SOFLO’s Lisa Blackburn Ready For One More Olympic Run; Competes In Canada Team Trials That Begin Wednesday

By Sharon Robb

March 31, 2015—The best is yet to come.

With that kind of renewed enthusiasm for competitive swimming, Lisa Blackburn is taking another run at the Olympics.

With her competitive fires still burning at 43, the Bermuda national champion quit her corporate job and started training with the South Florida Aquatic Club twelve weeks ago.

Buoyed by training with a small group of elite pros at SOFLO that includes world record holder and three-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson, Russian European champion Valentina Artemeva and two-time Colombian Olympian Carolina Colorado, Blackburn is motivated to swim fast at the four-day Canada Team Trials that begin Wednesday in Toronto, site of the Pan American Games which she is trying to qualify for.

Blackburn is seeded 29th in the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:12.86; 48th in the 50-meter breaststroke (32.88) and 63rd in the 50-meter freestyle (27.69).

The meet features 572 Canadian athletes from 138 clubs, competing for spots on the Canadian national team for the Pan American Games, World Championships, FINA World Junior Championships and World University Games.

The field also includes 200 foreign entries from Bermuda, United States, Puerto Rico, Denmark, Aruba, Ireland, Finland and Sweden.

All eight sessions of the meet will be webcast live at Prelims are 10 a.m. and finals 6 p.m. at the Pan Am Sport Centre.

Blackburn is trying to qualify for the July 10-26 Pan American Games for Bermuda.

The women’s breaststroke field features Breeja Larson, Kierra Smith, Martha McCabe, Tera Van Beilen, Ashley McGregor and Fiona Doyle.

“I want to swim fast,” Blackburn said. “I have specific times in mind but I want to keep those numbers to myself. I want to go faster than 1:12 which I did at the Grand Prix in Orlando. I am looking forward to the racing competition and checking out the Pan Am Games pool.”

Blackburn holds five Bermuda individual national long course records (50, 100 and 200 breaststroke, 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley) and three relay records. She is also a masters world record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke (40-44).

She made her first Olympic Trials in 1988 and just missed the 2012 London Games by 0.03 seconds.

“I am really happy with where I am,” Blackburn said. “It’s great to be in Florida with Chris Anderson and my teammates. It’s been great training with Alia and the other pro swimmers.

“I have only been in Florida for twelve weeks but I feel a lot stronger, fitter, faster and more confident,” Blackburn said. “I am really excited where I am with my swimming and personal life.”

Blackburn stopped swimming twice in her 30-year swimming career.

“I stopped the first time because I was kind of too old,” Blackburn said. “I finished university at 22 and it was just unheard of to continue to swim post-grad. Back then nobody continued after university. They got a career and had a family. That’s what you did.”

Blackburn started coaching kids during her time away from competing.

“I found I really missed it,” she said. “Coaching brought me back to the sport at that time. The feedback and opportunity to coach and teach kids all the things I learned made me think to apply this stuff to my own swimming. I got back in the water and again started competing a few more years down the road.”

Blackburn stopped a second time in 2004 when she was 32. She moved to Australia to start a new chapter in her life.

“I was just frustrated at the time,” Blackburn said. “I hadn’t met some expectations I put on myself and went off to Australia. But the swim bug bit me again. I swam with some exceptional swimmers at the University of Sydney and it was great. I loved it and I just stayed with it.”

Age is just a number now for Blackburn.

“Nowadays, it’s more accepted and people understand why someone would continue to pursue sport and dream. I have a few sponsors who have been really, really great supporting and encouraging me.

“I worked in a corporate environment, but it just wasn’t for me. In swimming, I’m passionate and enjoy what I’m doing. It’s a lifestyle I enjoy. I want to make other people excited about pursuing their dream whether it’s sport or the arts. Whatever your dream is it doesn’t matter how old you are. You get excited and you push yourself to attain it.

“I enjoy pushing myself and striving for goals. The Olympics continue to elude me. I want to give it one more shot. I am really excited where I am training and who I am training with.”

She is also passionate about her home country.

“I love the fact that I am representing my country,” Blackburn said. “It’s such an honor to put a small, 20-mile island that we call home on the international map.”

Blackburn retired from her full-time job in September.

“Swimming is my full-time job now, however I am not getting paid,” Blackburn said. “Nowadays to compete at the international and pro level you have to make a 100 percent commitment to training and recovery especially as I get a bit older.

