Relay Records Galore At FINA World Masters Championships

Photo Courtesy: David Rieder

The records continued to fall at the 2017 FINA World Masters Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Five new world records were set throughout the day of relays, with several championship records falling as well. Take a look at all the records that were broken at the meet below.

320-359 Age Group

The German men’s squad of Gunter Kallenbach, Jurgen Paul Schubert, Gottfried Klaring, Wolfgang Sieber set a new championship record in the 200 medley relay with a 2:59.09.

280-319 Age Group

The German team of Ruth Stubert, Monika Ingrid Senftleben, Angelika Radau, and Brigitte Merten set a new women’s world and championship record in the 200 free relay with a 2:29.53. That same team would also go on to set a new championship record in the 200 medley relay as well in 2:52.11.

The Hungarian men’s relay of Laszlo Csaba, Attila Banhidy, Jozsef Csikany, and Ferenc Erdelyi set a new championship record in the men’s 200 free relay with a 2:01.28. The Brazilian men’s team of 2:16.15 Jose Orlando Loro, Antonio Orselli, Paulo Motta, Jose Guisard Ferraz set a new championship and world record in the 200 medley relay with a 2:16.15.

United States team of Richard Burns, Laura Val, Nancy Ridout, and Tate Holt set a new world and championships record in the mixed 200 free relay with a 2:05.58. Val, Burns, and Ridout would then join Rick Meyerhoff to set a new championship record in the mixed 200 medley relay with a 2:25.50.

240-279 Age Group

The South African team of Tim Shead, Andre Steynberg, Roothman Andre Johan, and Graeme Fiser set a new championship record of 1:49.16 in the men’s 200 free relay and the men’s 200 medley relay (2:01.52).

200-239 Age Group

The Norwegian team of Lise Lothe, Anette Ekberg Sorensen, Janne Urdal Thornstensen, and Bente Rist set a new championship record in the 200 medley relay with a 2:11.41.

The German team of Michelle Ware, David Bryant, Mike Hodgson, and Lynda Coggins set a new world and championship record of 1:59.99 in the mixed 200 medley relay.

160-199 Age Group

The Russian Team of Aleksandr Shilin, Sergei Medvedev, Aleksei Manzhula, and Vladimir Predkin set a new world and championship record in both the 200 free relay (1:34.92) and 200 medley relay (1:45.47).

120-159 Age Group

The Brazilian team of Carla Horst Vaine, Karine Volpe, Estefania Milanez, and Marina Fructuozo set a new championship record in the 200 medley relay in 2:03.60.

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Rick Aronberg Joins Velocity Aquatics Swim Club As Head Coach

Photo Courtesy: Brian Honicky

Consistent with their commitment to excellence, the Velocity Aquatics Swim Club (www.VelocityAquatics.com) is excited to announce that they have hired Coach Rick Aronberg – former Head Coach of STAR Swimming – to serve as their Head Coach alongside Coach Ted Eimstad.

The four-time Division I All-American at Clemson University, will help oversee the progression & performance of the entire competitive program and its coaching staff, and lead the development of the Senior Program.

As an ASCA Level 5 Coach, Coach Aronberg is recognized amongst the very best USA Swim Club coaches in the country. In his past 13 years at STAR, he has lead them to 20 (short & long course combined) LSC Large Team Championships and has helped develop 7 Olympic Trial Qualifiers in the past 5 years alone.

Owner & Director of Velocity Aquatics, LLC, Flynn Burroughs noted,

“We are very excited to bring a coach of Rick Aronberg’s caliber to Velocity Aquatics. Beyond his coaching ability, he is beloved by his swimmers, families & staff. He’s a man of great character who will teach our athletes valuable lessons that will transcend well beyond the pool”.

The Velocity Aquatics Swim Club (VELO) is a year-round, competitive USA Swim Club providing professional, full-time coaching and an environment designed to assist a swimmer in achieving their greatest goals. VELO is the competitive wing of Michael Phelps Swim School-NY (www.MPSSny.com). Teaching 1000+ students/week, MPSSny is a swim school for students of all ages & abilities.

Press Release courtesy of Velocity Aquatics Swim Club. 

