First-Time Olympian Josh Prenot Will Race to Win in Rio

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick


Editorial Coverage Sponsored By FINIS

By Brian Honicky, Swimming World College Intern

If you’re unfamiliar with Josh Prenot’s swimming, you were probably surprised by what you saw in the finals of the 200 breaststroke on day five of Olympic Trials. Swimming in lane five right next to Kevin Cordes, who had qualified for the team in the 100 breast three days prior, Prenot looked focused as he approached the blocks.

He knew that his long-time rival and frequent NCAA competitor Will Licon was in lane three, just on the other side of Cordes. After posting a solid 2:08.41 in the semi-finals for second place, Prenot was in prime lane positioning to chase Cordes down and fight for his own Olympic team spot. So it may have come as a shock when Prenot was sitting fifth at the 100-meter mark.

It was Licon and the other 100 breast Olympic qualifier, Cody Miller, in second and third at the 100, but shortly after the turn it became evident that Prenot knew exactly what he was doing. All of a sudden it was a completely different race as he effortlessly turned on the gas. By the 150 mark, he was second, still .60 behind Cordes. Prenot clearly had far more left in the tank than any of his other competitors.

By the final 15 meters of the race, it wasn’t even a competition. His stroke and tempo looked impeccable, like he could keep going at that pace for another 50. Half a body length ahead of Cordes at the flags, Prenot touched in 2:07.17, setting a new American record. First a look of relief came as he leaned his head back, his Olympic qualification setting in, then the grin of excitement flashed on his face as he celebrated with Cordes. That’s how you back-half a 200 breaststroke.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

After scratching the final of the 400 IM earlier in the week, and finishing third behind Cordes and Miller in the 100, the 200 breast was going to be Prenot’s best shot at the team, and everything seemed to fall into place just how he wanted. Five days into the meet, having two events already under his belt, it was important that he tried “to stay relaxed, keep the breathing relaxed, and then just press the last 75 of the race.” Clearly this strategy worked, as according to him it was “by far the most perfectly [he’s] put it together.” After setting an American record, the second fastest time in history and the number one time in the world for 2016, it’d be hard to argue with any race strategy that Prenot chooses.

Perhaps another factor that helped give him that final blast of energy at the finish was knowing that his “rival” of many years, Texas swimmer Will Licon was just two lanes away, pushing just as hard for what was probably also his last chance to make his first Olympic team. According to Prenot, the two have been “on the come up together since ‘09 National Selects Camp.” They have faced off on the national level for years, Licon besting Prenot in the 200 IM and 200 breaststroke this year at NCAAs, but Prenot coming out on top in the 400 IM.

Clearly Prenot knew that come Olympic Trials it was his time to shine in the 200 breast, although the two have a friendly personal relationship. On Licon’s strong NCAA performance, Prenot acknowledged that he’s “a really competitive guy, I typically don’t enjoy seeing people I compete with do really well, but that’s not really the case with Will… I love seeing the guy have success.” He even noted how tough it was for him seeing Licon just miss a spot on the team by a tenth. “He’s put in the work just like I have, he’s a mentally tough guy, I know he’s gonna come back strong from this,” Prenot said in his post race press conference


Prenot and Licon Embrace After Racing at the 2015 NCAA Championships, Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

To add to his already long list of accomplishments in the water, between intense training with the Cal Bears’ IM group under coaches David Durden and Yuri Suguiyama, Prenot also finds time to major in physics. He plans on taking one more year to finish his degree, as he took on a lighter workload this past spring semester in order to focus on training.

Even though he’s taken mechanics classics and studied relativity, he doubts that his studies have had much effect on his racing. He feels that there are two very different manners of thinking that are mutually exclusive to his athletic and academic lives. When asked about any overlap between the two, Prenot said that while racing “you kind of have to feel what works and experiment with what works for you, but in physics you have to know why everything happens, and the intricate details of how it happens. That’s not my experience with swimming.”

Regardless of whether or not he applies the laws of motion to his racing, whatever Josh Prenot is doing in the water is working for him in a big way. He is one of many who has helped to strengthen the United States’ breaststroke events, and will certainly be someone to watch in Rio.

The Olympic Games may be the biggest international stage that he’s competed on so far, but don’t expect him to change his strategy up significantly in Rio. “Every time I go to a meet, I try to win the meet,” he firmly stated after his Olympic Trials victory. When you’re representing your country at the biggest meet of your life, that’s not a bad mindset to stick with. And if the 200 breaststroke at trials is any indication, expect him to keep the world on the edge of their seats until the final seconds of his race.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Tammy Lee
7 years ago

Don’t all swimmers race to win?

Thomas A. Small
7 years ago
Thomas A. Small
7 years ago


Pablo Valedon
7 years ago

Go for it !!!! USA ,USA USA!!!

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