Meet Michael Sava, the Swimmer That Did a 3K Fly Set on the Last Night of the Knoxville Pro Swim Series

Photo Courtesy: Ivan Rupeš

It was the last night of the first TYR Pro Swim Series for 2019. It had been a very solid meet. There were no jaw-dropping times from the weekend, which is to be expected in the middle of January.

Katie Ledecky won a couple of events in Knoxville. Simone Manuel won a couple of events. Annie Lazor had some big best times that turned some heads. Gianluca Urlando had a humorous post-race interview about the money he just won.

There wasn’t anything too crazy going on in Knoxville. It seemed like a routine January meet while all of the athletes were taking a brief break from hard training.

Many swimmers were busy on Saturday night of the meet watching the first game of the NFL Playoffs. The Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs were playing in the divisional round which kicked off around 4:35 p.m. local time in Knoxville before the 6 p.m. start of the meet. A couple athletes delayed the start of their warm-up to catch some of the first quarter from the game.

Georgia’s Pace Clark was watching the game on his laptop that he brought on deck. A couple other Bulldog swimmers had gathered around before they started warming up including Nic FinkMeaghan RaabAndrew Wilson and Jay Litherland.

At some point during the first quarter of the game, Clark looked up and noticed a guy in lane eight doing butterfly and made a comment that he had been doing butterfly since the game had started. As the swimmer got to each wall, he kept turning, and kept swimming butterfly. After each turn, the reaction would get louder from the Georgia bench as some started cheering him on.

Was it punishment? Was it voluntary? Why was he doing so much butterfly?

There were more whispers around the pool deck over what this guy’s intentions were. Later the people on deck found out he was doing a set of 30×100’s butterfly on 1:30.

There was cheering. Some of them posted encouraging videos on their Instagram stories. But no one knew who this mystery kid was.

The mystery kid is Michael Sava. He is 16-years-old and swims for Swim Ontario in Canada.

He ensured the set he did was not a punishment, rather it was a set his coach assigned to him after a frustrating 200 fly the night before. Sava wanted to be close to his best time of 2:02, but he only managed a 2:06 in the B-Final.

Sava was not swimming any events on the last day in Knoxville. Rather than take the day off and go home early, he wanted to use Saturday as a training day and take advantage of the long course pool, something he does not have access to at his home club.

Also in the back of his mind was the 200 fly swim from the night before. He was four seconds slower than his best time and he wanted to put up a better swim in his first international meet. His father Catalin told me in an e-mail that Michael “may have felt he disappointed his coach, the team, and me (of course, not true).”

“The 200 fly was already a thing of the past, it was the day before. I don’t like to dwell on things even though I’m not too happy with them,” Michael Sava said.

“I wanted to take advantage of using the 50m pool and forget about it and move forward and work on some of the things that didn’t go well. I tried minimizing my stroke count, making it more efficient and stay on top of the water which did not happen during the 200 fly race.”

Sava recalled the set was:

  • 1,000m butterfly warm-up
  • 5×200’s IM on 3:15
  • 30×100’s butterfly on 1:30

And this was all in lane eight during meet warm-up at the Knoxville Pro Swim Series.

Specifically he wanted to improve his rhythm, which was not as high as he wanted it to be in the 200 fly race. But Sava explained that this set was nothing out of the ordinary for him, saying he can train up to five to seven kilometers of butterfly in a given workout.

“I do these kinds of sets weekly. I train in a yards pool but I sometimes do 50×100’s butterfly or 80×100’s butterfly. And my coach gave me this practice as a way to cool off and refocus after I didn’t meet my goal for 200 fly.

It is something I do to improve my speed endurance and get in as many repetitions as possible to get used to long distances and managing pain and keeping stroke count and rhythm.”

“I think the longest set I’ve done was 80×100’s. We do them once per week like Saturdays or Sundays.”


Photo Courtesy: Ivan Rupeš

Sava only trains in short course yards at his pool in Canada and does not get to train in long course often, which is important to him because all of his important meets are going to be in long course. The Knoxville Pro Swim Series was actually Sava’s first long course meet since winning the Canadian Junior National title in July.

His father said that he used to only view long course as a competition course, but wants to get used to training long course more and more as the summer approaches.

Sava trains butterfly out of choice and according to his father Catalin, he could “swim butterfly all day long.”

“Our coach gives us a choice to do our best stroke or whatever stroke he wants. I like fly, it’s my best stroke, and I just keep doing it. And he encourages me to do so,” Michael Sava said.

The Knoxville Pro Swim Series was Sava’s first international meet as his Swim Ontario team sent a group of swimmers to the meet in Tennessee. He thoroughly enjoyed getting the international racing experience as well as getting a chance to meet some Olympians. Sava got the opportunity to meet swimmers that he looked up to including Canadian Mack Darragh and Americans Michael AndrewRyan Murphy and Simone Manuel and tried learning a little bit from each of them to see how he could improve his own swimming, and also struck up a friendship with fellow 200 butterflyer Gianluca Urlando.

“It was great to experience bonding with my own team from Ontario and it was my first travel meet internationally. I enjoyed being more responsible with my own time, my nutrition and so on,” he said.

“Overall it was a good experience, my first international meet in the US.”

200m Butterfly Men Final A. Ontario Junior International, Day 2, December 15, 2018

Photo Courtesy: Ivan Rupeš

Sava is constantly learning and looking for ways to improve his swimming, and viewed the Knoxville Pro Swim Series as a way to observe what the high caliber athletes are doing in and out of the pool. It was also his first international meet and he enjoyed getting a taste of what it feels like to race with people he has seen race many times.

