American butterfly genius Claire Curzan:’I stared at this girl who loves to swim fast’ | Tokyo Olympics 2020

What does a 3-year-old swimming genius look like?

Mark Kazan knows the answer now, but he didn’t know it at the time.

Fourteen years ago, he proudly watched his daughter Claire catch up with and even beat six-year-olds in a 15-yard race in a local community pool. At 6 am on Saturday, I’m proudly watching my 17-year-old daughter play in the 100-meter butterfly at the Tokyo Olympics from home.

Claire is one of four US swimmers under the age of 18 competing for Team USA in Japan. She is not even the youngest member of the team, but is announcing a true replacement of the guards on a team of 53 members. Claire passed the qualifying in June with a time of 56.43 seconds in the three-way sprint, which was second in overall football pitch length.

“These parents see their kids say they’re going to the Olympics someday, and everyone says this will bear fruit, but they see the second behind her name on the biggest stage in the country. It wasn’t complete until, “said Mark, who swam at Santa Barbara High School. “It’s one of those amazing, pinching moments.”

Of course, many other moments had to happen before this. Claire’s swimming career began at an outdoor community pool in Cary, North Carolina. There, father and uncle hosted a race for water safety and children in the neighborhood. On Tuesday night, the pool was illuminated by floodlights and filled with “summer swims”. There, the kids were able to win medals, or at least pizza and ice cream.

“My favorite part of the summer swim was the tournament,” said Claire, who spoke to the Guardian before leaving for Tokyo. I have big sweet teeth, so I’ll probably get ice cream later. Never swim with fast food in the same place. “

Early on, Claire competed with her brother, Sean, and another competitive swimmer. When Claire was old enough, she taught her sister how to swim. “She didn’t turn her ears down, she didn’t like that feeling,” Claire said. “I never had it. I loved water and was in it. So I think it attracted me to it.”

The ballet had the best shots to beat the swim to get Claire’s attention. She was tuned and proficient, but over time she noticed that discipline became tighter. “I didn’t like tight-legged stuff,” she said of the uniform. The Nutcracker recital slowly gave way to the swimming competition, and at the age of 11, five years after training, Claire put away her ballet shoes forever.

On the day Claire’s stuffed trophy shelves collapsed in her bedroom, Mark and his wife, Tracy, decided to look for swimming instruction all year round. Raleigh’s Triangle Aquatic Center, which opened two years before Claire was born, was a 20-minute drive from Kazan House. There was an Olympic-sized 50m pool. This is a resource that not all youth swimmers get.

Claire made breakthroughs at the age of 12, literally when she set the first National Age Group (NAG) record at a conference at Ohio State University.

“She was 12 years old and was competing with 18 years old,” said Mark, who accompanied her daughter on a trip. “To see [on-screen] The announcer describes her race – he was really excited to announce her finish. She entered the C Final-it’s the third tier-and she set her first national record with a 100-yard butterfly. “

That night, as the snow gently ran down around them, the father and daughter took pictures of the famous Horseshoe Stadium behind them.

Her very early Claire Kazan as a swimmer. She has been a pool fixture since she was 3 years old. Photo: Kazan family

“It was one of those bonding moments that Hallmark couldn’t get any better than it wrote,” Mark said. It was also the beginning of a fast-paced schedule for qualifying tournaments across the country – the path that almost every swimmer follows to reach the Olympics. Both doctors, Mark and his wife, took turns participating in the competition with their daughter.

Over the next four years, we had breakfast in the car, a long drive, and a long flight early in the morning. A friend’s birthday and overnight party were exchanged for chlorine-sung hair, peeling, and petrolatum vase to fight it. The vacation required coach approval. Activities such as swimming and skiing with red rays were considered too dangerous.

Claire’s career was a straight ascension, so the sacrifice was rewarded. swimming With the 2018 13-14 year old bracket, Claire broke the NAG record three more times, saving a few seconds. She swam with TAC Titan and broke four more NAG records. In fact, as Claire climbed the ladder from sector to state to the public, she beat at least seven records, including one held by five-time Olympic champion Missy Franklin. Claire won four medals at the World Championships in Budapest. It seemed that the only way to slow her would be to slow the earth itself.

When the Covid pandemic broke out in March 2020, there was concern that swimmers who rarely took more than a day at a time from the pool would suffer. Claire wore a wetsuit and swam in her neighbor’s pool while the TAC remained closed for six weeks, and her coach was tied behind her for resistance.

“When it comes to swimming, a six-week vacation is like a heretic,” Mark said. “But the mental and physical breaks actually gave her energy. She had her best time a few weeks later, which she opposed. [traditional] The idea and mantra of having to be in the pool every day. “

The 2020 Olympics have finally been postponed, but Claire’s schedule for the past year remains tight. She swam two hours in front of school and Saturday each morning and had an additional pool session three days a week. On dry land, Claire was strengthened with weights and bands, conditioned, and joined her mother three days a week for aerobic exercise.

Claire returned to competition in July 2020 and set four more NAG records the following year. Last April, she became the second fastest American woman in history with a 100-meter butterfly.

Claire was the first seed for the US Olympic Trials in June. Mark was a good tracker and was worried that this would have a negative impact on her as he could overtake the leader in the final burst. Now Claire’s competitors will be chasing her. Mark explained to the driver as much as he went to the arena to see his daughter. Mark’s enthusiasm was so contagious that the driver asked him to join him. As Claire entered the finals, Mark returned his daughter’s trajectory from the local community pool to horseshoe, light, camera and pageantry, now in front of them.

Claire was quietly optimistic and was riding on the momentum she had gained over the last two years. She finished in 2nd place and booked a seat in Tokyo.

“I’m a really big goal guy, but I still wanted to make the Olympics in 2020,” she said. “I had the same idea in 2021. I was confident in my training and what I had been doing so some of me knew I could do it. It just got over the nervousness and did what I always did. “

American butterfly genius Claire Curzan:’I stared at this girl who loves to swim fast’ | Tokyo Olympics 2020

Source link American butterfly genius Claire Curzan:’I stared at this girl who loves to swim fast’ | Tokyo Olympics 2020

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