasm for his daughter he was coaching that he thought was "doing pretty well".  Fast-forward 3 years and I found myself moving to St. John's and the first coach to greet me with a smile and encouragement was Leonard and just a few months later his daughter that was "doing pretty well" a few years earlier was ready to reach the moutain top -- Paralymic GOLD!  To this day Leonard still greets me with the same genuine enthusiasm and support he always has and my respect for him is endless.

Some of our local swimmers often see Katarina at meets at the Aquarena at our meets, she's quick to sign swim bags and give words of encouragement.  Katarina has on occassion joined us at the Aquarena for a workout and she's the real deal, she can train with anyone, which is the exactly what I would have expected. Here's the golden swim... all the hallmarks of a fantastically prepared swimmer -- .95 back at the 50 and then fitness, preparation, the will to take over in the second half and then she closes the race leaving no doubt she was the best in the world!

MONDAY, MARCH 16

Today's feature is on a young lady from London, Ontario who had one of the best years of swimming a Canadian swimmer has ever had in 2019... Maggie MacNeil.  Maggie swims for the London Aquatic Club and was a very good junior swimmer coming up through Ontario, she made Junior National teams, she went to Fiji for the Junior Pan Pacs with SJL's Noah Cumby, but it was when MacNeil went to the University of Michigan in the Fall of 2018 that MacNeil took off like a supernova.  MacNeil finished second at the NCAA Championships in the 100 yard FL (49.66 -- which is crazy bananas fast) and was a finalist in the 50FR and 100BK as well.

Maybe MacNeil was just built for yards?  Afterall, she has an awesome underwater fly kick (Coach Dave really admires that)... maybe....  heck no!  MacNeil's great season was capped off by this golden swim at the World Aquatic Championships where she went head-to-head with the reigning 100FL Olympic gold medalist from Sweden Sarah Sjostrom (sorry for the lack of 'umlauts')... check out underwater off the turn and the second half SPEED!  Races are won in the second half! This is great swimming from a stellar young lady.

SUNDAY, MARCH 17

From August 11th, 2016 here's Canada's Penny Oleksiak (16 years old at the time) ending a 24-year Canadian swimming Olympic gold medal drought with an inspiring performance in the 100FR at the Rio Olympics. Great swim, great second half speed.  This is a must watch for all young swimmers!

#LegendsRISING