SOFLO’s U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Claire Donahue Arrives At U.S. Team World Camp In Croatia

By Sharon Robb

July 22, 2015—Claire Donahue finished her final training session in Kentucky earlier this week before leaving for the first portion of the U.S. team training camp in Croatia.

For Donahue, it was bittersweet.

Donahue wrapped up her final training session in “the place I call home” for the last eight years with longtime coach Bruce Marchionda.

“Headed to race against the best in the world but leaving the place I call home,” Donahue tweeted. “My apartment is full of boxes.”

Donahue, 26, a Western Kentucky alum, has been a post-grad swimmer in Bowling Green since qualifying for the 2012 Olympic team in the 100-meter butterfly. She earned a gold medal as a member of the 400-meter medley relay team and became WKU’s first Olympian to win a gold medal.

Donahue, now a member of the South Florida Aquatic Club, will join Marchionda at SOFLO’s Academic Village Pool in Pembroke Pines after she competes at worlds and World Cups in Moscow and Paris.

Donahue will train full-time for the 2016 Olympic trials and hopefully her second Olympic team with SOFLO. Marchionda will serve as performance consultant and head camp director at SOFLO.

The 16th FINA World Championships begin Friday in Kazan, Russia with the Opening Ceremonies.

The championships feature six aquatic sports including diving, swimming, synchronized swimming, water polo, open water swimming and high diving.

The pool swimming begins on the ninth day of the championships (Aug. 2-9). The open water swimming events are July 25, July 27, July 28, July 30 and August 1.

Donahue, 26, a U.S. national team member, will compete in the butterfly. She will be coached by SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson at the world championships and first two legs of the FINA World Cup, Aug. 11-12 in Moscow and Aug. 15-16 in Paris.

Anderson will also coach other SOFLO pros Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and Carolina Colorado and Jorge Murillo-Valdes of Colombia.

Donahue will be joined at training camp by several other swimmers with Florida ties including Ryan Lochte, Daytona Beach/Florida; Elizabeth Beisel, Gator Swim Club; Becca Mann, Clearwater; Melanie Margalis, St. Petersburg; Conor Dwyer, Florida; Ryan Murphy, Bolles and Sid Cassidy (Coach, open water).

The U.S. worlds team is training in Croatia and then will get acclimated in Kazan next week.

Marchionda will join Donahue at SOFLO in late August and continue coaching her.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Claire Donahue Joins South Florida Aquatic Club

By Sharon Robb

June 5, 2015—U.S. Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue has joined South Florida Aquatic Club to train full-time for the 2016 Olympic trials and hopefully her second Olympic team.

Donahue, 26, a U.S. national team member, will begin training with SOFLO’s pro group in August after the July 24-Aug. 9 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia and FINA World Cup Series.

Donahue joins SOFLO’s pro team of three-time Jamaican Olympian and world record holder Alia Atkinson; two-time Colombian Olympian and national record holder Carolina Colorado; Jorge Murillo of Colombia and Timothy Wynter of Jamaica, both national record holders.

Donahue will be coached by SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson at the world championships and first two legs of the FINA World Cup, Aug. 11-12 in Moscow and Aug. 15-16 in Paris.

Her longtime coach Bruce Marchionda, whose last day at Western Kentucky is June 30th after ten seasons, will join Donahue at SOFLO in late August.

Marchionda will continue coaching Donahue and will also help coach at SOFLO.

Donahue, a Western Kentucky alum, has been a post-grad swimmer in Bowling Green since qualifying for the 2012 Olympic team in the 100-meter butterfly. She earned a gold medal as a member of the 400-meter medley relay team. She is WKU’s first Olympian to win a gold medal.

Anderson and Marchionda are longtime friends. It will be a smooth transition for both Donahue and Marchionda after training at SOFLO during holiday breaks and camps for several years.

“SOFLO was at the top of the list, we are familiar with the pool, and Bruce and I know Chris pretty well,” Donahue said.

“We had all the schools and teams listed where we wanted to go and we really felt SOFLO was a great fit more than any other team.”

Donahue, while sad about leaving Kentucky after eight years, is excited about the future.

“My first consideration was the coaching,” Donahue said. “I am going to have two Olympic-level coaches which is huge. Not a lot of people can get that. I am really excited about having both of them.

“The training atmosphere is what I was looking for. It is a pro group. I am 26 and being able to train with pros is another thing that is going to help me improve in the next year.”

