Joshua Chen: From the Cornfields of Iowa to World Junior Champion – A Team USA Star In Development

Joshua Chen

Joshua Chen: From the Cornfields of Iowa to World Junior Champion

In an exclusive interview on the Last One Fast One Podcast, I had the opportunity to interview world junior champion and rising star Joshua Chen. Chen shared his thoughts on his 100 breaststroke world junior title, his recent move to Texas, his commitment to swim at Harvard, and his leadup to the Olympic Trials.

From Iowa to the Heart of Texas

Even though he lives in Texas now, Joshua Chen considers himself an Iowan. Before Chen moved to Texas to train at Texas Ford Aquatics with Coley Stickels, Chen resided in Ames, Iowa. Chen enjoyed his time in Iowa and his coaches, but after Chen’s junior year of high school, Chen’s father, a professor at Iowa State, had the opportunity to move locations to work on a scientific project.

“He had choices to go three different places in the country,” Chen said. “We also took that as an opportunity for me to jump to the next level of swimming and reach for a goal senior year and especially Olympic year.” After some research, Chen’s family picked Dallas because Chen’s Family had lived there before and felt Stickels at Texas Ford Aquatics specialized in the training that Chen needed.

Training at Texas Ford Aquatics

Chen has already adopted a new training approach in his short time at Texas Ford Aquatics. One focus Stickels has worked on with Chen is finding his explosiveness. Chen, known for his efficiency and back-half speed, has been working on his power and explosiveness with Stickels. Another adjustment Chen had to make is to his training volume.

“I don’t think I’ve swam over a 200 in a row since May,” Chen said. “On longer aerobic days, maybe we’d be hitting 5 or 6k”. Chen explained that Stickels’ approach is aimed at quality over quantity and focuses on the little details where every swim and set is dialed in. According to Chen, Stickels also uses unique drills and a fair amount of dryland training. Chen also trains with the Texas Ford Aquatics pros in the morning. “I’m training with Jacob Molacek, Matt King, some of those guys,” Chen said.

Harvard Swimming Commitment

Chen wanted to go to a school that excelled not only in swimming but also in academics, so Chen took his official visits to Cal, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, and Stanford. “At the end, I landed on Harvard because I really really enjoyed the visit, and I loved the dynamic I had with the coach,” Chen said. Chen spoke very highly of Harvard Head Coach Kevin Tyrrel, “he seemed like the person that would support both my swimming and my studying at the same time, without giving up either one of them,” Chen said.

World Junior Titles

Chen had breakout performances in Netanya Israel, capturing the 100 breaststroke world junior title in 1:00.70 and a fourth-place finish in the 50 breaststroke in 28.15. Chen also swam the breaststroke leg on the United States’ 400 medley relay victory. In the 100 breaststroke, Chen was sixth at the wall, coming in at 29.11 before unleashing a blistering 31.59 to close out the race to take gold by half a second. Chen was grateful for his performance but still believes there is room for improvement.

“Obviously, I don’t want to say I wanted more. I want to feel gratitude for what I’ve already accomplished, but I would have obviously loved to get under the minute mark,” Chen said. “I think there’s plenty of things to improve on in the race.”

In the 50, Chen raced to a new personal best of 28.15. Chen noted that Stickels has been working with him to improve his stroke rate to improve his raw speed, but it is still a work in progress.

Olympic Trials Leadup

Leading up to Indianapolis, Chen looks to be a Trials contender in not only the 100 breaststroke but also the 200 breaststroke. In a longer event, Chen can play into his true strengths, his endurance, efficiency, and blazing back-half speed. “I have a really good line, and I can just ride that line and stay as efficient as possible,” Chen said. Chen didn’t swim the 200 at the World Juniors, but it may be his best event.

Since returning from Worlds, Chen has started incorporating weight training and will primarily focus on long course this year. Chen will look to compete at Pro meets throughout the seasons to gain experience racing veterans, but for Chen, it’s full steam ahead for Trials.

“I’m tunnel visioning to Olympic Trials. Everything is just pointed toward it.”

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4 months ago

Coley has continually produced many of the top swimmers in the world for years. This guy does not get enough credit.

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