“I wanted to see how good I could really be. It’s important at this stage of my life to know that this is what I want to do. I didn’t want to have any regrets at the end of the day. It’s special to me and I can learn from what I am doing and hopefully motivate other people to pursue their dreams as well.”

Five-time Olympian and 12-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres has been an inspiration for Blackburn. At 41, she was the oldest swimmer to make an Olympic team (2008) and following reconstructive knee surgery made another run at the 2012 Olympics but placed fourth at the Trials in her signature 50-meter freestyle event.

“Dara has been a role model for me,” Blackburn said. “She laid the groundwork. We might be in our 20s, 30s, or 40s, but we are not dead. We are here.

“Life is about doing things that make you happy and this is what makes me happy and excited about life.”

Anderson said it was Blackburn’s enthusiasm and willingness to work that led him to coaching her.

“That’s exactly why at this time in her life she is 100 percent committed to training and doing the right things to be successful,” Anderson said.

“She has been consistent for the first time in a long time. She has a base where she can rest and taper from, whereas before it was race, race, race all the time.”

SOFLO, the most successful age group program in the Florida Gold Coast for the last five years, added a new dimension with five new pros joining Atkinson.

“The theme of the entire pro team is to train and act younger,” Anderson said. “The key to their success is to be more open-minded and do the necessary work it takes to be successful. That whole group is extremely dynamic and entertaining and Lisa is one of the leaders of that group.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 237: Bradley Named FSU Coach; SOFLO’s Oliver Most Valuable Swimmer

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 237: Bradley Named FSU Coach; SOFLO’s Oliver Most Valuable Swimmer


May 8, 2013

South Florida Aquatic Club’s Tiffany Oliver has a new head coach.

Former Florida Gold Coast swimmer and 1993 St. Thomas Aquinas alum Frankie Bradley returned to his alma mater this week as newly-named head coach of Florida State.

Bradley graduated from FSU in 1997 and started a journey of building an impressive resume that included coaching jobs at Indian River State College, South Carolina and Auburn before returning to FSU.

“I’m thrilled,” Bradley said. “I’ve spent a number of years coaching and I’ve always thought that coming back to Florida State would be awesome. I got the call last week and it was incredible. I’m excited to lead the program.”

Bradley has been one of the most sought after college coaches for several jobs. Bradley replaces Neil Harper whose contract was not renewed after fourteen seasons.

Bradley will be faced with rebuilding the men’s team which graduated three of the four members of their Atlantic Coast Conference record-setting freestyle relays. The men’s team have several top freshmen coming in including Aruba Olympian Jemal Le Grand of Davie Nadadores and Sagemont.

The women’s team, led by SOFLO’s Tiffany Oliver, a double ACC sprint champion, lost top butterflier, Elizabeth Pepper to a transfer. The women’s team has top recruit Chelsea Britt coming in.

Bradley has worked with Olympians Mateo De Angulo of Colombia, Gideon Louw of South Africa, Marcelo Chierighini of Brazil, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace of the Bahamas, and American Micah Lawrence.

While at St. Thomas, Bradley was a state champion in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1992 and six-time high school All-American. He was a four-year letterman at FSU which including an ACC title in 1995 in the 200-yard individual medley.

Oliver Named Top Swimmer

SOFLO’s Tiffany Oliver, who grew up with the Comets program and is now finishing her junior year at Florida State, was named the Seminoles’ Most Valuable Swimmer for the women’s team.

Oliver won the 50- and 100-yard freestyles at the ACC Championships. She qualified for the NCAA Championships and earned All-American honors in the 50 freestyle and 800 free relay.

Oliver holds the FSU records in the 50 and 100 freestyle and as a member of the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle relay teams.

“Tiffany really came into her own this year,” said associate head coach Andy Robins after the Seminoles annual awards banquet. “She was such a key asset for us in so many events.”

Charlotte Grand Prix

Five-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte, gold medalists Ricky Berens, Cullen Jones, Conor Dwyer, Jessica Hardy and Allison Schmitt head the field for the Arena Grand Prix that begins Thursday in Charlotte, N.C. With 30 swimmers, Charlotte-based SwimMac Carolina is expected to dominate. The meet will serve as a preparation meet for the 2013 Phillips 66 National Championships and World Championship Trials in Indianapolis, World University Games and World Championships.