Donahue trained with the pro group including Atkinson and Colorado in March.

“It was so much fun, the atmosphere was great,” Donahue said. “It’s not just about having the high level of training partners to train and push you but their goal is the same as mine. I really enjoyed the practices. I really am looking forward to it. I want to go. There are no doubts in my mind.”

Atkinson and other future teammates are already joking to Donahue, “I hope you’re ready to get a tan.”

“I am excited about the weather,” Donahue said. “I have always wanted to live in Florida. It is far away from home, but it’s also 30 minutes away from the beach and you can’t beat that. I am glad it all worked out.”

Donahue wanted to stay with her consistent training routine with Marchionda in Bowling Green until she left for worlds.

“Then when we get back we will pretty much pack up everything and head down there,” Donahue said. “I am very, very excited about the move.

“The Olympic trials are getting closer and closer,” she said. “I remember two years ago saying, ‘Claire, it’s time to get back to work, the next Olympics are coming pretty quickly.’ Every practice is important.”

It will also be the opportunity of a lifetime for SOFLO swimmers and coaching staff.

In addition to the SOFLO pros, top age group swimmers who have made their Grand Prix cuts including Melissa Marinheiro, Julien Pinon, Kathleen Golding and Jessica Rodriguez will also be training with Donahue.

“It’s going to be a great experience for SOFLO, taking our coaching staff and athletes to an even higher level,” Anderson said. “It brings us up another notch to have someone who is ranked among the top swimmers in three events.”

Anderson, a three-time Jamaican Olympic coach, just returned from his head coaching stint at the USA Swimming Zone Select Camp in Arizona. Anderson is also coaching five athletes at the July 14-18 Pan American Games in Toronto.

“Claire and Bruce bring that professionalism and competitiveness on a daily basis,” Anderson said. “There’s no transition needed, it’s full speed ahead.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Junior Swimmers Shine At World Championships

Junior Swimmers Shine At World Championships


August 31, 2013

USA Swimming National Junior Team head coach Jack Roach said it best when describing the FINA Junior World Championship Championships in Dubai as “making memories and building the future.”

The six-day meet came to a close on Saturday after a week of impressive swimming and 47 meet records, making it the best in meet history.

On the final day, Aussie Mackenzie Horton won the 1500-meter freestyle in a meet record 14:56.60 and Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania won the 50-meter freestyle in 25.10, both of them finishing with four gold medals.

Team USA’s Caeleb Dressel of Bolles won the 100-meter freestyle after a 23.03 opening 50-meter split to win in a meet record 48.97. It also broke the U.S. national age group record (17-18) set by Michael Phelps in 2004 in 49.05.

Teammate Andrew Seliskar won the 200-meter butterfly in a meet record 1:56.42 including a third 50-meter split of 29.04.

Australia won the gold medal count with 10 followed by Team USA and Russia, each with nine. The U.S. finished with 28 total medals, Russia had 26 and Australia had 18.

The U.S. won the combined (989 points), boys (410) and girls (517) team titles and received the Championship Trophy.

Florida Gold Coast swimmers were in the international spotlight.

AquaKids Sharks’ Clara Smiddy, the only FGC swimmer on the U.S. junior national team, took home three bronze medals and Dylan Carter of Davie Nadadores grabbed a silver medal.

Smiddy will now return home to compete for the South Florida Heat in high school swimming as a senior. Carter of Plantation American Heritage, who represents Trinidad and Tobago, is heading to California for college in January.

Twelve other FGC swimmers represented their international countries and several turned in lifetime-best times against a world-class field.

The 2015 FINA World Juniors Championships are set for Singapore.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Sixteen-Year-Old Breaks World Record; SOFLO’s Atkinson Just Misses Finals On Day Two Of World Championships

Sixteen-Year-Old Breaks World Record; SOFLO’s Atkinson Just Misses Finals On Day Two Of World Championships


July 29, 2013

Lithuanian teenager Ruta Meilutyte may train in England, but is a national hero in Lithuania today.

The 16-year-old broke the world record in the 100-meter breaststroke semifinals Monday at the 15th FINA World Long Course Swimming Championships at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona.

The Plymouth, England-based Meilutye, the 2012 London Olympics champion, had the crowd on its feet for most of her race.

After just missing the world mark in prelims by 0.07 seconds, she came back to break Jessica Hardy’s world record in 1:04.30 to earn the top seed for Tuesday’s championship final.