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Tyler Fenwick Joins Virginia as Associate Head Coach; Two Other Coaches Hired

Photo Courtesy: Tyler Fenwick

Tyler Fenwick, who spent the past five years as an associate coach at the University of Tennessee, has taken a job as the associate head coach at the University of Virginia. He joins head coach Todd DeSorbo, hired last week to replace Augie Busch at the helm of the Cavaliers.

“The opportunity to work with Todd DeSorbo, get back to Virginia, get closer to home, it’s exciting,” Fenwick told Swimming World. I spent a lot of time at the University of Virginia when I was in college and after college. A lot of my best friends are University of Virginia alums. I have a lot of love for University of Virginia swimming.”

Also joining the Virginia staff as assistant coaches are Wes Foltz and Blaire Bachman. Foltz previously worked with DeSorbo at NC State, serving as Director of Operations and an assistant coach in the sprint group, but he will now coach full-time. Bachmann spent the past year at Indiana after previously coaching at Dartmouth.

Fenwick, who specializes in coaching distance and open water swimmers, is currently in Southern California, where he is serving as head coach of the U.S. open water team heading to Taipei for the World University Games, but he has already officially started at Virginia.

Fenwick explained that the toughest part about his decision to go to Virginia was leaving Tennessee, and he will miss working alongside Vols head coach Matt Kredich.

tyler-fenwick-1

Photo Courtesy: Tyler Fenwick

“I’m extremely grateful to Matt Kredich and the opportunity he gave me over the years,” Fenwick said. “Matt Kredich is the reason I went to Tennessee, first as a grad assistant and then as an assistant coach. He’s one of my closest friends and my biggest mentors.

Fenwick expects no shortage of enthusiasm on pool deck in Charlottesville with he and DeSorbo both on deck. “I’m excited about Todd’s vision for the program,” he said. “In terms of coaching philosophies, we want people who are constantly learning and discovering.”

One big reason why a job at Virginia attracted Fenwick: his longtime friendship with the late Fran Crippen. Crippen and Fenwick swam together at Germantown Academy in Philadelphia growing up, and Fenwick often visited when Crippen was in school at UVA.

“Fran’s a piece of this,” Fenwick said. “One of the seasons I coach open water is Fran Crippen. It’s my way to honor him. Being able to return to Charlottesville and be able to coach at the pool he trained at, it’s an exciting opportunity.”

Read the full press release from Virginia below:

The Virginia swimming and diving programs announced the addition of Tyler Fenwick, Blaire Bachman and Wes Foltz as assistant coaches on Friday (August 18).

“I am excited to announce the addition of three exceptional coaches joining me to complete the staff at UVA,” said head swimming and diving coach Todd DeSorbo. “All three mirror my philosophy and will provide great support to our student-athletes’ pursuit of excellence.”

Fenwick joins the coaching staff, as the associate head men’s and women’s coach, after serving as the associate head coach at Tennessee since 2012. During his time with the Volunteers, he coached four U.S. Olympians, 200 All-Americans and saw his student-athletes set 36 school records.

“Tyler Fenwick comes from a storied Tennessee program and led the distance group there to national prominence including success at the international level,” DeSorbo said. “His experiences with Team USA internationally will help direct our athletes to future NCAA and international success. He is well respected in the swimming community and has a great reputation for developing student-athletes at the highest levels. He is currently wrapping up a stint as part of Team USA’s coaching staff for the World University Games in Taiwan.”

Prior to Tennessee, Fenwick coached the men’s national team as a senior coach. While working with the U.S. national team, Fenwick coached two 2012 FINA world junior champions, the 2012 U.S. Open Water men’s national champion, one U.S. national champion and one U.S. junior national champion.

Fenwick served as the assistant coach for Germantown Academy Aquatic Club in Fort Washington, Pa., from 2004-07 and the assistant coach for the University of Tennessee aquatics program from 2007-09. He additionally was the U.S. head coach for the 2015 and 2017 World University Games and the 2017 UANA Pan American Championships. Fenwick served on the U.S. national team coaches list for five of the past six years.

Fenwick holds a bachelor’s degree in English from William and Mary and a master of science degree in sports management from Tennessee.

Bachman joins UVA after serving as the assistant swimming coach and women’s recruiting coordinator for Indiana since 2016. Her primary responsibility was to oversee the middle distance and distance training groups. With the Hoosiers, Bachman served as the primary coach for 2016 Olympic gold medalists Lilly King, Cody Miller and Blake Pieroni, as well as aiding the program’s 2017 World Championship and World University Games qualifiers.