“It was a great feeling to know that I’m getting to a certain level that I always dreamed for. I just want to take what I learned here and use it for hopefully future meets and improve even more.”

Sava hopes to improve his 200 fly to under two minutes and maybe even around a 1:57 or 1:58. He is already qualified for the 2020 Canadian Olympic Trials and he is training now for the Canadian Trials in April, and then after he will focus on the Nationals in the summer as well as the Junior Nationals where he will look to defend his title he won in 2018.


  1. Noria Gaier

    Célia Gaier how much you did? 3.5 km?

    • Célia Gaier

      Noria Gaier non c’était 2km

    • Noria Gaier

      Ok mais pas mal
      Quand même ????‍♂️

  2. Tony Bradley

    Pretty sure Trina Radke did this, x 3, back in 1988. (12k m fly).

    • David Dunlap

      Dick Shoulberg used to call that warmup.

    • Tony Bradley

      David Dunlap I think I remember reading about this in Swimming World actually. In an article written about GA/Foxcatcher and the olympians at the time (Radke, Wharton and Berkoff).

    • Tony Bradley

      …or actually think it was the ‘Olympic Preview’ issue for Sports Illustrated.

  3. Troy Mayers

    Brenton Williams swam to Robben Island in freezing water swimming butterfly….that’s 7.5km’s

    • Gordon Belbin

      Troy Mayers how about the English Channel … 22 miles. Julie Bradshaw did this in 14:18 ?

  4. Loovi Daby

    Tanusha E Appadoo to encr fr to 1km pap?

    • Loovi Daby

      Tanusha E Appadoo dommage to nepli fr li!!! ti really nice sa

    • Loovi Daby

      Tanusha E Appadoo to imp pli gracieux ki la baleine xd

  5. Jack Kenny

    Sindre Carlsen 3000m fly

  6. Pat Kennedy

    Awesome!! Seems like this young man has a good head on his shoulders. I wish him continued success.

    • avatar
      Catalin Sava


    • Lauren Logan

      good grief… over achiever lol

  7. Andrew James Fuhrer

    There is a 37 MILE open water swim in North Dakota every year, called END WET. One competitor did the entire race BUTTERFLY!

    • Naested Smit Jnr

      Ian Harry Stephenson Challenge accepted!!! ??

  8. Esteban Pot

    Geoffroy Mathieu on dirait Baptiste en pap ?

  9. Lily Maguire

    Teddy Maguire are you sure never again 5 fly?

  10. Julie Venn

    Kasey Venn you should try this. ?

    • Tryn Kaleel

      Deb Kory you found my match. 80x 100 fly ?

  11. Paula Manns

    Kenyon Kellett Devin Kellett

  12. Laura Bastin

    Tay Thomas 30×100 Fly on the 1:30…ready go ??

    • Tay Thomas

      Laura Bastin long course!

  13. Paul Gärtner

    Kevin Florian „a way to cool off“ ?

    • Kevin Rusu

      Paul Gärtner easy ne? verrückt haha

  14. avatar
    Jim N.

    About a month ago I attended a swim meet at the U.S. Naval Academy, where the Midshipmen were swimming against UNC and Penn State. I felt sorry for one of the Navy guys – his events came one after the other – the first three individual events in a row. Then he swam the 4th event, then the 5th, then the 6th, then…. I then noticed he was swimming exhibition swims. He swam EVERY individual event, and even the final relay, putting up very respectable times (though his 200 breast was a bit of a struggle). I always thought Clark Kent was Superman’s alias, but that day I learned his real name is Tim Verby. Or is it Michael Sava? These athletes are just amazing!

  15. Karen Howells

    Scott Tancock and Mark Shipston – thought you’d both be interested in this… let’s be clear, there’s no challenge here (yet)

  16. Naveh Eldar

    His orthopedic doctor will NOT be happy about that!!! ???

  17. Emily Reynolds

    Oh my gosh ? read this but don’t get ANY ideas. I’m not doing 80x100s fly Michelle Simmons

    • Michelle Simmons

      Emily Reynolds Ha! Ya that’s pretty legit! When I was in my early 20s I used to do a Friday FLYDAY set with a sadistic guy (every Friday!) It went:
      800 as every 4th 25 fly
      2x400s as every other 50 fly
      4x200s as 75 fly/25 free
      8x100s all fly
      16x50s all fly.
      It took me several months of attempting that set every week before I could finally do it. Had to learn how to swim fly while staying completely relaxed!

  18. Mark Shipston

    One training session in 1975 I received a badge for my tracksuit for ‘one mile butterfly’ I’m too fu@@ing old’ and my shoulder too knackered to do another challenge. My best it seems was 44 years ago.

  19. Bach Nguyen

    Ethan Crook your 800 is nothing

  20. Fiona Yiu

    Reading it makes my arms hurt. ?

  21. Zoe Moran

    Tuana Unal see ya I’m out

  22. Megan Kingsley

    Olivia Smoliga Natalie Hinds omg it’s the kid!!!

    • Simon Beaver

      Cassandra Elizabeth , what a smoking time. 30 x 100m @ 1:30

    • Mason Lewis

      Alycia Lewis no no nono nonononononno no 3000 fly fo meeeeeee

  23. Karlye Stackhouse

    Carson Davis it says he does 80x100s butterfly for practice sometimes… arms wouldn’t be attached to me anymore

  24. Johnny Karnofsky

    Rick Ogle, Daren Ham…. this guy is nucking futts…… lol