It is the second fastest time in the history of the event.

“I’ll have a relaxing day and save all my energy for the final,” she said. “My biggest aim is accomplished now. I’ll give it my best shot in the final.”

Meilutyte, who is coached by Jon Rudd at Plymouth Leander while studying at Plymouth College, admitted the world record is more important than a gold medal.

“Well, it’s one of the steps, one of the dreams,” she told a press room full of media. “Obviously, a gold medal would be a cherry on top of the ice cream.”

In other big races, Brazilian Cesar Cielo, who underwent knee surgery months ago, defended his title in the 50-meter butterfly in 23.01.

Florida Gold Coast got its first medal at worlds when Brazil’s Felipe Lima of Davie Nadadores took a bronze in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke in 59.65.

Another FGC swimmer, three-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson of the South Florida Aquatic Club, just missed making the women’s 100-meter breaststroke final, placing ninth in 1:07.63.

Other FGC swimmers, Nicholas Schwab of the Dominican Republic was 49th in the 200-meter freestyle prelims in 1:53.07. Sagemont alum and FSU freshman Jemal Le Grand of Davie Nadadores was 52nd in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:55.08.

The U.S. finished Day Two with a silver medal from Eugene Godsoe, making his long course worlds debut, in the 50-meter butterfly and Dana Vollmer, who has been sick the past few days, taking bronze in the 100-meter butterfly.

The U.S. team now has three gold, two silver and three bronze medals.

Day Three events are men’s 200-meter freestyle final, women’s 100-meter backstroke, men’s 50-meter breaststroke, women’s 1500-meter freestyle final, men’s 100-meter backstroke final, women’s 200-meter freestyle, men’s 200-meter butterfly, women’s 100-meter breaststroke final.

Today’s TV Schedule: Tuesday, July 30, 12-2:30 p.m. live, Universal Sports.



100-meter breaststroke: 1. Christian Sprenger, Australia 58.79, 2. Cameron Van der Burgh, South Africa 58.97, 3. Felipe Lima, Brazil/Davie Nadadores 59.65.

50-meter butterfly: 1. Cesar Cielo, Brazil 23.01, 2. Eugene Godsoe, USA 23.05, 3. Fred Bousquet, France 23.11.


100-meter butterfly: 1. Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden 56.53, 2. Alicia Coutts, Australia 56.97, 3. Dana Vollmer, USA 57.24.

200-meter individual medley: 1. Katinka Hosszu, Hungary 2:07.92, 2. Alicia Coutts, Australia 2:09.39, 3. Mireia Belmonte Garcia, Spain 2:09.45.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO Swimmers Keeping Busy At Meets Around The World

SOFLO Swimmers Keeping Busy At Meets Around The World


July 25, 2013

From the FINA World Championships in Barcelona to the Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships in Coral Springs, South Florida Aquatic Club swimmers are keeping busy by heating up pools around the world.

SOFLO is sending 22 swimmers in 129 individual events and ten relays to Senior Championships that begin Friday at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex Michael Lohberg Pool of Champions.

With the excitement of the FINA World Aquatic Championships in the air, the long course meters three-day meet will have an added kick to it.

The swimming portion of the FINA meet begins on Sunday in Barcelona with a handful of Florida Gold Coast swimmers and coaches including SOFLO’s three-time Olympian Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and her coach Chris Anderson.

The FGC meet is the championship event for age group swimmers, ages 15 and over.

SOFLO swimmers entered in this weekend’s meet are: Kaitlin Armstrong, 17, Lilli Calero, 15, Leysha Caraballo, 16, Jessica Cordero, 15, Marco Crespo, 15, Mathew Delvalle, 15, Melissa Gonzalez, 15, Eduardo Graziano, 15, Lisa Marie Handal, 15, Andrea Iglesia, 15, Edward Kon, 17, Adrian Marrero, 15, Karina Medina, 15, Emely Nunez, 16, Simon Ortiz, 15, Genesis Pabon, 16, Joseph Perez, 16, Fernando Quintero, 16, Daniel Reyna, 17, Astrid Rigau, 17, Teddy Sandoval, 16, and Carly Swanson, 15.


WHAT: Florida Gold Coast Long Course Senior Championships

WHEN: Friday-Sunday

WHERE: Michael Lohberg Pool Of Champions, Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, 12441 Royal Palm Blvd.