“Blaire Bachman comes to UVA from the quick-rising Indiana program where she has been the key to their recent success in women’s recruiting,” DeSorbo said. “She has had the great opportunity to work directly with recent Olympic and world championship medalists, world record holders, and NCAA champions. Blaire will make an immediate impact with our program as she has five years of experience as a head coach, experience at a comparable Ivy League institution, as well as her most recent experience with a top-10 NCAA Program at IU.”

Prior to working at Indiana, Bachman spent a year as the assistant swimming coach and women’s recruiting coordinator for Dartmouth. From 2010-15, she worked as the head swimming coach at Brenau University administering year-round training. Bachman started her coaching career as a camp counselor and coach for the Georgia Bulldogs Swim Club (2012-2016).

Bachman received a bachelor of arts degree in mass communication from Georgia College and State University.

Rounding out the new additions to the Virginia coaching staff is Foltz. Foltz spent the last year as an assistant coach at NC State helping the program achieve one of its best performances in recent history. Foltz helped coach 34 male and 25 female All-American performances as well as aiding both programs to a top-10 NCAA finish. Additionally, he had a hand in the Pro Group Wolfpack Elite’s success over the last year including a World Championship title by Simonas Bilis and a third-place finish for Cullen Jones at the 2017 U.S. World Championship Trials.

“Wes Foltz previously coached alongside me at NC State. He brings youth, energy and expertise through working with some of college swimming’s best over the last five years,” DeSorbo said. “Prior to NC State, he spent his days coaching alongside legends Dave Salo and Jon Urbanchek at Southern California. Wes is one of the best, young, up-and-coming coaching minds in college swimming and brings an energy unmatched to the pool deck every day. He’s also worked with Olympic medalists, world championship medalist and NCAA champions.”

Prior to NC State, Foltz worked at Southern California (2014-16) as the assistant coach, helping the program record 64 All-American performances. During this time, the women’s program captured the 2016 Pac-12 conference championship and a sixth-place finish at the NCAAs. The men’s team recorded the conference title in 2015 in addition to finishing fourth at the NCAAs.

From 2012-15, Foltz was a volunteer assistant coach for NC State in addition to working with the Marlins of Raleigh swim team (2012-14) as an assistant coach.

“With the addition of these three to the UVA staff, along with mainstays Jason Glorius, our leader for the diving program, and Lizzy Lagasse, our director of operations, the UVA programs are poised for success,” DeSorbo said. “This staff is engineered to the exact specifications to meet the needs of championship athletes. The environment on the pool deck will be electric and our commitment to excellence will be uncompromising.”

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Held, Licon, Eastin, DeLoof Named Team USA Captains for World University Games

Ryan Held — Photo Courtesy: Swimming World

Ryan HeldWill LiconElla Eastin and Ali DeLoof have been voted captains of the American swim team at the World University Games in Taipei. The swimming competition begins Sunday, Aug. 20.

Held, an incoming senior at NC State, is the team’s only Olympian, and he swam alongside Caeleb DresselMichael Phelps and Nathan Adrian in the 400 free relay final at the Rio Games last year. He missed making the World Champs team by one spot and four hundredths, taking seventh in the 100 free at U.S. Nationals.

Licon recently completed his NCAA eligibility at the University of Texas, and he will swim the 200 breast and 200 IM in Taipei. He is a past NCAA champion in the yards versions of both events and was third in the 200 breast at Olympic Trials last summer.

Eastin, a junior-to-be at Stanford, originally finished second in the 400 IM at U.S. Nationals but was disqualified for a violation of the “Lochte rule” on her final turn. Because of the DQ, she cannot swim the 400 IM at WUGs, but she will have the 200 IM (in which she was third at Nationals) and 200 fly on her plate.

Eastin previously won silvers in both the 200 and 400 IM at the Short Course World Championships last December in Windsor.

The fourth captain is DeLoof, a former standout for the Michigan Wolverines, will swim the 50 and 100 back at WUGs, as well as (likely) the 400 free relay. She placed fourth in the 100 back at both Olympic Trials and this year’s World Championship Trials. DeLoof also swam at Short Course Worlds, where she collected golds in both the 200 and 400 medley relays.

