US Sets New World Record in Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay

Greetings, swimming enthusiasts!


This summer has been full of exciting swimming competitions. A few weeks ago, at the 17th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, the United States women’s team broke the 4×100 medley relay world record to win the gold.


The relay team consisted of Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Kelsi Worrell, and Simone Manuel. They broke the previous record of three minutes 52.05 seconds that was set at the London Olympics by Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, and Allison Schmitt, clocking in at three minutes 51.55 seconds.


All four of the swimmers that were a part of the record-breaking relay this summer were medalists in their respective 100’s at the meet, so there was talk before the race that perhaps this world record could be shattered. Although going into the freestyle leg they were about half of a second off pace, 100 meter freestyle world champion Simone Manuel powered the team to a record-breaking finish.


Russia came in second with a time of 3:53.38, and Australia grabbed the bronze at 3:54.29.


Kathleen Baker, who swam the backstroke leg, headed off the relay well with a personal best of 58.54, making her the fifth fastest American to ever swim that event. Baker swam for SwimMAC Carolina as a child, and now attends the University of California, Berkeley. She won the silver medal in the 100 back at both the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 FINA World Championships.


Next up was breaststroker Lilly King, who swam a time of 1:04.43. Although King kept close to Russia’s Yuliya Efimova, the United States was in second place at the halfway mark of the race. King attends Indiana University, and won the gold medal for the 100 breast in the 2016 Olympic Games, and the 100 and 50 breast at the 2017 FINA World Championships. She broke the world record to win the gold in the 100 breast at the World Championships.


Kelsi Worrell swam the butterfly leg in 56.30 seconds to get the United States in the lead. Worrell specializes in sprint freestyle and butterfly, and attended the University of Louisville. She won a bronze medal in the 100 meter butterfly at the FINA World Championships with a time of 56.37.


Simone Manuel finished off the power quartet with a 100 meter freestyle in 52.23 seconds. Manuel attends Stanford University, and is widely known for her sprint freestyle. At the 2016 Olympic Games, she won the gold in the 100 free and the silver in the 50 free, and at the FINA World Championships, she won the gold in the 100 free and the bronze in the 50 free.


I congratulate these four women on their outstanding performances at the 2017 FINA World Championships, and I look forward to seeing what this next generation of elite swimmers can do!



Women at the Olympics

Hello swimming enthusiasts!


Today we are going to travel back in time to the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. Why this particular Olympics, you may ask? In fact, this was the first Olympics in which the swimming competition included female events.


Although in 1912, women were already able to compete in sports such as archery, golf, tennis, and yachting, the inclusion of swimming marked an important turning point and opened up the door for women in other Olympic sports as well.


The decision was made in 1910 in Luxembourg, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted unanimously to open up swimming, gymnastics, and tennis to women.


While men had many options for swimming events, women were limited to two events: the 100-meter freestyle, and the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay. In the 100-meter freestyle, Australasia’s Fanny Durack took the gold. If you are interested in learning more about her, you can read my post from November 2015, which focuses on Fanny Durack’s career. Great Britain took the gold in the relay.


Twenty-seven women ended up swimming in Stockholm, representing eight countries: Australasia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, and Sweden.


Interestingly, the United States was not one of these countries. Although at this time, women in America were beginning to have more of a presence in swimming, men in higher positions would not allow them to compete in the Olympics. Specifically, American sports official James E. Sullivan had control of both the American Olympic Committee and the Amateur Athletic Union. He firmly believed that women did not belong in formal competitions, and hindered the progress of women in sports.


There was no Olympic Games held in 1916 due to World War I. In 1920, however, women were finally able to swim. Although the American Olympic Committee was still not fully behind the idea, the women’s swim team manager Charlotte Epstein advocated for the group and explained that other countries were sending women to compete.


That year, fifteen American women swam in Belgium, achieving tremendous success. They took home all of the medals in the 100-meter and 300-meter freestyle events, and were respected and admired by Americans.


We have these women to thank for their confidence and courage in bringing the sport of swimming to female athletes.



