Claire Curzan Rips 24.45 50 Free in TAC Titans Spring Invite to Sit Second Nationally

Claire Curzan
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

16-year-old Claire Curzan swam a new lifetime best in the 50 freestyle on Friday morning at the TAC Titans Spring Invite in her hometown of Cary, North Carolina as she swam a 24.45 to currently sit second in the national rankings with 30 days until the Olympic Trials in Omaha. Curzan was a 25.23 from the US Open in Greensboro in November as her 50 free today in Cary is a sign that she is peaking at the right time ahead of her first Olympic Trials.

Curzan currently sits second nationally behind another rising star in 18-year-old Torri Huske (24.44) and ahead of short course yards American record holder Abbey Weitzeil (24.57) and reigning World champ Simone Manuel (24.70). The 50 free at Olympic Trials was long looking like a two-woman show with Manuel and Weitzeil, who have represented the United States in this event each year since 2016, but the additional year has opened the door for teenagers like Huske, Claire Curzan and Gretchen Walsh, who is fourth nationally at 24.65.

Curzan also swam the 100 butterfly this morning with a 58.09, which would have put her third in the field at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis. She currently leads the national rankings in that event.

The Coach’s Perspective of Claire Curzan

(From April’s Swimming World Magazine)

At the TAC Titans, Claire Curzan’s coach is Bruce Marchionda, and Curzan remembers Marchionda telling her after the Greensboro meet “how I don’t have to go that much faster to make the Olympic team.”

“Her workouts leading up to that swim indicated that she could go that fast,” Marchionda said. “Whether she would or not, I had no idea, but based on her workouts, I knew that was definitely a possibility. For her, when she did, that gave her confidence in what we are doing and belief in the system that we have put in place for all of our swimmers, not just her. I say, kind of jokingly, the negative of that is it does put a lot of pressure on someone.”

Marchionda called Curzan “probably one of the most coachable athletes that I’ve coached in the last 30 years.” He complimented the 16-year-old’s ability to take feedback and make stroke changes, including in her head position while breathing in butterfly. She consistently brings a positive attitude and competitiveness to practices that benefits the entire group.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, she shows up with a smile on her face and maintains that smile throughout the workout,” Marchionda said.

In practice, Curzan likes working her underwaters, already a strength of hers, and she enjoys opportunities for off-the-blocks all-out efforts. Long, aerobic swimming and repeated fast efforts on short rest, on the other hand, are not her favorite. Right before sets that she is not thrilled about, Curzan “will look at you with those sad, puppy-dog eyes, like, ‘I have to do this?’” Marchionda said. “And then she’ll turn around and do it…and crush it.”

One resource Claire Curzan has available to her is Claire Donahue, a 2012 Olympian in the 100 fly who Marchionda coached at Western Kentucky. Donahue has helped Curzan with keeping her emotions in check and keeping a professional approach to swimming and reminding her that swimming is still swimming, even when the stakes are ratcheted up. To keep her nerves in check during a meet, Curzan likes to go over her races in her head so that she feels less daunted.

And to her credit, Marchionda thinks Curzan has handled the tension of the upcoming Olympic push impeccably.

“The pressure never really rattles her,” Marchionda said. “I think it’s something that she believes she can do, that she can compete with the best in the world. We have worked on the idea that, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to compete with the best swimmers in the world.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, you are one of the best swimmers in the world.’ Getting that confidence and believing that you belong there just kind of fell into place and took kind of a natural process as her progress continued to move forward.”