The full U.S. roster for WUGs, led by head coaches Carol Capitani and Whitney Hite, can be found here.

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Jason Roberts Hired as Head Coach of Countryside YMCA

Photo Courtesy: Countryside YMCA

After an extensive search, Countryside YMCA (Lebanon, Ohio) is proud to announce Jason Roberts as its new director of competitive swimming/head coach for its nationally ranked Torpedo Swim Team.

“Jason was selected from a very impressive list of qualified coaching candidates,” said Countryside YMCA Aquatics Executive Director Holly Colon. “We selected him because Jason has demonstrated a very keep attention to detail; and clearly understands that a successful program produces not only great swimmers, but outstanding young people with strong character values as well.”

Roberts has been coaching swimming for more than 20 years. His career began as the head coach of the Kenton County YMCA Summer Team League. Since then, he spent seven years as the Head Age Group coach and 10 years as head coach at the Northern Kentucky Clippers Swim Team. His success with the Clippers included taking a locally competitive program in the Ohio LSC (a division of USA Swimming) to a nationally competitive program. Over the last two years, Roberts spent his time rebuilding the Foxjets Swim Team in Minnesota; growing that team over 320 swimmers this past winter.

“I’m excited for this opportunity to help continue and grow this longtime tradition at Countryside YMCA,” Roberts said of his new position. “I have always said that coaches are fortunate to work with and be a role model to other parents’ kids. Our sport teaches so many important life lessons. Through our Torpedo Swim Team, I want to instill in our athletes the character values they will need to be successful in their lives.”

The Countryside YMCA Torpedo Swim Team includes over 200 families and about 230 swimmers, ages 6 to 18. Historically, the Team has ranked among the top 5 YMCA teams across the country. In July, the Team won the YMCA Southwest Ohio Swim League Championships at Miami University. In 2014, the Team won the YMCA Long Course Combined National Championships. In 2017, 12 of 15 graduating teammates will be going to college on swimming scholarships.

Press release courtesy of Countryside YMCA.

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ISHOF Grande Dame Marjorie “Marge” Counsilman Passes Away at 93

Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

According to Indiana Athletics, Marjorie “Marge” Counsilman passed away on August 17, 2017. Counsilman was 93 years old at her time of passing and was a resident of Bloomington, Indiana.

Counsilman is best known for her International Swimming Hall of Fame Grande Dame Honor. She was given the award in 2004 for being a woman “who has been involved in swimming for a long period of time in her life. She is seen as a mom, a helper, an organizer, a promoter, a worker, a teacher, an authority, a friend, an enthusiast and a counselor.”

She served as a surrogate mother to the IU Swimming & Diving teams during the 33-year coaching career of her late husband Doc Counsilman. She provided emotional stability, team dinners and ran many behind-the-scenes operations at swim meets.

Current IU Head Coach Ray Looze described her as “the first lady of Indiana Hoosier swimming in perpetuity.” The team has since created the Marge Councilman Service Award in her honor. She will be remembered for her dedication to the IU Swimming & Diving program and to hard work throughout all aspects of her life.

Counsilman_Marge

Photo Courtesy: @IndianaSwimDive

View the full press release from Indiana Athletics below:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. Indiana University Athletics is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Marjorie “Marge” Counsilman on Thursday. She was the of late IU swimming coach James “Doc” Counsilman and mother to late IU assistant coach Brian Counsilman. Our thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones during this difficult time.

During Doc’s tenure as head men’s swimming coach at Indiana from 1957-1990, Marge was right by his side, helping Doc and the Hoosiers win six-consecutive NCAA Championships from 1968-1973 and 23 Big Ten titles, including 20-straight from 1961 to 1980. Doc also saw his swimmers break 52 world records, 154 American records and 106 individual NCAA records.

“Marge and Doc Councilman were the definition of ‘a team’ that lead IU swimming to the greatest achievements of any university in the sport of NCAA and Olympic-level swimming,” Indiana head swimming coach Ray Looze remarked. “I am sure Doc would have been the first person to acknowledge how important she was to the overall success of the program during his coaching tenue. We established the Marge Councilman Service Award to highlight her many behind the scenes contributions to this great era of IU swimming. She will always be remembered as ‘the first lady’ of Indiana Hoosier swimming in perpetuity.”

