Young swimmers find inspiration in Olympics

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 1, 2012

By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY — The Rowan Aquatics Club’s swimmers, ages 6 and up, enjoy the sport for one reason or another.
Tuesday, they got to see just how far that love of swimming might take them.
Swimmers, parents, family members and friends gathered at the Hurley Family YMCA for the “Splash Bash” Olympics-watching party, a chance to watch a replay of the day’s swimming events from London.
Kids and adults also enjoyed food, games and activities, along with the chance to win prizes.
There were even gold medals for some lucky contestants.
“Our primary focus is to make swimming available to everyone,” assistant coach Hannah Hawkins said.
Every four years, the Olympic games draw a lot of attention to the sport she said.
But, Hawkins went on, “I don’t think (swimmers) do it for attention.”
Aside from the health benefits — better cardiovascular health, better endurance — there’s a lot of fun to be had in the water, in competition or out of it.
Tuesday evening, young swimmers had a chance to see the world’s top swimmers and divers in action.
They cheered Team USA’s Nathan Adrian as he swam to victory in the men’s 100 meter freestyle.
Hawkins and others hoped the group of about 40 participants would learn something about the talent and the dedication it takes to make it to the world stage.
Four of Jamie Knorr’s five children currently swim for Rowan Aquatic Club. She helped organize Tuesday’s event.
She said her kids have learned so much about swimming that they can point things out as they watch.
“They know when a swimmer makes a mistake, and they can look at the professional swimmers and learn from what their coaches teach them,” she said.
Breanna Miller, 12, has been swimming with the club for five years.
She said her favorite swimmer is Missy Franklin, of Team USA, a 17-year-old who currently holds two world records.
“She’s really fast, and she’s a young person,” Breanna said.
And, from watching swimmers like Franklin, Breanna said she’s seen some things that could improve her technique.
“Like my turns, how fast they flip when they get to the wall,” she said. “They just push right of as soon as they get on.”
Her mother, Teresa Miller, said she’s enjoyed watching the Olympic swimming events with her daughter.
Swimmers of Rowan Aquatic Club have both indoor and outdoor seasons, and compete against teams in the Greater YMCA Sunbelt Swimming Association.
Hawkins said some of those young people go on to swim competitively in college, while still more return in later years to swim at the masters level.
When they weren’t playing games, coloring or watching events, the kids got quizzed on Olympics trivia and some facts about competitive swimming.
Abby Buechler, 11 said she’s stayed up to watch the Olympic swimming events.
“I’ve watched every one, until I have to go to bed,” she said.
She and her parents, Troy and Sandy, have also watched synchronized diving and sculling, both aquatic events.
Abby has been swimming for two years, and said she enjoys both individual and relay events.
And, from watching the Olympics, “I’ve learned to pace myself more,” she said.
“And when it gets harder, you kick harder.”
Her father said the whole family understands swimming more from watching.
“We obviously weren’t involved with swimming prior to our daughter getting started … It’s nice because we feel like we’re a part of the team,” Sandy said.
“And the kids themselves, they’re very supportive of each other, and motivated,” Troy said.
So much so, that their son, Ty, age 7, plans to get back into swimming this fall.
“Because I got better at the strokes I was bad at,” Ty said, while taking a break from watching the Olympics.
His favorite swimmer: “Michael Phelps. He helped me to learn how to dive, and how to do a butterfly better and do all the strokes better,” Ty said.
As for Abby, she said she’s also a fan of Missy Franklin.
There are about 80 swimmers in the Rowan Aquatic Club right now, Hawkins said.
“It feels wonderful. (The club) has an amazing sense of continuity,” she said.
This is the club’s 30th anniversary year.
She said it’s been a good experience to see her young swimmers grow up and continue using the lessons they’ve learned in competition.
“That’s the cool thing about swimming, you can go it your whole life,” Hawkins said.
And, every four years the Olympic games give another generation a chance to be champions of the world.
“I just hope that they would be inspired. I hope they see what can be accomplished through hard work and dedication,” Hawkins said.
“All of our swimmers here will learn those skills, and they’ll have that knowledge.”
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.