11/22/10 — Olympic swim clinic

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Olympic swim clinic

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 22, 2010 1:46 PM

There have been some very good swimmers who have graced the pool at the B.G. Darden Natatorium inside the Goldsboro YMCA over the years.

Perhaps none better, or more decorated, than former U.S. Olympic team member Ian Crocker.

The three-time Olympian came to the YMCA for the inaugural Mutual of Omaha Breakout Swim Clinic on Friday afternoon. Fellow women's Olympic team member Christine Marshall accompanied Crocker for the event that featured a motivational poolside talk as well as time performing drills in the water.

Approximately 80 young swimmers from across eastern North Carolina came out for the clinic. Coaches, parents and athletes from as far away as Croatan, Wilmington and Fayetteville made the trek to work with Crocker and Marshall.

"We have had some nationally known swimmers here before for other events, but we have never done anything of this caliber," said Tammy Yates, head coach of the YMCA Goldsboro Sharks team. "We have kids here ranging in age from 8-18 as well as club coaches and high school coaches."

The highlight of the clinic came right off the bat as Crocker took the platform to tell his story about a life in the pool. Crocker told the crowd about his days as a youth swimmer in Portland, Maine, and his eventual ascent to collegiate standout at the University of Texas.

Known as a freestyle swimmer early in his career, Crocker surprised himself and most of the USA Swim team by qualifying for the 1996 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, in the 100 meter butterfly.

"I was a little disappointed because I thought I had a chance to qualify in the 100 meter freestyle, but I came in ninth," Crocker noted. "I went and talked to (three-time Olympian) Josh Davis and he told to keep my head up and give it all in the last race which was the 100 fly.

"I almost broke the U.S. record in the Olympic trials and I made it to Sydney."

At the Sydney games Crocker broke the United States record in the 100 fly, but finished fourth overall. Crocker and his three teammates claimed the 400-medley relay gold medal. The group won the medley relay again in 2004 at the Athens games and a third time at the 2008 games in Beijing. In Athens, Crocker won a silver medal in the 100 fly and a bronze in the 400 individual medley.

In 2002, Crocker set the world record when he beat Michael Phelps in the 100 meter fly at the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. Crocker clocked in at 50.98 seconds.

"That was a lot of fun because Michael had broken the record the night before," said Crocker. "I knew that I had done all I could do in training and the next night we swam the finals, and I remember turning around and seeing that time and thinking 'man, Michael swam a great time' and then I realized that was actually my time."

Crocker retired after the 2008 Games after 18 years of competitive swimming. Phelps broke his world record time in 2009.

After Crocker's talk, the swimmers hit the pool for individual drills. Marshall, who swam in Beijing and is planning on trying to qualify for the 2012 Games in London, worked with several young swimmers. She later shared her story about being a competitor and a successful, hard-working athlete.

The pair waited around after the clinic ended and answered individual questions from campers.

"I wanted to do something to give back to the sport that I love so much," said Crocker. "I think these clinics help me get back to the grass roots of swimming and that's something I really enjoy."