Phelps Among Influential

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever with 22 medals, is ranked second behind quarterback Tim Tebow on Forbes Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Most Influential Athletes. He is ranked ahead of several top pro athletes including LeBron James, David Beckham and Peyton Manning. Phelps has done more for the sport of swimming than any other swimmer, male or female, in the history of the sport and Olympics.

FINA Diving Grand Prix

Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex will host 120 divers from 21 countries including 2012 Olympic champions and medalists, for the fourth stop of the AT&T USA Diving Grand Prix that begins on Thursday and ends Sunday. The meet will help divers fine tune for World Championships in Barcelona. The events include men’s and women’s 3-meter springboard, 10-meter platform and 3-meter and 10-meter synchro. Powerhouse China is expected to dominate. Olympic gold medalist David Boudia will compete in his first major competition since winning two medals at the London Olympics. U.S. divers will be looking to prepare for the May 15-20 World Championship Trials in Tallahassee.


Five-time Olympian Dara Torres of Boston and Milwaukee-based Koss have launched a new headphone line for women called Koss Fit Series. The line includes FitClips and Fit Buds…U.S. Masters Spring Nationals get underway on Thursday in Indianapolis. GOLD’s Deb Cavanaugh along with eight other local swimmers will compete in individual events only. The age groups did not work for relays, according to Cavanaugh. The meet ends Sunday.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Phelps, Franklin Big Winners At Golden Goggles

Phelps, Franklin Big Winners At Golden Goggles

Written by Sharon Robb

November 19, 2012

Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, household names in swimming, took home the biggest honors Monday night at the Golden Goggles, USA Swimming’s version of the Academy Awards, at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.

Phelps was named Male Athlete of the Year, finishing ahead of Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian and Matt Grevers in the voting. Phelps finished with 22 career Olympic medals including 18 gold medals. Donald Trump and Gary Hall Jr. presented Phelps his award.

“This Olympics was the best Olympics I have ever been a part of,” said Phelps, who credited his mother and sisters for their support throughout his career.

Franklin was named Female Athlete of the Year. The 17-year-old four-time Olympic gold medalist and world record holder was an overwhelming choice.

“This summer was unbelievable, the team I was a part of was amazing and I learned so much from them,” Franklin said. “I have so much to be thankful for.”

Teenager Katie Ledecky won the Female Race of the Year award for her American record performance in the 800-meter freestyle. She was presented her award by five-time Olympian Dara Torres, who now lives in Boston, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Joked one Twitter follower, “The best part about Dara Torres giving an award to Katie Ledecky is that they’ll both be swimming in 2032.”

Ledecky told the audience, “All of you inspired me. I was lucky to have my race come later in the week so I was very motivated watching everyone race and getting to know the U.S. coaches. Watching that video of the Olympics gave me chills.”

Ledecky picked up her second Golden Goggle with the Breakout Performer of the Year award. Amazingly, a year before the Olympics Ledecky didn’t have a U.S. trial cut.

“When I think about this award I think back to my first race when I was 6 years old swimming in my summer league,” Ledecky said. “I remember stopping every two seconds to grab the lane line and it was a contest between my teammate who stopped the least.”

Nathan Adrian won the Male Race of the Year for his 100-meter freestyle gold medal-winning swim and was presented his award by Olympian Tiffany Cohen of Fort Lauderdale and U.S. soccer player Alex Morgan. Cohen pointed out that Ryan Lochte was born on the day she won her second Olympic gold medal in the 800 freestyle.

Jessica Hardy won the Perseverance Award. “Just to be in the Olympics was a dream come true,” a teary-eyed Hardy said.

Cancer survivor Eric Shanteau won the Athlete Humanitarian Award. “Four years ago when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer I didn’t know what my future would hold. To be able to come back and make another Olympic team and win an Olympic gold medal was a dream come true. It takes more than an individual to win a gold medal or to be able to give back.”

Bob Bowman, coach of 2012 Olympians Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt, was named Coach of the Year Award. “Schmitt was the perfect example of what happens when you work hard and believe,” Bowman said. “Michael it’s been a privilege to be your coach. It’s good to be your coach but it’s even better to be your friend.”

The Golden Goggles Relay Award went to the world record women’s 4×100-meter medley relay winners of Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, and Allison Schmitt.

