By Sharon Robb
August 18, 2014—Clara Smiddy of AquaKids Sharks won the first gold medal for Team USA at the 2014 IOC Youth Olympic Games Monday night in Nanjing, China.
In a thrilling race, Smiddy, 18, won the 100-meter backstroke by 1/100ths of a second out-touching Great Britain’s Jessica Fullalove in 1:02.22.
It was the closest race of the night with Fullalove placing second in 1:02.23 and New Zealand’s Bobbi Gichard third in 1:02.25.
“She is swimming fast and she won and that’s what’s important at that level of competition,” said her longtime AquaKids Sharks coach Lou Manganiello.
Smiddy, 18, is coming off the Phillips 66 National Championships. She scratched from two events for an extra day’s rest and left immediately for China.
“We didn’t rest the whole way for seniors,” Manganiello said. “I knew she was capable of this. The win is more important than time at this level of competition with the pressure of competing in a major international meet.”
Because of her whirlwind travel schedule, her AquaKids teammates were unable to host a send-off party for her. After seniors she immediately left for China and after the Youth Olympics she heads to University of Michigan where she will be a freshman.
“We didn’t get to do a big send-off so we got the team in the water and did a “Go Clara Cheer” and texted it to her,” Manganiello said.
Smiddy was also fifth in her heat of the 100-meter freestyle in 57.38.
“I think she is swimming well and I think she has plenty left in her,” Manganiello said.”She didn’t swim very fast in the 100 free but that worked out to her advantage in the back the way the schedule is set up.”
Smiddy has the 50 freestyle, 50 backstroke and relays remaining.
In the men’s 200-meter freestyle, Azura Florida Aquatics’ Marcelo Acosta of El Salvador, silver medalist in the 400-meter freestyle, was second in his heat in 1:52.50.
Smiddy and Acosta are among eight Florida Gold Coast swimmers and one Florida Swimming athlete competing in the weeklong meet.
In other finals:
World record holder Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania won the 50-meter breaststroke in 30.14, missing her lifetime-best by more than half a second.
Russia’s Evgeny Rylov and Italy’s Simone Sabbioni tied for the gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke in 54.24.
Liliana Szilagyi of Hungary won the 200-meter butterfly in 2:06.59.
Italy’s Nicolangelo di Fabio won the gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:48.58.
Hungary’s Benjamin Gratz won the 200-meter individual medley in 2:01.08.
China broke the junior world record in the 4×100-medley relay winning in 4:03.58.
For swimming, prelims begin 10 p.m. and finals 6 a.m. East Coast time.
The Youth Olympics are an international multi-sport event held in conjunction with the International Olympic Committee that takes place every four years consistent with the format of the Olympic Games.
The Youth Olympic Games are designed to integrate sport with education and culture, inspiring participants to live by the Olympic values and become ambassadors of the Olympic spirit. It also could provide a dress rehearsal for 2016 Rio Olympic hopefuls.
China is hosting 3,800 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees at the second Youth Olympics. During 13 days of competition in 32 sports, 222 medals events will be spread over 27 competition venues.
NBC, NBCSN and Universal Sports are combining for 54.5 hours of coverage through the Closing Ceremony on August 28.
NBC Sports Live Extra—NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices and tablets—will provide streaming coverage of all the Youth Olympic Games appearing on NBC and NBCSN.
For desktops, NBC Sports Live Extra can be accessed at nbcsports.com/liveextra. The NBC Sports Live Extra app is available for Apple, Android and Microsoft mobile devices and tablets.
Coverage of the 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Team can be found at TeamUSA.org and Twitter.com/USOlympic utilizing the #2014YOG hashtag.
For more information on the Games, visit Nanjing2014.com.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com