Thursday, August 11, 2016

Don't poke the bear in the water

"Don't poke the bear." — Natalie Coughlin, USA twelve-time Olympic medalist in swimming

I SHOULD have given you a heads up that I'd be useless until the Olympics are over on August 21. Big fan. 


What an awesome start days three and four have been for the US! Lilly King beat Yulia Efimova from Russia to win the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke, and Katie Meili took bronze. 



Lilly King (photo from the LA Times)

Katie Ledecky won gold in the women's 200-meter freestyle. Ryan Murphy did the same in the men's 100-meter backstroke, and David Plummer got the bronze. Gotta love David's story: at age 30, he's the oldest first-time US Olympic swimmer since 1904. 


And of course the US women's gymnastics team, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian, were golden in the team competition. We've followed Aly and Gabby since we saw them compete in person at the 2011 United States Gymnastics Championships.


Then last night, Wednesday night, USA swimming superstars Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith, Maya DiRado and Katie Ledecky grabbed the gold in the women's 4X200 freestyle.


By now you've probably seen the video of the South African swimmer Chad le Clos — who stunned Michael Phelps at the 2012 London Olympics by beating him in the 200-meter butterfly — taunting Michael in the ready room as they waited for the 200 fly finals. 


If for some reason you haven't, here's the link to watch it. It's not to be missed . . . and the reason Natalie Coughlin tweeted: "Don't poke the bear."  



A still from the NBC video of Chad le Clos taunting Michael Phelps just prior to the 200-meter butterfly finals.

All le Clos accomplished was making the big bear in the water really, really, really mad — and turn everyone who watched his ill-advised, grade school attempts to intimidate Michael, against him.  


Michael's response was to completely ignore him . . . except for the by-now, famous glare that warned the world of what was to come. He thrashed Mr. le Clos (in the pool). 


Just a little over an hour later Michael underlined his unprecedented place in swimming history by anchoring the men's 4x200 freestyle, and with Conor Dwyer, Townley Haas and Ryan Lochte, won the Olympic gold medal for the United States for the fourth straight time. 



Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Townley Haas and Conor Dwyer. (From USA Swimming and Getty Images)

Paul and I were fortunate enough to attend the 2016 Olympic Swimming Trials in June, and even though we were only there for two days this time around (it's our third trip to the trials), we still got to see all the US Olympic swimmers in person except for three of the women: Abbey Weitzeil, Amanda Weir, and Elizabeth Beisel and five of the men: Anthony Ervin, Nathan Adrian, Jimmy Feigen, Jay Litherland, and Ryan Held — although we saw Amanda, Elizabeth, Anthony, Nathan and Jimmy swim at the 2012 trials. 


That means that altogether we've seen the entire US men's and women's team swim in person except for three swimmers. How cool is that?!



At the 2016 trials
Here's the 2016 US Olympic indoor swimming team:  

Women


Camille Adams

Kathleen Baker
Elizabeth Beisel
Maya DiRado
Hali Flickinger
Missy Franklin
Molly Hannis
Lilly King
Katie Ledecky
Simone Manuel
Melanie Margalis
Katie Meili
Cierra Runge
Allison Schmitt
Leah Smith
Olivia Smoliga
Dana Vollmer
Amanda Weir
Abbey Weitzeil
Kelsi Worrell

Men


Nathan Adrian

Gunnar Bentz
Jack Conger
Kevin Cordes
Conor Dwyer
Anthony Ervin
Jimmy Feigen
Townley Haas
Ryan Held
Connor Jaeger
Chase Kalisz
Jay Litherland
Ryan Lochte
Cody Miller
Ryan Murphy
Jacob Pebley
Blake Peroni
Michael Phelps
David Plummer
Josh Prenot
Tom Shields
Clark Smith

We're fans! Can ya' tell?! And so many great stories behind them.


Kathleen Baker, who won a silver medal Monday night in the 100-meter backstroke, has battled Crohn's disease most of her life.


If you watched coverage of any of the races Conor Dwyer has been in, you've probably seen his large family cheering section that came with him to Rio. Well, it's for real. At the trials, it was a busload!



Team Dwyer pictures I took in the hotel lobby.



Here's Anthony Ervin's remarkable story: He won two Olympic medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics — gold in the men's 50-meter freestyle and silver as a member of the US 4x100 freestyle relay team. He followed those wins with two gold medals at the 2001 World Championships, one in the 50m freestyle and the other in the 100m freestyle. 

Then in 2003 at the age of 22, he stopped swimming competitively altogether, and the following year he auctioned off his Olympic gold medal on eBay to aid survivors of the 2004 tsunami!! Wow!


Anthony began training again a scant year before the 2012 trials and still made the team in the 50-meter free at age 31. He was back at the 2016 trials at 35 years of age trying to make the Olympic team one more time — and he did. He and Nathan Adrian are co-captains of the 2016 team.


Speaking of Nathan Adrian, don't you just love watching him being interviewed? Nathan, who is the defending gold medalist in the 100-meter free, had a less than stellar swim in the prelims and barely qualified for the semi's. Asked by an interviewer about it, he said, "Eh. I was tired. I only had four hours of sleep after last night's swim. It's okay."


Nathan went on to win the bronze in the event and when asked by the same sportscaster afterwards, "What happened out there," he said, "I didn't have the fastest time in the pool. Other people people swam faster." 


And to the inane question of, "What was going through your mind?", he said "Swim faster." Gotta love a guy who doesn't suffer fools gladly.



Nathan and his bronze (From USA Swimming and Getty Images)
Then there's Maya DiRado. What an all around talent. Maya entered high school at age 13, at 15 received a perfect score on the math section of the SATs, and graduated from high school at 17.

Like 
Anthony Ervin, Allison Schmitt is another study in fighting her way back. Allison was a first-time Olympian in 2008, earning a bronze medal. At the 2012 London Olympics she upped the medal ante to five: three gold, one silver. A few months after her remarkable success, however, she sank into a debilitating depression. Allison found the increased public attention overwhelming, and the personal pain she was in led to poor results in the pool which meant not qualifying for several international competitions. 


Allison turned to Michael Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, and with their support and the assistance of therapy, she pulled herself out of bed, back into the pool and back up on the medal stand. Allison, in fact, lives in Arizona with Michael and his fiancé and baby. 


Here's link to an article that appeared in The Arizona Republic about her fight with depression and the role Michael Phelps has played in seeing her through it. 



A photo I took of Allison at the 2012 Olympic trials

That's my story, morning glory. What can I say, we're fans. Below are photos Paul and I took at the 2016 trials.



Kelsi Worrell and Dan Vollmer finished first and second in the 100-meter fly


The medal ceremony for the 4X200 freestyle. Left to right: Ryan Lochte, Townley Haas and Conor Dwyer


Michael Phelps doing the famous Phelps flap in lane 4 preparing to swim the 200-meter fly

Michael Phelps pounding it home to (of course) win the 200-meter fly

Katie Ledecky in the red cap launching herself into the 400-meter freestyle
In the lead


Celebrating the win
Katie Ledecky in lane 4 preparing to swim in the 200-meter freestyle.
Ryan Murphy at the 100-meter backstroke gold medal ceremony

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