According to host and television commentator Bob Costas, the balloting for the awards were the closest in the six-year history of the awards ceremony.

With Call Me Maybe playing in the background, the U.S. Olympic team was announced before the ceremony. The funniest entrance was the chest bump between University of Florida’s Elizabeth Beisel and Ricky Berens.

In his monologue, Costas announced that the Olympic team’s Call Me Maybe Video has reached 16 million hits.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 210: Franklin, Lochte Back In Pool At Minnesota Grand Prix

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 210: Franklin, Lochte Back In Pool At Minnesota Grand Prix

Written by Sharon Robb

November 10, 2012

Teenager Missy Franklin is back in the pool breaking records.

Franklin, 18, opened the Minnesota Grand Prix Friday night with a win in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:42.28, breaking the national age group record for 17-18 girls. The old record was 1:42.61.

“I was so so happy about that race, I was really surprised, I didn’t think I would go that fast,” Franklin said. “I am thrilled with a 42. My coach just told me to let it go.”

Franklin finished ahead of Dagny Knutson (1:46.70) and Chloe Sutton (1:47.20).

“It was a tenth off her best time ever and a second off the American record,” said Franklin’s coach Todd Schmitz. “We are two months into the season and we use this as a tuneup to see where we’re at.”

Ryan Lochte also returned to the competition pool, his first meet since the 2012 London Olympics, and won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:35.15. On the final two legs, he turned it on to overtake early leader Mads Glaesner of Denmark who was second in 1:35.69. Lochte also won the 100-yard butterfly in 46.73.

“This is my first time racing since the Olympics, I just got back in the water three weeks ago, so I am pretty happy with the way I am swimming,” said the 11-time Olympic medalist. “I have short course worlds in so I wanted to get in some racing. Hopefully, I just get better during this meet. I am a little tired. I wasn’t expecting to hurt that much.”

U.S. National team member and two-time Olympian Mike Alexandrov led from start-to-finish to win the 100-yard breaststroke in 52.80.

In the women’s 400-yard individual medley, Clearwater’s Becca Mann won in 4:10.29, just two seconds shy of Katie Hoff’s 13-14 national age group record. It is the second fastest time by a 14-and-under swimmer of all time.

Other winners were: Ashley Wanland in the 100-yard breaststroke in 59.96; Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue, who frequently trains with the South Florida Aquatic Club, won the 100-yard butterfly in 52.71; and Luke Bushman won the 400-yard individual medley in 3:53.93.

The meet continues Saturday at the University of Minnesota. The meet has 400 swimmers competing over three days, including 66 University of Minnesota swimmers. Six Olympians are also in the field.

FINA Grand Prix

Katinka Hosszu clinched the $100,000 grand prize with a double victory in Singapore on the opening day of the FINA World Cup Series-ended in Singapore. Hosszu won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:53.57 and 800-yard freestyle in 8:21.94. Another former Trojan swimmer, Olympian Jessica Hardy, won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:05.58. Hardy was also third in the 50-yard freestyle in 24.77. Germany’s Britta Steffen won the sprint event in 24.10. Sean Mahoney, who trains at Bolles, won the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:06.17.


Five-time Olympian Dara Torres hosted Gator Growl Friday night in Gainesville. “I was so honored and had a blast,” said the University of Florida alum…

FINA, the international governing body for swimming, suspended the Ecuador Swimming Federation for major interference of the government in the functioning of its Federation. The decision was made at last weekend’s FINA convention in Moscow. Athletes can still compete in FINA events only under the FINA flag. Also decided during the FINA meeting, the World Masters Championships will be included in the 2015 World Championships that feature elite swimming, diving, water polo, synchro and open water. High diving will also be added to the program of the 15th World Swimming Championships in Barcelona next Spain.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 207: Florida Men Ranked No. 1, FGC Swimmer Luke Torres Makes Gators Travel Squad

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 207; Florida Men Ranked No. 1, FGC Swimmer Luke Torres Makes Gators Travel Squad


October 25, 2012

University of Florida men’s swimming and diving team have been ranked No. 1 in the nation among NCAA Division I teams in the first College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll.

The Gators, led by Sebastien Rousseau, Marcin Cieslak and Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez were a unanimous pick for the top spot.

The four other teams in the Top five are Michigan, Stanford, Southern California and Texas. Defending men’s national champion California is ranked seventh.

