By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, June 26. LESS than a year into my retirement, it is impossible for me to watch a swim meet objectively. I feel that familiar churn in my stomach–a mixture of nerves and excitement–when the names of the women's 200-meter freestyle are announced.
I consider my own splits when I watch the events I used to swim, and I cheer for the women that I have shared the ready room with. With so many swims ranked top three in the world this year, it is impossible to choose a single stand out swim from this evening. The impressive doubles by both Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte, however, cannot be ignored.
I don't think that anyone was shocked by Missy's ability to win both her events this evening. She is the world record holder in the 200-meter backstroke, and won by a relatively large margin last summer at the Olympic Games in the event. In the women's 200 freestyle, she was the obvious favorite: the winner of the 100-meter freestyle last night plus the world record holder in the 200-meter backstroke equals a great 200-meter freestyle.
She turned around and swam the 200-backstroke later in the evening, which is a tough double: tougher than the double she did last summer at the Olympic Games in my opinion. Her response when asked about what it is like is what struck me: she revels in swimming back-to-back events. She does not dwell on the fact that she is more tired than anyone else in that 200-meter backstroke field, she accepts it. This is something that is not easy to do, and is one of the many reasons why she is a champion.
I personally did not think Ryan Lochte's chances to win both were quite as good as Franklin's, but he managed to hold off the field in the final meters of both the 200-meter freestyle and 200-meter backstroke. Ryan Lochte is ten years older than Missy Franklin: that's a heck of a lot more lactic acid to deal with. Add this with the fact that his training has admittedly not been what it was before the Olympic Games. To win twice, in the “not quite” best shape of your life, at a meet as deep as US Trials? Those are the trappings of a legitimate superstar in our sport.
I am no stranger to swimming doubles. At World Championships in 2011, I attempted to swim the 100-meter backstroke semifinal and the 200-meter IM final, which ended up being nine minutes apart. I spent a good part of those nine minutes throwing up in a corner; mostly due to nerves and the fact that I had no time to warm down.
All I remember thinking is “this is the worst moment of my life.” As you can probably guess, this double did not go well. In fact, it ended fairly disastrously: not only did I fail to qualify for the final of the 100-meter backstroke, but I finished 8th in the 200 IM. And my backstroke split was faster than my freestyle split. Enough said?
It is hard to do back-to-back races, even though Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte make it look easy. Tonight, these two swimmers epitomized what it means to be a champion.
Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M's first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.
Follow her on twitter @juliah2o