By Nicole Leffer
ATLANTA, Georgia. September 12. CALL it the world’s coolest stroke clinic. Call it amazing motivation for America’s young swimmers. Call it Disney’s Swim with the Stars.
The ultimate swimming experience has arrived for every young athlete who did not have the opportunity to witness either the Olympic Trials or the Olympics live and in person. Swimming superstars Michael Phelps, Ian Crocker and Lenny Krayzelburg headline the Disney-sponsored national tour that kicked off in Atlanta at the Mountain View Aquatic Center on September 5th.
Swim with the Stars is an experience unto itself. In addition to getting to see Phelps, Crocker and Krayzelburg up-close while viewing highlights from their careers on a huge screen, the crowd gets to see each Olympian get in the pool right there and demonstrate drills in his specialty. Each star explains exactly what he is doing, what he specifically focuses on in the drill, and how the drills ultimately help him in his full stroke. Something every spectator is sure to notice — how few strokes it takes these guys to get across the pool. Every kid (and even the parents who know nothing about swimming technique) watching will understand the value of distance per stroke after these demonstrations.
“I came because I wanted to see their strategies, how they swim and how I can improve my strokes,” said 11-year-old Samantha Bosma of Stingrays Swimming. “I really like when they are doing drills because I can pick up new skills. I learned a lot about my strokes.”
Following the demonstrations, pre-selected co-ed kids from the host club’s team get to dive in on a relay team with their heroes. Three relays worth of kids (each anchored by a star) get both the experience of having an Olympic gold medalist on their team, and having an entire crowd of spectators screaming for them.
After the relays, the guys dry off and sit down for a question and answer session with the crowd. Questions asked in Atlanta ranged from training schedule (Phelps swims 7 days a week, 365 days a year), to how long they’ve been swimming (Crocker failed out of swim lessons at six-years-old, and Krayzelburg has “been swimming longer than Michael is”), to their favorite female swimmer (Crocker said someone most of the crowd was too young to remember — Jill Sterkel — and Phelps noted that he can’t narrow it down to one because the US has an amazing women’s team), to nervousness before races (Krayzelburg summed it up when he said that “we all get nervous,” and “if you don’t get nervous you’re not ready’), to water sports besides swimming (Phelps wishes his coach would let them play water polo sometimes, and can you picture Krayzelburg doing synchro?).
Twelve-year-old Mary Rose Palerno of Swim Atlanta said she came “because Michael Phelps is hot,” but that “this definitely ended up a lot higher than expectations. I learned a lot — especially in backstroke.”
Another 12-year-old, Kameron Ansley, made a trek from Savannah, Georgia, to come up and watch the show.
“All of them are really cool. I was excited to see them after seeing the Olympics,” said Ansley. “The awe makes it really cool. You can’t believe it's really them after seeing them on T.V. so much.”
The kids who are watching aren’t the only ones who are psyched for the Swim with the Stars tour. For Phelps, being able to be on tour, help swimming, and give back to the fans is huge.
“My favorite part is the interaction with the kids,” said Phelps. “It’s incredible to see the reaction on their faces and really get a smile from them.”
The remaining dates on the tour are:
Ft. Collins- 9/19/04
Salt Lake City- 9/24/04
San Francisco- 9/30/04
*More dates may be added
For tickets and information visit their website at www.swimwiththestars.com .