Florida is one of eight Southeastern Conference schools ranked in the Top 25. Another state school that is ranked is Florida State at No. 15.

Of the Gators seven dual meets remaining, they will swim against six who are ranked among the Top 25 including Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida State, Auburn and Tennessee.

The Gators are on the road this week. They swim against No. 9 Georgia on Thursday and No. 12 South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. on Friday.

Gator freshman Luke Torres, a Florida Gold Coast swimmer and American Heritage Plantation alum, has made the travel squad in his first year of collegiate swimming.

The rankings will be released on a regular basis throughout the 2012-13 season alternating weeks between a men’s and women’s team rankings.

MEN’S POLL: 1. Florida, 2. Michigan, 3. Stanford, 4. Southern California, 5. Texas, 6. Auburn, 7. California, 8. Indiana, 9. North Carolina, Georgia, 11. Arizona, 12. South Carolina, 13. Minnesota, 14. N.C. State, 15. Florida State, 16. Louisville, 17. Penn State, 18. Purdue, 19. Iowa, 20. Alabama, 21. Texas A&M, 22. LSU, 23. Missouri State, 24. Tennessee, 25. Wisconsin.

More college swimming

Caroline Kuczynski, who trains with SOFLO, will compete in her first meet as team captain on Saturday when the Sun Devils swim against Grand Canyon University and Washington State in their season-opener in Tempe, Ariz…SOFLO’s Marc Rojas and his Indian River State College teammates open the season on Nov. 2 against Tampa in their home opener…Nova Southeastern swept St. Leo College last weekend with a 130-74 win over the men’s team and 159-46 victory over the women’s team. “Our athletes are performing on par to what I expect at this point in the season,” said NSU coach Hollie Bonewit-Cron, expecting her first child. “With the amount of training that we are doing, we still need to make improvements on some technical aspects in our stroke work and our training regimen.” SOFLO swimmer Bianca Muniz was a member of the runner-up 400-yard medley relay (4:07.70) and 200-yard freestyle relay teams (1:43.71), third in the 50-yard freestyle in a best time 25.53, bettering her seed time of 25.81 and third in the 100-yard freestyle in 55.24…Sophomore Linea Cutter, another FGC swimmer, won the 50-yard freestyle in 24.83. She also anchored the winning 400-yard medley relay (4:03.14). She was second in the 100-yard freestyle in 54.00. The Sharks next meet is Saturday, Nov. 3 against Rollins in Winter Park…NSU’s Erin Black of Fort Myers was named Sunshine State Conference Women’s Swimmer of the Week.

Torres Will Host Gator Growl

Five-time Olympian and Class of 1990 University of Florida alum Dara Torres, who now lives in Boston, will emcee this year’s Gator Growl. The show, which is regarded as the largest student-run pep rally in the world, is schedyled for 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The show will also feature country singer Josh Turner and comedian Tracy Morgan as the featured performers. Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for UF faculty and staff and $25 for alumni and guests.


The 2012 Ironman World Championships will be televised on NBC Sports on Saturday from 4-6 p.m. The broadcast includes the event in addition to inspiring athlete stories…Olympian Gary Hall Jr. has been hired as sports marketing director at the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation…Double Olympic champions Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands and Yannick Agnel of France were named European Swimmers of the Year by LEN. Top open water swimmers were Eva Risztov of Hungary and Thomas Lurz of Germany.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 191: Nineteen Florida Gold Coast Swimmers Earn Scholastic All-American Honors

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 191: Nineteen Florida Gold Coast Swimmers Earn Scholastic All-American Honors


September 9, 2012

Nineteen swimmers from the Florida Gold Coast were named to USA Swimming’s 2011-2012 Scholastic All-America Team.

The Scholastic All-American team is made up of high school student-athletes who have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and who have achieved the required time standard in a single event.

There were 630 female swimmers including 460 with a 4.0 GPA and 596 male swimmers including 423 with a 4.0 GPA. The Southern Zone had the second highest number of All-Americans with 332 just three behind the Eastern Zone with 335.

There were a total of 1,226 swimmers from around the country named to the team.