Missy Franklin Publishes Book “Relentless Spirit: The Unconventional Raising of a Champion”

Hello, swimming enthusiasts!


Last month, Missy Franklin, the star backstroker of the 2012 Olympics, published a book about her journey both as a swimmer and as an individual. The honesty and authenticity of her book goes along with the traits for which she has been praised as an athlete.


The book, co-written with her parents and published by Dutton, takes a closer look at Franklin’s incredible rise to fame and four gold-medal victories at the 2012 Olympic Games. However, it also provides readers with a wholehearted response to her disappointment this summer with Olympic Trials and the 2016 Olympic Games. At Olympic Trials, she narrowly qualified to compete in Rio, and at the Olympics, Franklin placed seventh in the 200 meter backstroke, for which she held the world record.


According to Franklin, she was picturing a different end to her book, as she began writing it before the summer began. In fact, she could have chosen to end her book before the summer of 2016; it was her choice to cover this period of time in her book.


Franklin’s genuine and heartfelt response to her struggles in Rio this summer has increased respect for her. Now, she is not only seen as a star swimmer, but also as an inspiring person who has pushed through disappointing experiences and shared her wisdom with others. I admire Franklin’s ability to not retreat into herself regarding these events, but instead open up to the public.



Celebrating the Career of Maya DiRado

Hello swimming enthusiasts!


With Simone Manuel’s victory in the 100 meter freestyle, Lilly King’s gold-medal 100 meter breaststroke, Maya DiRado’s 200 meter backstroke win, and, of course, Katie Ledecky’s sweep of the 200, 400, and 800 meter freestyle, the Rio Olympics were a great success for the female swimmers of the USA!


Today, I am highlighting a swimmer whose final (and first Olympic!) competition was the recent Games in Rio: the talented and versatile Maya DiRado. After seventeen years of competitive swimming, DiRado made an announcement at the beginning of August that she would retire after the Games; she and her husband have bought a house in Atlanta and DiRado will soon begin working with Global Management Consulting Company, McKinsey and Company.


So, how did it all start? Maya DiRado was born on April 5, 1993, in San Francisco. Surprisingly, Maya is not actually her real name. Her full name is Madeline Jane DiRado, but her older sister could not pronounce Madeline and the name “Maya” stuck. DiRado began swimming at the young age of six for the Santa Rosa Neptunes. She recalls falling in love with her first team suit and wanting to wear it to bed.


Academically, DiRado was always ahead. She was mature beyond her years and skipped second grade because she was so advanced compared to her classmates. At fifteen, she achieved a perfect score on the Math SAT. However, as a swimmer, DiRado is often considered a late bloomer. While the sport has been filled with young female swimmers like Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin, who were gold medalists as high schoolers, DiRado qualified for the Olympics for the first time this year, at the age of twenty-three. At the 2012 Olympic Trials, she finished in fourth for both the 200 and 400 meter IMs, missing the chance to compete in the Olympics by two places.


At this point in her career, DiRado was content with her current accomplishments and did not really see herself as ever being an Olympian. However, this is when her college coach at Stanford, Greg Meehan, stepped in and encouraged her to take her swimming to the next level. And she did. DiRado continued swimming after college, delayed starting a job, and trained intensely for the most difficult event in the sport: the 400 IM.


By 2016, after placing high in multiple World and Pan-Pacific Championships, Maya DiRado was in a position to blow away the competition at Olympic Trials and make the Olympic Team. In 2015, she had won a silver medal in the 400 IM, the fastest American time since Elizabeth Beisel’s race in the 2012 Olympics. At Olympic Trials in Omaha, DiRado brought her A game, finishing three seconds ahead of the second-place finisher in the 400 meter IM, leading the entire 200 meter IM race, and out-touching Missy Franklin in the 200 meter backstroke. She was heading into Rio as the top seed in both IM events, and the second seed in the 200 meter backstroke.


