Artist Miranda Tucker Transforms Breaststroke into Art Form Heading into NCAAs

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Miranda Tucker. Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

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Caravaggio was famous for his spotlight effect in his paintings. It added a dimension return to normal subject into a masterpiece. The spotlight is on Miranda Tucker this year, and she is looking to finish with a masterpiece.

Tucker, a Michigan senior, knows all about Caravaggio and his masterpieces. As an art history major, she has learned about all kinds of artists throughout history, but has a special affinity for Caravaggio.

“Not only is he one of the staple artist of the Baroque period, he sparked and set off the period after starting in the Renaissance. He was kind of a bad boy that did controversial things that make you laugh,” Tucker told Swimming World. “With more religious works, he takes religious scenes that mostly are depicted as really shining, beautiful, out of this world — something untouchable — and makes them mundane. He takes beautiful things, and makes them mundane. They are still beautiful but it is like they could happen to anyone.”

That is how Tucker is swimming, turning in elite races that could happen to anyone — but they are happening for her. She won the Big Ten Championship in the 100 breaststroke and heads to NCAAs with high hopes after her time of 58.15, the third fastest in the country this season.

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Miranda Tucker. Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

“A lot of people say that when you are a senior, you swim faster because you are in that last-season mentality. I am definitely in that place right now,” Tucker said. “I have been swimming faster during the season than I ever had before. I had never broken 59 before at midseason and I went 58 lows. I am really happy with how I have been doing. It is my senior year. I have the mentality that I am going to do my best every single day and see where that takes me. The past four years, I have been almost there but not quite. Everyone wants to win because we are swimmers, but I have always been just a place or two off.”

Tucker has been the NCAA runner-up multiple times and started her career at Indiana, swimming breaststroke with Olympic gold medalist Lilly King, who has put Tucker and the rest of the U.S. breaststrokers a little in the shadows.

“I have never been that deeply bothered by it,” Tucker said. “Sometimes I feel like an underdog. I still need to build up my confidence and remind myself that I can do this.”

The same mantra can be said for the Wolverines, who finished third at the NCAA championships last year but graduated a ton of points. Based on the NCAA psych sheet this year, they are seeded to get fifth.

“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t have the expectation of being champions (after graduating so many key swimmers),” Tucker said. “But I watched these freshman and sophomores work harder and harder and I see so much improvement and now somehow we (have been) ranked No. 1 … holy crap!”

Part of the team boost has been Tucker’s part in the relays. She has been the breaststroker for Mike Bottom‘s Wolverines in both medley relays the past two years, but now is playing a part in freestyle as well.

“We lost a lot of freestylers. In my 50 free, I have dropped a second in the past year. I am very honored to be on the free relays,” she said. “There are times I get worried about not bringing it home for the team in my freestyle, since I am a breaststroker doing freestyle, but I am working really hard and willing to do everything I can to get some more points for the team.”

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Miranda Tucker. Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

All of the extra work can take a toll on Tucker, who has also quietly been dealing with Hashimoto disease.

“Hashimoto disease is of the thyroid. It is where your antibodies see your thyroid as a threat and they attack it. I don’t have a working thyroid. I have to take a tiny pill every day for the rest of my life. But it is well under control,” she said. “It doesn’t have a huge effect on me except for the fact that I get fatigued faster than most people. So because of that, when we are in heavy grinding training, I take an extra morning of rest, and that works. The 58.4 (midseason) left me happy and very surprised. My stroke has just been feeling really good.”

When she is feeling good, or even when she isn’t, Tucker is able to channel her feelings and emotions through her art.

“I have always been artistic. I used to doodle on the back of my exams, and teachers started grading those, too, just being fun,” she said. “That love never faded. I started getting sketchbooks and eventually a digital tablet.  Drawing has always been a hobby, but it is something I do to pass time, or when I am stressed. It is a great outlet of emotions. If you are having a bad day, just draw something sad.”

But there have been many more happy memories built since Tucker transferred to Michigan and made art history her major.

“Art history has always been something I loved, but not something I took classes in until I got to Michigan. I took an art history class when I transferred just for fun, but I fell in love with it. I had always loved art, but never knew the history behind it. I just loved the pretty pictures. Learning the history is so cool,” she said. “I definitely could see myself being a museum curator. That might be a little far off in the future. There are other things that are exciting like restoration. It takes knowledge of the history but also a very steady hand and patient person. I finally realized I love it and I am only going to live once. I am going to major in it.

“Life is too stressful to do majors that make you even more stressed. I would rather be happy and art history makes me happy.”

Now, Miranda Tucker is hoping she can put together another masterpiece at the NCAA championships.

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Miranda Tucker. Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

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