FGC swimmers named to the team were: Emma Lincoln of Coral Springs Swim Club; Francis Casey and Brittany Hammond of Pine Crest; Dani Gomez, Performance Aquatics; Christina Herfurth and Julie Suarez, Lake Lytal Aquatics; Emily Kopas, Jordy Groters, Descartes Holland, Alex Lilley and Lucas Britto, Davie Nadadores; Jessi Randolph, and Dylan Marsolek, Plantation; Clara Smiddy, Sam Smiddy and Derek Chait, AK Sharks; Lance Rutkin, Swim Fort Lauderdale; Daniel Spas, Heritage Aquatics; and Aaron Tam, Metro Aquatics.

Gators Release Schedule

Swimmers got a look at their 2012-2013 schedule that features seven dual meets and three regular season invitationals. The Gators will host five events including the All-Florida Invitational that is scheduled for Sept. 28-30 that kicks off the season. The Gators roster includes Florida Gold Coast swimmers Carlos Omana, Luke Torres, Ryan Rosenbaum and sisters Lindsey and Taylor McKnight.

2012-2013 Schedule: Sept. 28-30, All-Florida Invitational; Oct. 19-20, at SMU Classic (women only); Oct. 25, at Georgia; Oct.26, at South Carolina; Nov. 2, Texas A&M; Nov. 15, at Florida State; Nov. 30-Dec. 2, Ohio State Buckeye Invitational; Jan. 18-19, SMU Classic (men only); Jan. 19, Florida Atlantic; Jan. 26, at Auburn; Feb. 1, Tennessee; Feb. 19-23, SEC Championships at Texas; March 1-2, Bulldog Last Chance Meet; March 10, Gator Last Chance Meet; March 11-13, NCAA Diving Zone, Knoxville; March 21-23, Women’s NCAA Championships, Indianapolis; March 28-30, Men’s NCAA Championships, Indianapolis.


Three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines won the Battle of the Sexes at the RCP Tiburon Sprint Classic in Atherton, Calif. Gaines won the inaugural 50-yard freestyle race in 21.98 seconds. He finished ahead of Bahamian Olympian Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, who trains at University of Miami, in 22.33. Vanderpool-Wallace won her heat to advance into the final against Gaines. Other women in the heats were Lara Jackson, Liv Jensen, Emily Silver, Dana Vollmer and Kara Lynn Joyce. Gaines won $2,500 which he donated to the USA Swimming Foundation which he is an ambassador. In the men’s race, Josh Schneider defended his title to win $10,000 against seven of the fastest sprinters in history. Schneider won the 50-yard freestyle in 19.63 ahead of George Bovell in 19.74. In another special race, Tom Jager and Matt Biondi competed against each other for the first time in 20 years with Jager winning in 23.11. Biondi finished in 23.18. Though they have not competed in any meets, both continue to swim regularly…. 

Five-time Olympian Dara Torres, now officially retired from competitive swimming, earned another honor. The 45-year-old mother was named to the 2012-13 United States national team after finishing fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She is the oldest member on the national team roster. Each athlete received a congratulatory letter from Frank Busch, USA Swimming’s national team director. Torres officially retired after just missing qualifying for her sixth Olympic team in the 50-meter freestyle and notified USADA she was no longer competing. Torres has been busy raising her daughter, moving and making several appearances including the U.S. Open with Cullen Jones to help kick off National Childhood Obesity Month in Flushing Meadow, N.Y. The only other South Floridian and Florida Gold Coast swimmer to make the national team was Pine Crest alum Joey Pedraza of Davie Nadadores in the open water 10K…

USA Swimming has cut funding for open water coaches at FINA World Cup races. An email from open water program manager Bryce Elser was sent to all open water swimmers on Thursday. Alex Meyer was one of the first to tweet about it on Twitter. USA Swimming will not be funding coaches who accompany their open water swimmers to FINA 10K events. The decision came after FINA clarified to USA Swimming that at these events there has to be one coach per national team athlete, rather than one coach per country. The next FINA race in the World Cup Series is this weekend in Hong Kong…

Veteran Olympic coach Jon Urbancheck, who recently turned 75, will be joining the staff as a volunteer coach at University of Southern California…

Lance Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life for doping, has been banned from the Oct. 7 Chicago Marathon which he planned to run to raise money for his Livestrong Foundation for cancer survivors. The ban bars participation in any sport or event sanctioned by a sporting body that is under the umbrella of the World Anti-Doping Code including most of the top triathlons…