Marge was an important part of the overall success of the IU team during the 33 years Doc coached. She was the team’s surrogate mother. She was a source of emotional stability during a swimmer’s tumultuous time of competitive swimming. She hosted dinners and gatherings at her home. She ran the swim meets, including the Indiana State Championships, staffed the scoring table and kept the records.

Marge ran the 16mm stroke film and pace clock business from 1959 when the first pace clock was sold until 1974 when the business became incorporated. At that time, she became secretary-treasurer of Counsilman Company until the corporation dissolved in 1990.

“Marge played a vital role in Doc’s and IU’s success in the pool,” said Joel Stager, the Director at the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming. “She represented a surrogate mother to thirty years’ worth of swimmers and not just those who swam here in Bloomington. She was highly respected by swimmers around the country and the world, providing them all with a safe home environment in Bloomington though their own families in many cases were thousands of miles away. Her lasagna dinners remain legendary with all those who were lucky enough to have tasted it She was a full partner to Doc and Hobbie, and while they grabbed the headlines, Marge lived her life with grace and good humor by Doc’s and wouldn’t have had it any other way.  She will be greatly missed by the swim community.”

In 2004, Marge was recognized with the Grande Dame Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame, which is given to a woman “who has been involved in swimming for a long period of time in her life. She is seen as a mom, a helper, an organizer, a promoter, a worker, a teacher, an authority, a friend, an enthusiast and a counselor”.

In 2012, Marge was bestowed the Bill Orwig Award from IU, which recognizes outstanding contributions made by a non-alumnus to the Indiana University athletic program.

In 2013, Marge and Doc were inducted in to the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame, where it was noted that Marge was “a strong partner in all phases of Doc’s career, typed three books and was the business director of youth camps. Also, was a beloved surrogate mother to hundreds of Doc’s IU swimmers”.

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Grand Canyon University Adds Breaststroker Asahi Nagahata

Photo Courtesy: Kyle Staggs

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NEW COMMIT: Grand Canyon University will be adding Japanese breaststroker Asahi Nagahata to the roster this fall. He’s making the move to Phoenix from Doshisha University in Kyoto.

Nagahata does not yet have short course yards racing experience, but his best times in meters pools are:

  • 50 Free: 23.04 (scm); 23.80 (lcm)
  • 100 Free: 51.06 (scm); 52.45 (lcm)
  • 100 Breast: 1:02.09 (scm); 1:05.04 (lcm)
  • 200 Breast: 2:15.07 (scm); 2:20.17 (lcm)

His father, Hironobu Nagahata represented Japan in the 1988 Olympic Games. He too was a breaststroker, placing 14th in the 100 and 30th in the 200 breaststroke. As a member of the nation’s 400 medley relay Nagahata finished fifth.

The Antelopes compete in the Western Athletic Conference where the men finished third last year. Nagahata projects to be a significant contributor for the team. His converted best 100 scm breaststroke time (55.93) would have put him in the middle of the B final at last year’s Conference Championship. That would have been GCU’s highest finish in the event. He looks to be a great training partner for then-freshman Viktor Kertesz (56.12). Nagahata’s 200 breaststroke converts to a 2:01.68, another B final worthy swim and a great match for rising senior Mantas Auruskevicius (2:02.69).

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Three More World Records Fall On Fifth Day Of FINA World Masters Champs

Photo Courtesy: Budapest 2017

The records continued to fall at the 2017 FINA World Masters Championships as the meet headed into its fifth day in Budapest, Hungary. A total of three world records came down, with more than twenty championship records being set with two days left to go in the meet. Take a look at all the records that were broken of the fifth day of the meet below.

25-29 Age Group

Slovakia’s Zuzan Mimovicova broke the championship record in the women’s 200 IM with a 2:24.22, while the Ukraine’s Viacheslav Semhaikin did the same in the men’s 100 fly (54.86).

30-34 Age Group

Maksim Ganikhin set a new championship record in the men’s 100 fly, hitting the wall in 54.12, while Hungary’s Beatrix Boulsevicz did the same in the women’s event with a 1:03.76.

35-39 Age Group

The United States’ Kohei Kawamoto set a new world and championship record in the men’s 100 butterfly with a blistering 54.02, nearly breaking the 54 second barrier.