SCHEDULE: Friday, prelims 8:30 a.m., finals 5 p.m.; Saturday, prelims 8:30 a.m., finals 5 p.m.; Sunday, prelims 8:30 a.m., finals 5 p.m.

ADMISSION: $3 per session, heat sheets $3 per session. For information go to or call 954-340-5032.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK: FGC Official Jay Thomas Represents U.S. At FINA World Championships

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK: FGC Official Jay Thomas Represents U.S. At FINA World Championships


July 20, 2013

Longtime and well-respected USA Swimming and Florida Gold Coast official Jay Thomas of Plantation was selected to represent USA Swimming, the sport’s national governing body, in Barcelona.

The retired airline pilot will officiate at the FINA World Aquatic Championships that began Saturday in Barcelona, Spain.

Thomas is among 36 individuals representing 20 countries chosen to officiate. Spain, because it’s the host country, has the largest number of officials.

Thomas is one of two U.S. officials. He will serve as a stroke judge.

Thomas, whose daughter Barbara was a top age group and high school swimmer, has been involved with swimming for more than two decades.

Thomas is a Glen S. Hummer Award recipient and has international, national and local experience on the pool deck. He has officiated at FINA World Swimming Championships, national and local open water events and pool meets at all levels.

Thomas has served on the USA Swimming Rules Committee and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Board. He also trains and certifies swimming officials, many in South Florida. He also oversees the Florida Gold Coast website.


While the pool swimming competition is still a week away, open water swimming and synchronized diving kicked off the FINA World Aquatic Championships Saturday in Barcelona.

American Haley Anderson of the Trojan Swim Club won the first gold medal at the world championships in the competitive 5K open water race in the city’s Moll de la Fusta Harbor.

Anderson won the exciting women’s race in 56:34.2 ahead of Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto in 56:34.4.

“I learned from the past to stay calm and confident,” Anderson said. “After Poliana took the lead I was drafting behind her until the finish. I decided to stay on her feet until the last 300 meters and then sprint to the finish.”

Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha, who trains with Davie Nadadores and has won several Fort Lauderdale open water events, was third in 56:44.7. The next eight places were separated by only four seconds.

Clearwater’s Becca Mann was eighth in 58:46.4.

In the men’s race, Tunisia’s Olympic gold medalist Ous Mellouli, also of the Trojan Swim Club, held off Canadian newcomer Eric Hedlin to win the gold medal. It was his second consecutive victory in a major open water race.

Mellouli surged in the final 100 meters to win in 53:30.4 and Hedlin finished in 53:31.6. Germany’s Thomas Lurz was third in 53:32.2.

“I didn’t expect to win the 5K, I am really happy with the results,” Mellouli said. “I did take six months off and got back into training not too long ago. To be on top of the world is quite exciting for me.”


Eight masters swimmers will be inducted into the Fort Lauderdale-based International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame as the Class of 2013.

The induction ceremony, that features four swimmers, one diver, one synchro swimmer, one water polo player and one contributor from the U.S., Japan, Australia and Canada, will be held Sept. 13 at the Hyatt Regency in Anaheim, Calif., in conjunction with the U.S. Aquatic Sports Convention.

The inductees are swimmers Judie Oliver of Canada, Jenny Whiteley of Australia, Edward Cazalet of the U.S. and Hiromu Yoshimoto of Japan; U.S. diver Felix Grossman, U.S. synchro swimmers Holly Kyle, U.S. water polo player Mike Haley and U.S. contributor Ted Haartz.


Swimmers Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin were honored at the recent ESPY Awards.

Phelps won two ESPYs for best record-breaking performance by breaking the record for most all-time Olympic medals with 22 and best male Olympic athlete.

During his acceptance speech, Phelps thanked retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis for helping him end his career the way he wanted.

Franklin, who was at the U.S. training camp in Balbao prepping for worlds, was named the best female Olympic athlete. Franklin won five medals including four golds, in London.

Phelps brought Golf Channel’s Win McMurry to the awards ceremony. Phelps caddied for the blond at the PGA Tour Wives Classic at The Players Championship in May.

The award ceremony, held Wednesday at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, had its moments when actor and host Jon Hamm said during his skit that “Ryan Lochte proved he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer…he’s adorable. Lochte won five medals in London, and only two of them were damaged when he tried to find out if there was chocolate inside.”