Miami’s Manny Huerta, competing for the first time since the 2012 London Olympics, finished third at Sunday’s Guatape ITU Triathlon World Cup in Colombia to secure his first career ITU World Cup podium finish. Huerta finished in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 24 seconds on the 1,500-meter swim, 40K bike and 10K run course. It was Huerta’s best career finish on the ITU World Cup circuit. Huerta will compete Saturday in the USA Triathlon Elite National Championship in Buffalo, N.Y…

Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin have been making the post-Olympic rounds from fashion shows in New York City to the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles. Franklin was an honored guest at the music awards show along with gymnast Gabby Douglas. She brought her cousin and wore one of her Olympic gold medals. She was an obvious crowd favorite signing autographs and posing for photos. Lochte, who no longer in the running for The Bachelor, is making the talk show rounds in New York and attending fashion shows. Lochte confirmed he is working on his own fashion line and will have a cameo appearance on the NBC series 30 Rock. Lochte is also attempting to cover New York Fashion Week for E News but receiving lukewarm reviews.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 7: SOFLO’s Alia Atkinson Just Misses Medal In Olympic Final Debut By .47

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK,Issue 7: SOFLO’s Alia Atkinson Just Misses Medal In Olympic Final Debut By .47


July 30, 2012

Smiling from ear-to-ear and forming a heart with her hands as she walked on the pool deck before her race, Alia Atkinson was clearly in her element at the Aquatics Centre Monday at the Olympic Games.

The three-time Olympian for Jamaica and South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer made the most of her championship final debut in the 100-meter breaststroke with her aggressiveness in the opening 50 meters.

Against a world-class field, the 23-year-old just missed becoming the first Jamaican swimmer to medal in the sport at the Olympics with a fourth-place finish.

Atkinson lowered her national record for the fourth time in a career-best time of 1:06.93, just getting edged out by Japan’s Satomi Suzuki by .47 in 1:06.46.

It was the best finish by a Jamaican swimmer since Janelle Atkinson finished fourth at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

“My objective was certainly to give Jamaica its best finish in swimming at the Olympics and putting the country on the map, so to speak,” Atkinson said. “I am a little disappointed. I really wanted to get that medal to show that Jamaican swimming is up there. I didn’t die in the last 25, I was still there because I saw the two girls beside me.”

Before the race, a technical problem caused the starting horn to go off early inducing U.S. swimmer and medal favorite Breeja Larson to jump in, forcing the rest of the field to step off the blocks and sit or stand behind the blocks while a technician worked on the glitch.

After a few anxious moments, Larson was not disqualified because of the bug in the system. She went on to finish a surprising sixth in 1:06.96.

Larson of Texas A&M was the first to bear-hug Atkinson, a Texas A&M alum, as the two walked off the deck smiling.

Unheralded 15-year-old Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania, the only woman swimmer from her country, shocked the breaststroke field including reigning world champion Rebecca Soni and became the youngest swimmer ever to win her country’s first Olympic gold medal in a lifetime best and European record 1:05.47.

Meilutyte finished ahead of Soni by .08 seconds. Japan’s Satomi Suzuki took the bronze giving the country its first medal in event history. Australia’s defending champion Leisel Jones finished fifth.

“I can’t believe it, it’s too much for me,” said Meilutyte, after covering her mouth in shock when she looked at the scoreboard.

Meilutyte moved to Britain three years ago to train with English coach Jon Rudd. She goes to the same Plymouth school as British Olympic diver Tom Daley. She was a freestyler when she came to the United Kingdom but her coach said, “Her breaststroke was pretty tidy and we tidied it up even more.”

Atkinson and her longtime coach Chris Anderson are getting phone calls, messages and tweets from people around the world.

Track and field’s former world 100-meter record holder Asafa Powell tweeted Atkinson. “Congratulations to Alia Atkinson for making it into the 100-meter breaststroke final! Team Jamaica.”

Atkinson still has the 200-meter breaststroke (Wednesday) and 50-meter freestyle (Saturday) remaining this week.

On the third day of swimming, upsets continued to reign supreme. In the 200-meter freestyle, France’s Yannick Agnel stole the thunder from Ryan Lochte again.

After losing to him on the final leg of the 400 free relay Sunday, Lochte finished fourth in the 200 freestyle, an event in which he is reigning world champion. Lochte died going into the wall. It was the first time France had ever won the event in Olympic history.