45-49 Age Group

Turkey’s Serkan Atasay set a new championship record in the men’s 100 butterfly (57.08).

50-54 Age Group

New Zealand’s Mark Weldon set a new championship record of 1:00.04 in the men’s 100 butterfly, while Italy’s Silvia Parocchi did the same in the women’s event with a 1:09.07.

55-59 Age Group

Ahmet Nakkas of Turkey won the men’s 50 free in a new championship record of 25.54 and would come back to do the same in the 200 IM (2:23.54).

65-69 Age Group

Laura Val of the United States continued her record breaking ways, hitting the wall first in the 50 free in a championship record of 30.30, and grabbing first in the 100 butterfly (1:14.00, also a championship record). South Africa’s Tim Shead set a championship record in the 200 IM (2:35.93), while Sweden’s Leonard Bielicz did the same in the men’s 100 fly (1:11.09).

70-74 Age Group

Austria’s Josef Kocsi set a new championship record in the 200 IM, hitting the wall in 2:52.57.

75-79 Age Group

Mike Freshley of the United States won the men’s 50 free in a championship record 31.01, while Akira Takakura of Japan broke the championship record in the men’s 100 fly (1:27.52).

80-84 Age Group

Hungary’s own Bela Fabian broke the world and championship records in the 200 IM hitting the wall in 3:26.78 to sneak by the WR by less than a second, while fellow Hungarian Kat Dr Flora did the same in the women’s event (3:53.63). South African David McLachlan set a new championship record in the men’s 100 butterfly (1:40.42).

90-94 Age Group

Zaven Boghossian of Brazil broke the men’s 50 free championship record by 4 tenths of a second, winning in 42.32.

95-99 Age Group

Poland’s Kazimierz Mrowczynski broke the championship record in the men’s 50 free with a 1:06.65, eclipsing the old record by nearly 12 seconds, while the United States’ Maurine Emilie Kornfeld did the same in the women’s event, touching in 1:09.83.

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Heart Surgery Behind Him, Aussie Olympian Kyle Chalmers Eyes Return

Photo Courtesy: adidas swim

By David Rieder.

At only 18 years old, Kyle Chalmers had made his first Olympic Games and his first Olympic final in the 100 free. The 6-foot-4-inch teenage dynamo had overachieved to qualify second-fastest in the event, but he was clearly still Australia’s No. 2 sprinter.

If an Australian was going to win gold (and snap a 60-year stretch of national futility in the event), it would surely be 22-year-old Cameron McEvoy, three inches shorter than Chalmers but a technician in the pool if there ever was one. At Australia’s Olympic Trials four months earlier, McEvoy had beaten Chalmers by more than a second and become the third-fastest man in history in the event.

Of course, funny things happen in swimming, and with five meters to go in the Olympic final, a yellow cap broke away from the field—and it belonged to Chalmers, not McEvoy.

Sure, swimming fanatics knew about Chalmers beforehand, but millions more learned his name that night. Chalmers, who had never expected he would become an Olympic gold medalist, was now on top of the world.

“My goal was to become an Olympian. And once I did that, I worked as hard as I could to swim well at the Olympics. I didn’t want to be one of those athletes that goes over there and doesn’t perform better than I did at Trials,” Chalmers said. “Once I made the final, I knew that I could just enjoy myself and have some fun with the race.”

The magnitude of his accomplishment hit Chalmers when he arrived back home and he saw just how much his historic win—one of only two individual golds in swimming for his country in Rio—meant to Australia.

chalmers-wave-100fr-rio-gold

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

A massive reception waited him when he landed in Sydney and then when he arrived in his hometown of Adelaide.

“The crowd there was unbelievable,” Chalmers said. “I had no idea. I guess that was probably the most nervous moment of the whole experience—walking up the staircase, and there’s this huge crowd, media everywhere.”

For the next several months, Chalmers was the golden boy, and media and sponsorship requests poured in. Chalmers explained that his fitness probably suffered as he fulfilled all those commitments, but compared to what else he was dealing with, fitness quickly became a secondary concern.

If Chalmers wanted to continue his career as an elite swimmer, he needed to do something about his heart.

