Claire Curzan on the Adrenaline and Pressures of Her Special Weekend in Cary

Claire Curzan -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Prior to a weekend where she vaulted up the all-time rankings in her signature event, Claire Curzan was simply excited to face off against fellow teenage talent Torri Huske as part of her preparation for a run at her first Olympic team. This was not a focus meet or a taper meet, but the competition from Huske helped her to uncork some magnificent efforts—and as Curzan described it, the key moment of the meet passed in a blur.

Prior to competing in the 100 butterfly final, Curzan thought she might actually miss her race because it had taken longer than expected to put on her racing suit. Ironically, she had also struggled to get her suit on before racing the 100 fly at the U.S. Open in November, and that was the swim where she cut almost a second off her best time and became the third-fastest American in history. After she has gotten to the block at the eleventh hour before two of the best races of her life, maybe the frantic approach has helped Curzan. “That got the adrenaline kicking,” Curzan said.

Then, the 16-year-old blasted a 56.20 in the 100 fly, taking down the world junior record and becoming the fastest American in the event since Dana Vollmer swam a 55.98 on her way to Olympic gold in 2012. Huske finished just behind in a 56.69 that moved her to fourth all-time among Americans. And after the race, Curzan said, she almost forgot what she had just done.

“I kind of looked up, and I was like, ‘Oh, OK,’” Curzan said. “Later, in the warmdown pool, I was like, ‘Wait, what did I go again? I can’t remember.’ It didn’t really sink in until later. It was weird.”

Now, a few days after the race, Curzan has seen all the statistics about how her swim has shaken up the rankings, and she said, “It just doesn’t sound like me. It’s just weird seeing my name next to that.”

The immediate impact of her swim is that Curzan has become the favorite in the 100 fly for Olympic Trials, with Huske right there as a strong contender to make the Olympic team in the 100 fly as well. Curzan’s other key swims from the meet—a 54.40 100 free, a 59.37 100 back and a time of 24.44 in the 50 free prior to a disqualification for going past 15 meters underwater—will put her into contention in those events as well.

“I’ve actually been working a lot on my freestyle, really just going back to the basics with technique work. It was fun to be next to Torri, who is such a great freestyler, and to try to keep up with her,” Curzan said. As for her 100 backstroke swim, she said, “It always kind of surprises me. It’s never really a big focus in my training. I’ll do it one day a week as a designated backstroke day and a little bit intermixed but never as much as fly. I always get surprised by those races, and I love backstroke, so I was really happy with it, and it’s nice to go under 1:00 for the first time.”

Despite all her recent success, Curzan is taking a mature approach in keeping the pressures of the upcoming Olympic Trials in perspective. She is devoting extensive mental energy toward not being overwhelmed by the weight of the meet just two months away.

“I think I’m still going to try to just go into Trials and have as much fun as possible and just enjoy the experience,” she said. “I don’t say that it’s really about making the team, more just seeing if I can have fun, maybe drop a little time and really just enjoy myself.”