“I guess I took it out a little too fast,” Lochte said. “I don’t know where I really fell off. I’ll live and learn. That last lap hurt. I put everything into it. I guess it wasn’t there.”

Lochte later tweeted, “Not so happy about that swim tonight.”

Agnel was blazing fast in 1:43.14 followed by South Korea’s Tae-Hwan Park of South Korea and gold medal favorite Sun Yang of China who tied for the silver medal in 1:44.93. Lochte’s time was 1:45.04. It was Park’s second silver of the meet. World record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany failed to medal.

“I was indeed surprised with my time,” Agnel said. “I did not expect that, more like 1:43.80 or 1:43.90. At the end of the race I looked twice on the scoreboard to be sure it was it.”

American teenager Missy Franklin, 17, did not disappoint, winning her first gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke after a quick 14-minute turnaround from swimming the 200-meter freestyle semifinals. Franklin conserved her energy and qualified eighth in the 200 semifinals.

Trailing at the wall by a quarter of a second, Franklin roared back to win in an American record 58.33. Aussie Emily Seebohm, who has the fastest time in the event this year and had the early lead, was second in 58.68. “I knew I needed to give everything I had coming home,” Franklin said.

“I saw the board, I saw the number 1,” said Franklin, who grabbed her forehead with her red, white and blue-polished fingernails. “It doesn’t seem real. I’ve dreamed about it so often. You still feel like you’re dreaming.

“When you dream about something your whole life and you achieve it, you just don’t really understand what you just did. And I definitely don’t think I did but I couldn’t be happier right now. I still feel like someone needs to pinch me. I am so happy. I knew it was going to be a tough night.”

On the podium, Franklin was crying and singing the national anthem as her Canadian parents looked on.

The U.S. team ruled the backstroke even when 6-foot-8 Matt Grevers, who took silver in 2008 in Beijing, won the men’s 100-meter backstroke followed by teamed Nick Thoman. Grevers won in an Olympic record 52.16.

“This is just an incredibly fast Olympics,” Grevers said. “To win a medal, it’s not an easy thing to do. I was able to come home fast. It felt even better to share that moment with Nick, oh my God.”

In the men’s 200-meter butterfly, two-time Olympic defending champion in the event Michael Phelps will get a chance at an Olympic three-peat after qualifying fourth in the semifinals in 1:54.53. Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda is the top seed. U.S. teammate Tyler Clary (1:54.93) also qualified and will be right next to Phelps in the final.

The final is Tuesday night. If he medals, he would win his 18th Olympic medal, tying him with Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for most career Olympic medals.

Caitlin Leverenz (third) and Ariana Kukors (fourth) both qualified for the 200-meter individual medley in semifinals.

In the overall aquatics medal table, the U.S. leads with 14 medals and China has 7. Both the U.S. and China are tied with four golds apiece.


The U.S. men’s team won its second Olympic medal in the men’s 10-meter platform. David Boudia and Nick McCrory took a bronze medal after Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston took a silver on women’s 3-meter synchro on Sunday. It is the first two Olympic medals for the U.S. since 2000. The Americans had their best score on the last of their six dives to hold onto third place. Mexico took the silver and China, as expected, won the gold medal with two teenagers. Cao Yuan, 17, and Zhang Yanquan, 18, clinched the title. Brits Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield faltered to fourth after leading for two rounds.

Water polo

In her Olympic debut, Maggie Steffens, 19, scored seven goals, including six in the first half, to lead the U.S. to an impressive 14-13 win over Hungary. “It was awesome, my heartbeat is still pounding,” said the Californian. Courtney Mathewson added four goals for the U.S…Spain upset 2011 world silver medalist China, 11-6.

Olympic Tweets

“After my 100 breaststroke last night I was going to sink to the bottom and underwater dance but there’s no cameras in Lane 8.”–Brendan Hansen

“Watching Missy Franklin’s post-race interview made me cry! What a sweet sweet girl!!! She deserves all her success.”—Caroline Kuczynski, CSSC swimmer

“Missy Franklin is a very nice girl until you throw water on her.”—Sally Jenkins, Washington Post

“At swimming Tony Parker just asked for a pic, I thought he meant with me but he handed me a camera to take of him with the pool in background, mortified!”—CSSC swimmer Dara Torres

Sharon Robb can be reached at