London’s Calling: Clark Burckle and Ariana Kukors

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 13. PERHAPS in homage to the notoriously lucky Friday the 13th, rainstorms hit Swimming World's Phoenix offices today, cutting the oppressive summer heat.

Besides rain, what could be luckier than being one day closer to the Olympics? Today is the official two-week mark till the London opening ceremonies. Let's take a look at two more Team USA Olympians.

Clark Burckle:

Due to NBC rights holder restrictions, the following video interview is only viewable until 7/27/2012:

24-year-old Clark Burckle was born in Louisville, Kentucky and attended St. Xavier High School. He is the younger brother of Olympic bronze medalist Caroline Burckle. Following in his older sister's footsteps, Burckle originally attended the University of Florida, where he swam under coach Gregg Troy from 2006 to 2008.

Burckle spent his senior year at the University of Arizona, swimming under former head coach Frank Busch. In his time at the U of A, he was the NCAA Champion in the 200 breaststroke, helping boost the Wildcats to third-place in team scoring at that year's NCAA Championships.

With a second-place finish in the 200 breaststroke at Trials behind Scott Weltz, Burckle joins girlfriend Alyssa Anderson in heading to the London Olympics. Anderson, also a Wildcat, will compete as an alternate on the women's freestyle relay.

To earn his spot on the Olympic team, Burckle faced former 200 breaststroke world record holder Brendan Hansen and Olympic gold medalist Eric Shanteau, both of whom competed in the finals of the event.

Before the finals of the race, Burckle told Swimming World, “I'm just excited to race Brendan and Eric. It's like a dream come true just being part of the mix. I'm running on adrenaline.”

Both of Team USA's male 200 breaststroke competitors are first-time Olympians. Scott Weltz was undoubtedly the wild card in the event at Trials when he cinched the win. Burckle touched second, just a couple tenths off his career-best time.

It was a close race from a spectator's viewpoint, but considering Burckle's reaction to his second-place finish, it seemed even closer in the pool.

“I thought I had come in fourth, but when I saw that [I got second] I was in shock.”

And what is in store for Burckle after the Olympics is over? Apparently, he's hoping to get a Masters in Business Administration.

“I love swimming, and I want to stay involved in swimming,” Burckle told the media after his 200 breaststroke. “But I'm ready for another chapter of my life and to see what I can do outside of the pool.”

Ariana Kukors:

Due to NBC rights holder restrictions, the following video interview is only viewable until 7/27/2012

23-year-old Ariana Kukors was born in Federal Way, Washington and attended Auburn Mountain View High School. She has spent the majority of her swimming career under coach Sean Hutchison, first at KING Aquatics and then at FAST in Southern California.

Kukors swam for UW Huskies over the course of the 2007 to 2008 season, before the team was cut due to athletic budgeting. However, she effectively used her time as a Husky, breaking six university records and placing second in the 200IM at that year's NCAA Championships.

In January of this year, Kukors relocated to Florida to train at the Bolles school under Sergio Lopez.

On the National and International stage, Kukors has made quite the splash. She was the 2009 World Champion in Rome, where she set the 200IM World Record, clocking a blazing two minutes six seconds.

The 2008 trials was emotional for Kukors, when she placed third in the 200IM behind Katie Hoff and Natalie Coughlin by a margin of only eight one hundredths of a second.

Kukors planned ahead for this year's Olympic Trials, knowing exactly how to remedy the stress the meet causes athletes. Back in April, she told the Auburn Reporter:

“My little sister is rooming with me at trials this year, because she is the absolute rock of my life. She's the one who will keep me relaxed and laughing and giggling up to the last minute. And I need that and her by my side.”

Kukors also swam the 100 breaststroke as a shake-out for her 200IM this year. Commenting after her 100 breaststroke, she told Swimming World:

“It [breaststroke] looks like one my stronger strokes, but when I broke it down I realized there were a lot of inefficiencies,” said Kukors. Lopez, the Bolles School coach that Kukors has been training under this year, is well respected for his breaststroke knowledge.

Kukors swam the finals of her 200IM from lane 6, and was visibly emotional after her second-place finish. She even apologized to reporters for her tears of joy.

“The last 24 hours have been the most painful 24 hours of my life, I've been an absolute nervous wreck,” Kukors said after her final swim. “My little sister held my hand all of last night. I have a lot of changes to make before London, but I'm just happy to have my ticket.”

Barely missing the Olympic Team in 2008, it was no wonder that Kukors was a ball of nerves leading into the 200IM.

“I didn't want to look up to see my time, because I didn't think I'd had it. The last 50 I just closed my eyes and prayed.” Looks like her prayers were answered. She's officially off to London.

Written and posted by Shoshanna Rutemiller, who wishes everyone a happy Friday and an even happier weekend.

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