When the week of Olympic swimming finally came, Maya DiRado finished her career with a bang. She won the gold medal in the 200 meter backstroke by a narrow .06-second margin, the silver medal in the 400 meter IM, and the bronze medal in the 200 meter IM, all lifetime bests. In addition, she helped Team USA swim to a first-place finish in the 4×200 meter freestyle relay, as the third leg. I admire DiRado for her perseverance in the sport and late rise to success. She will surely be missed this year at major swimming competitions!



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First-Time Olympian Melanie Margalis Ready to Dive Into Rio

Hello swimming enthusiasts! With summer in full swing and the Rio Olympics just around the corner, there is so much going on in the swimming world. Today, we will take a look at an Olympic rookie, the twenty-four-year old Melanie Margalis from Clearwater, Florida.


Born in 1991, Melanie Margalis grew up in Clearwater, where she attended Countryside High School and was a club swimmer for St. Petersburg Aquatics. As a high schooler, Margalis swam the fastest 200-yard IM in the state of Florida.


Although she is primarily a breaststroker and IMer, Margalis has a wide range of talent, and is not afraid to swim different events. In 2009, for example, she claimed the state championship in the 500-yard freestyle.


Swimming capabilities run in the Margalis family. Her older sister, Stephanie, swam at the University of South Carolina, and her older brother, Robert, was an NCAA champion at Georgia.


Since Robert Margalis had been so successful at Georgia, Melanie Margalis decided to follow in his footsteps and become a Bulldog. She studied fashion merchandising while becoming a standout college swimmer. By senior year, Margalis was making swimming headlines. As the team captain, she swam second in the 200 IM, third in the 400 IM, and fourth in the 200 breast at the NCAA Championships.


Interestingly, Margalis never envisioned herself as an Olympic swimmer. Although she was always surrounded with Olympic hopefuls like Robert Margalis and Megan Romano in her childhood, and even more Olympic hopefuls at Georgia, she never thought of herself as one. Now she has earned herself a spot on the 2016 Olympic team!


Margalis qualified for the 200 freestyle, 200 IM, and 100 breaststroke finals at Olympic Trials last month, but decided to scratch the 100 breast to focus on her other two events, which happened to be on the same night. She swam to a sixth-place finish in the 200 freestyle, earning her a spot on the 800 freestyle relay. Later on that night, Margalis came from behind to edge out Caitlin Leverenz for second place in the 200 IM, with a time of 2:10.11.


It will be exciting to see what Melanie Margalis can accomplish in a few weeks!



Donna de Varona: Medley Extraordinaire, Swimming Sportscaster, and Women’s Activist

Hello swimming enthusiasts!


Today I am back to offer you a closer look into another inspiring female swimmer, Donna de Varona. De Varona was the youngest athlete at the 1960 Olympic Games, set long-standing world records in the 400-meter individual medley and 100-meter backstroke during her career, and became the television network ABC’s first full-time female sports broadcaster after her swimming career ended.


Born in San Diego, California in 1947, Donna de Varona first had an interest in little league baseball. However, she was denied a place on the team because she was female, and she later drew on this experience to fuel her work for gender equality. Through her trips to the pool with her injured brother, who swam for physical therapy, de Varona soon found that swimming was a great outlet for her energy. She had the opportunity to train with some of the best coaches in the sport as a teen, including George Haines, the coach of seven U.S. Olympic teams.


At the age of thirteen, de Varona qualified for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Although she gained attention due to her young age, her event was ultimately cancelled and she did not compete. But de Varona was not one to quit. Over the next four years, she took home thirty-seven national swimming championships and set eighteen world records. When she returned to the Olympic Games in 1964, the United Press International and Associated Press declared her the most distinguished female athlete in the world.


Donna de Varona ended her swimming career after the 1964 Olympics, at the age of seventeen. At the time, most colleges did not have a women’s athletics department, and the University of California, Los Angeles was no exception. However, de Varona never truly left the sport. Instead, she emerged on the other side of it, as a sports broadcaster. She debuted her career with ABC in 1965 as a commentator for the Wide World of Sports with Jim McKay.