What He Was Dealing With

His whole life, Chalmers had dealt with a condition called supraventricular tachycardia, where electrical pulses in his heart were routed through an extra circuit. That caused him to have an irregular heartbeat that could spike as high as 200 beats per minute.

The heart palpitations came and went. During the pre-Olympic season, Chalmers only remembers having one episode, but in the months after the Olympics, they became more frequent. In November, during Australia’s trials for the Short Course World Championships, Chalmers felt a palpitation coming on, so he had to pull out of the 100 free final.

kyle-chalmers-adidas-dive

Photo Courtesy: adidas swim

He had every intention of swimming at Short Course Worlds in Windsor, but as soon as his heart rate spiked, that was out of the question. “You feel like blacking out because your heart rate is so high,” he explained.

He dealt with another palpitation at the New South Wales Championships in early 2017, but this time he chose to race through the 50 free final. He got through his country’s World Championship Trials without major incident, finishing second in both the 100 and 200 free—even if his times (48.20 and 1:46.87) were not overly impressive.

But as even getting through a training session became more and more of a struggle, Chalmers realized that he had to do something about his condition. That meant surgery.

“Me, my coaches, Swimming Australia, we all sat down,” Chalmers said. “The best time to have the surgery done was now.”

The procedure would involve doctors cutting through Chalmers’ groin to burn off the extra circuit in his heart. The surgery was carried a small risk that he might end up with a pacemaker if the wrong circuit was burned, but if successful, there would be virtually no chance of his condition returning.

The surgery also meant Chalmers would miss key time in training just weeks before World Championships. So he pulled out.

Why not wait it out and try to get through Worlds before having surgery? Because the Commonwealth Games, scheduled for next April on the Gold Coast of Australia—on “home soil,” Chalmers pointed out—mattered more.

The Comeback Begins

In late July, even though he was not competing at Worlds, Chalmers traveled to Budapest anyway. The surgery had been a complete success, and the now-19-year-old was fully healthy. He had resumed swimming post-operation and had even already swum in one low-key meet in Australia before departing.

He was in the stands watching as 20-year-old American Caeleb Dressel took over the mantle as the best 100 freestyler in the world. Dressel’s stunning time of 47.17 was more than four tenths quicker than Chalmers had swum to win Olympic gold in Rio.

caeleb dressel, fina world championships

Caeleb Dressel — Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

“My coach kind of sat me down before I came over here saying what to expect. He said, you know, ‘I don’t think there will be anyone around what you went last year,’” Chalmers said. “But to see Caeleb progress even more than what he was last year already was amazing.”

As he returns to elite-level racing over the next year and in the lead-up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Chalmers would love to challenge Dressel and to defend his gold medal, but his primary source of motivation will come from someplace else—not medals, not times.

Weeks after his surgery, Chalmers’ grandmother passed away after an 18-month battle with leukemia. The two were extremely close.

Before she died, his grandmother had already booked tickets to watch Chalmers swim at the Commonwealth Games. All she wanted was to stay alive long enough so that she could get to that meet.

“She had the chaplain in there talking to her, and she said, ‘I wish you guys could prolong my life to the Commonwealth Games because all I want to do is see my grandson swim,’” Chalmers recalled. “So I guess that’s the thing that’s internally motivating me, to swim for her and do it for her.”

“I needed that, in a way, some sort of drive,” Chalmers added. “I’m not against times, someone who sets goals to achieve. I just want to be the best athlete I can be and have that legacy as a swimmer.”

Chalmers looks and speaks like a man in his mid-20s, but he is still just a teenager—and that’s why he thinks that he has much room to improve in the pool over the next several years, even after his setbacks this year.

“I don’t know if you’ve watched my swimming, but I’ve probably got the worst technique out of anyone,” Chalmers said. “I swim like a water polo player. If you watch me come out of my streamline, my first breath is looking forward. There’s so much stuff that I can work on over the next three years to better myself as a swimmer.”

Chalmers correctly pointed out that success brings attention, and right now, in the 100 free, the man getting all the attention—and deservedly so—is Dressel. But it was just 12 months ago that Chalmers was in that position, the darling of the sprint world as the youngest Olympic gold medalist in the 100 free in 36 years.

Now, Chalmers is the underdog. His health issues behind him—and his grandmother’s memory fresh in his mind—he begins the climb back.

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