Speaking of Phelps, he will be in Barcelona but only as a spokesperson for Speedo, one of his major sponsors. The 28-year-old continues to hone his golf game while playing pro-am tournaments. Phelps has dropped 30 strokes, from 110 to the consistent mid-80s, by working with The Golf Channel’s Hank Haney. His handicap is now 18. Phelps made his American Century Championship debut in Lake Tahoe which will be televised on NBC Sports Network on Saturday and Sunday.


A global study from Speedo found 73 percent of people who already swim or want to start swimming believe that it is the only sport that can be done for life. If they swim for fitness, they will live a healthier life than those who take part in other forms of fitness, including land-based exercise. In addition, 86 percent believe swimming provides a better workout and 71 percent feel physically fitter as a result of swimming compared to any other form of exercise. It’s not only the health benefits that make swimming the best fitness choice, but also its physical attractiveness. According to 76 percent surveyed, they believe regular swimming results in a better body than any other form of exercise. They also believe that swimming is more fun than other forms of exercise with more than 90 percent saying that swimming is a stress reliever.


Florida Gulf Coast coach Neal Studd continues to attract world-class swimmers to his women’s program. The former FAU coach signed Dutch national backstroke record holder Kira Toussaint. In short course meters she is the fastest Dutch backstroker in history. Toussaint, 19, will join the program’s first-ever NCAA qualifier and backstroker Emma Svensson of Sweden, freshman Nina Schiffer of Germany and Brazil’s Marcella Marinheiro of SOFLO, a West Broward High School alum. Lake Lytal swimmer Victoria Ho transferred from Florida in January.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 44: FINA World Championships Week Away, SOFLO’s Polyakov Is Ready

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 44: FINA World Championships Week Away, SOFLO’s Polyakov Is Ready

July 8, 2011


One week from today the 14th FINA World Aquatic Championships begin in Shanghai, China with a record turnout of countries.

According to FINA, the sport’s international governing body, 181 countries are entered, up from 172 at the 2009 Rome Championships.

However, this is the first time swimmers have had to meet qualifying times for the first time which explains why there are only 2,220 swimmers entered compared to 2,438 in 2009.

Several teams including the United States and Kazakhstan, with South Florida Aquatic Club’s two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov, are leaving over the next few days for training camps before the swim competition begins on July 24th at the Oriental Sports Centre.

The world championships begin July 16th with diving, water polo, open water swimming and synchronized swimming and end July 31.

The United States team leaves July 11th for camp in Australia. Kazakhstan leaves July 18th for a six-day training camp in Shanghai.

Polyakov has been in Astana, Kazakhstan training and competing in the 3d Sports Games, held once every four years. Polyakov is competing in the 50, 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, the same events he will be swimming at worlds. He qualified for all three events at last year’s Asian Games in November.

“I will prioritize the 100 and just go with the flow in the other races,” Polyakov said. “The reason I will focus on the 100 is because I think I have the closest shot at making the Olympics in that event.”

The FINA “A” qualifying time is 1:00.79. Polyakov swam 1:01.03 at the Asian Games.

“If I could repeat that I wouldn’t be too far away,” Polyakov said. “I have a good feeling about this (world) meet. I feel like I have plenty of speed and power, I just need to have every bit of it available on the day of the race.”

Polyakov is still getting over fatigue from travelling but should be ready by worlds, he said.

Former University of Miami diver Brittany Viola is finishing up her training for worlds. Viola will represent the U.S. in the women’s 10-meter platform event. Former local diver Kassidy Cook will also compete in the women’s 10-meter synchro with teammate Christina Loukas.

Local fans will get a chance to watch the world championships on television. The schedule is July 24, 2-4 p.m., NBC; July 25-29, Universal Sports; July 30, 1-3 p.m., NBC and July 31, 1-3 p.m., NBC.


While Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin have a ways to go to catch up with No. 1-rated Shaquille O’Neal and No. 2-rated Chad Ochocinco, the pair were still the only swimmers rated among’s Must-Follow Sports Personalities on Twitter.

To make the list, the tweeter needed to be interactive, informative, charitable, funny and not oblige his or her followers’ requests for re-tweets because the athlete is the “fan’s favorite player.”

The top fifty were ranked followed by The Best of the Rest which listed Phelps and Coughlin, the only swimmers, listed under “Other” sport athletes along with Lance Armstrong, Usain Bolt, Apolo Ohno and Andy Roddick.

Sharon Robb can be reached at