Donna de Varona was always an advocate for women’s rights, especially in sports. In 1998, when ABC failed to renew her contract, she filed a $50 million lawsuit, claiming that male veteran sportscasters were prioritized. In addition, de Varona fought to pass Title IX in 1972, a law that prohibits gender discrimination in sports. She and the tennis champion Billie Jean King co-founded the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974.


Therefore, Donna de Varona is exemplary in her strides as an athlete, a sportscaster and a women’s activist.



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Natalie Coughlin Ready to Swim at Canadian Olympic Trials

Hello swimming enthusiasts!


In a few days, Natalie Coughlin, along with a large group of foreign swimmers, will compete at the Canadian Olympic Trials in Toronto. The meet, taking place from April 5-10, has become not only a competition to select Canadians for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but also an international competition for many North American swimmers. In some cases, these foreign swimmers come from countries without real Trials or with flexibility in qualifying for the Games. For NCAA swimmers, the Trials serve as a helpful long course test after the NCAA competition. In addition, many teams have started to travel to the competition as a group, for a great training meet.


With the exciting competition around the corner, today I will give you a closer look at Natalie Coughlin. Coughlin was born in 1982 in Vallejo, California, and began swimming competitively at the young age of six. By the time she was a high schooler, Coughlin reached national recognition. She held the national high school records in the 200-yard IM and 100-yard backstroke, and at the age of sixteen, she qualified for every event at summer nationals. Her ability to qualify for every single event surely displays her incredible skill and expertise in all things swimming.


Coughlin attended college at the University of California, where she shined as a swimmer under the guidance of her coach, Teri McKeever. In 2002, she became the first woman in history to achieve a time under one minute in the 100-meter backstroke. Over the course of her college career, she won 12 NCAA titles. Today, Coughlin is still Cal’s most decorated swimmer of all time, and holds records in the 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke, 100 butterfly, and 200 butterfly.


Coughlin’s international career began at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships. She has had immense success at the international level, winning medals and setting American and World Records at meets such as the 2001, 2007, and 2013 World Championships.


However, Coughlin is perhaps best known for her Olympic success. At the 2004 Trials, she qualified for the Olympic Team in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle. She was the woman to watch in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Games. After winning twelve Olympic medals, she is tied with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated American female swimmer.


Coughlin has faced several challenges over the course of her swimming career. She has scoliosis, a 27-degree spinal curve, something that she must be very careful about when she approaches the racing season. In addition, she feels that she is often much shorter than her competition–she is 5’8’’, while many of her competitors are over six feet. This is particularly an obstacle for her in shorter races. Coughlin does, however, have many advantages in the water. For example, she is very flexible–she can touch her toes with her elbows. In addition, she has long arms. While she is only 5’8’’, her reach is 6’1’’.

Coughlin is constantly experimenting with her stroke. In the past, she has rotated a lot throughout her whole body, but more recently, she has focused on rotating specifically in her upper body to generate more power in her arms. Coughlin’s talent, perseverance, and versatility in the pool make her a shining example of women in swimming.


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Dara Torres: The Comeback Swimmer


Hello swimming enthusiasts! In the spirit of the upcoming Olympic Trials, today I will be highlighting Dara Torres, a female swimming superstar who, in addition to being the oldest swimmer ever on the U.S. Olympic Team, was the first and so far only swimmer ever to represent the U.S. in five different Olympic Games.


Torres was born on April 15, 1967 in Beverly Hills, California, where she attended the Westlake School for Girls and swam on their swim team. By the age of twelve, she had set her first national record, and at the age of fourteen, she competed in her first international competition. In 1984, Torres became a part of the U.S. Olympic Team, winning the gold on the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay team.


In the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Torres became the oldest swimmer to compete in the Olympics, and returned home with three silver medals. One of these silver medals was earned from the 50-meter freestyle event, where she was 1/100th of a second short of the gold medal. However, she was appreciated for her good-natured reaction to the results.


