Redemption King Felix Auböck Wins 1650 After Disastrous Start

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Felix Auböck’s first swim was so awful, it brought him to tears.

After coming into the NCAA Division I Men’s Championships with the top seed in the 500 free, the Michigan junior, swimming in lane four in the final preliminary heat — something almost unheard of in swimming.

His next race, the 200 free, wasn’t any better.

But instead of letting the collapse continue, Auböck came into the final day of the meet refocused on redemption.

Auböck, a 2016 Austrian Olympian, responded by crushing the field in the 1650 free, nearly breaking the NCAA record.

“I had to refocus,” he said. “It was mentally challenging after this week. Winning that race today, especially after the first few days was the biggest turnaround I ever had in a swim meet.

“It was the best year of practice I ever had, then I go 4:18 in the 500 (nine seconds slower than his seed time), I was crying after the race. I was like, ‘How did that happen?’ All that work in and I don’t make the final. There were hundreds of things going through my head. It was so hard to go through this meet, but I am really glad I could reset my mind with the help of my coaches and teammates. Everybody was so supportive, but I still can’t believe I was able to refocus and (win).”

Auböck won the race in 14:23.09, less than a second from Clark Smith’s NCAA record of 14:22.41.

When Smith set that record two years ago, he was one of five swimmers to break the previous NCAA record — in the same heat. Auböck was second — then was second again last year.

“My freshman year, I got second. I really wanted to win last year and got second,” he said. “I felt like this year, I really, really wanted to win. I put in that work and shout-out to the distance group at Michigan.”

Michigan now has nine NCAA titles in this event. Auböck joins the likes of Fritz Myers (1957), Marcel Wouda (1993), Tom Dolan (1995, 96), Chris Thompson (2001), Peter Vanderkaay (2004) and Connor Jaeger (2013, 14) as winners of the event for the Wolverines.

Winning after being runner-up twice is sweet enough, but this victory didn’t look possible two days ago.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“The 500 just didn’t work out at all. Being a top seed and wanting to win that race — then placing 30-somethingth and not making it back. It is a big upset. Right after that race, I tried to not think about it and focus on the 200 — and that didn’t work out much better than the 500. But there are no excuses,” he said.

Auböck credits his teammates with helping him not get too down on himself.

“It shows what great teammates I have,” he said. “After the 500, I got more texts than ever before. They believed in me. It shows how close we are when you get more texts after a bad swim than a great swim.”

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Taylor Covington

    Never know what’s gonna happen at NCAA’s!

  2. avatar
    Daniel D'Addona

    Definitely was an amazing turnaround from the 500. Was great to see how much this meant to him.