In 2012, at the age of forty-five, Torres came back to her swimming, but failed to make the Olympic team. Overall, Torres has swam in five Olympic Games and won twelve Olympic medals, making her tied with Jenny Thompson and Natalie Coughlin as the most decorated female American swimmer.


Torres’ impressive showing in Beijing and her attempt at participating in the 2012 Olympic Games has made her an important role model of comebacks in sports. She has inspired countless older athletes to think about re-entering competition, such as cyclist Lance Armstrong.


Perhaps this year in Rio, there will be another unexpected successful swimmer. Keep your eyes open!



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16-Year-Old Cassidy Bayer Dives into Olympic Training

High school sophomore and youngest member of the US National Team, Cassidy Bayer of Nation’s Capital Swim Club is preparing for her first-ever Olympic Trials.


Bayer was born in Northern Virginia in 1999, and had great success in swimming from an early age. She held National Age Group (NAG) records in the 11-12 100 and 200 meter fly, broke the NAG 13-14 200 fly record that stood for 34 years, and was the youngest swimmer to compete at the 2013 US World Championship Trials.


Bayer’s optimistic and enthusiastic attitude allows her to bounce back quickly and wholeheartedly from defeat. She had the opportunity to train with Ryan Lochte at the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs, and “there was not one dull moment in practice when I was swimming with her,” Lochte said.


Now, Bayer must physically and mentally prepare herself for Olympic Trials this summer in Omaha, Nebraska. Only the top two swimmers in each event advance to the Olympics, and she currently swims the fourth-fastest women’s 200 meter fly in the country. She definitely has the talent and determination to swim in the Olympics, and if not this year, then in 2020.


Bayer has several disadvantages in the pool. She is shorter than most swimmers, developed exercise-induced asthma, and is missing a muscle in her shoulder. These setbacks make her achievements even more impressive.


Bayer’s warm and positive personality, incredible talent, and ability to overcome many physical obstacles make her a perfect example of a woman who stands out in swimming!



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First Female Olympic Gold Medalist in Swimming

Hello swimming enthusiasts!


Happy Thanksgiving! Today I am back to feature Sarah (Fanny) Durack, the first woman ever to win a gold medal in swimming. Durack was born in 1889 in Sydney, Australia. She learned to swim at an early age in the Coogee Baths, an ocean tidal pool in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. In fact, the father of one of her good friends, Wilhelmina Wylie, owned the Baths, and he pushed the girls to train alongside the best male swimmers at the time.


When she was only eleven, Durack competed in the 100 yard breaststroke at the New South Wales Ladies Championships. In fact, breaststroke was the only style that women were allowed to compete in at the time. At the age of seventeen, Durack won her first State title. Although she got last place in the race (the older and already well-established Annette Kellerman won–you can read about her in one of my earlier blog posts!), she did not get discouraged, and, over the next few years, she became the best female swimmer in Australia.


Durack developed what is now known as the Australian crawl, a style quite different from the type of freestyle most popular in today’ swimming. Instead of a six-beat kick independent of how the arms are moving, Durack’s Australian crawl consisted of a two-beat kick that was coordinated with the arms. She would kick with one foot and stroke with the opposite arm, and then switch to the other leg and the opposite arm.


Organizations at the time such as the New South Wales Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Association prohibited women from participating in competitions where men were also present. However, Durack and Wylie had such success in the years leading up to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm that the public encouraged her to compete. This was the first year that an individual swimming event was offered for women, in the 100 meter freestyle. Durack swam the event in 1 minute 19.8 seconds, breaking the world record.


Between 1912 and 1918, Durack dominated the female swimming world, breaking twelve world records. Highlights included the 100 yard freestyle (1 minute 6 seconds), the 100 meter freestyle (1 minute 16.2 seconds), and the mile freestyle (26 minutes 8 seconds).


This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Fanny Durack’s hard work and determination to establish the prominence of women in swimming.



Mina Wylie left, Fanny Durack right
Mina Wylie (left) and Fanny Durack (right)