By Sharon Robb
PEMBROKE PINES, April 6, 2022–Guillermo Mantilla loves to race and it shows.

“He will get up on that block and he doesn’t care who he is next to,” said his Bronze Group coach Rose Lockie. “He is going to give his absolute heart to try and win. No matter what, he will get up and race. He is one of these kids who when he gets up on that block in his head ‘I want it.’ That’s something you can’t teach.”

Mantilla, who recently turned 11, was South Florida Aquatic Club’s top performer at the Florida Swimming-Florida Gold Coast All-Star Meet at Indian River State College.

Mantilla finished with five wins, four seconds and one third place in 10 individual and relay events over three days.

“I just wanted to do my best at that meet and go fast,” Mantilla said. “I did practice for that meet. I worked on my butterfly. I was happy with how it went.”

At the FGC 14-and-Under Junior Olympics in early March, which Mantilla calls his “best meet so far,” he won three events including the 100-yard backstroke (1:08.56) with 6.29-second time drop; 200-yard individual medley (2:29.92) with a 9.38-second time drop; and 100-yard freestyle (58.96, first time he broke 1 minute) with a 2.13-second time drop.

Mantilla was also third in the 500-yard freestyle in a best time 5:51.54 (16.89 time drop); third in the 50-yard freestyle in a best time 27.18 in prelims and 27.24 in finals (0.52 time drop); fourth in the 200-yard medley relay; third in the 100-yard individual medley in a best time 1:10.25 (5.28 time drop) and second in the 200-yard freestyle in a best time 2:09.84 (7.20 time drop). He was second in high point with 66 points for 10-and-unders.

“I was happiest with JOs, it was my best meet and I was happy,” Mantilla said. “I was really happy about my 100 free. It was my best time.”

Between JOs and All-Stars Lockie and her son Travis helped him tweak some of the “little things” that he was doing wrong.

“I like Coach Rose, she works hard on me,” Mantilla said. “She really helps me get better. I do a lot of push-ups for her. My arms are strong from all those push-ups.”

Lockie first coached Mantilla in Meteorites. When he moved into her Bronze Group he was the youngest boy. While there is still plenty to work on, “he has improved a lot, but you know he is going to get so much better in time when he works on the little things that he is doing terribly wrong.

“I am actually very fond of him even though he drives me crazy,” Lockie said. “I am forever, ‘Guillermo, get out, five push-ups.’ He tries hard at meets, but at practice he is lazy. Occasionally, he will put in his best effort but he is capable of so much more, but he’s young. He is a typical little boy who wants to goof and play around. He really is a good kid.”

Mantilla, a fifth grader at Indian Trace Elementary School, started swimming five years ago. He has been swimming at SOFLO for a little more than a year after swimming at the YMCA and Midtown Weston Aquatics. His sister, Tania, 14, and brother Diego, 6, also swim at SOFLO. He used to play soccer but now is focused solely on swimming.

“My family is a swim family,” Mantilla said. “My mom swims, my sister swims and my brother swims. I just followed them.”

Mantilla said swimming has helped him get excited about staying fit.

“Since I started at SOFLO I see a lot of improvement in my swimming,” Mantilla said. “I’m really competitive. It doesn’t really matter who is in the pool next to me. Michael Phelps could be next to me and I wouldn’t care. I just like to race.”

Right now, Mantilla is training for his summer meets including JOs. His long range goals include swimming high school and college.

“I definitely want to get faster,” he said. “I’m having fun practicing with my friends and seeing them, how they improve and how they are doing. I like my teammates. I like SOFLO because it’s a hard-working competitive club and they get you to go faster and be stronger.”

Each TYR Swimmer of the Month receives a free TYR backpack. Mantilla joins SOFLO swimmers Tristan Dons (February) and Hashan Ekanayake (January) as 2022 TYR Swimmers of the Month.

SOFLO sponsor TYR is a USA manufacturer of recreational and competitive swimwear, caps, goggles, triathlon gear and accessories and one of the nation’s top companies.

TYR, created by athletes, is named for the Norse god of warriors in Germanic mythology.

Among its male-sponsored athletes are 2020 Olympians Michael Andrew, Tom Shields, Nic Fink, Townley Haas and Jordan Wilimovsky and other elite swimmers Matt Grevers, Maxime Rooney, Jacob Pebley and Ryan Lochte.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Dressel, Phelps Weigh-in On Gymnast Simone Biles, Athletes’ Mental Health

TOKYO, Japan, August 9, 2021–Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Caeleb Dressel understood what gymnast Simone Biles was going through during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The greatest gymnast of all times withdrew from most of her gymnastics events after being heavily favored. She shared with the world that she was experiencing the twisties. Her mind and body were not in sync so she decided to put her mental and physical health ahead of winning.

Biles told reporters, “Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out. I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. We have to protect our body and our mind. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”

Dressel, who won five gold medals in Tokyo, came to Biles’ defense during an NBC interview.

“Every individual is different,” Dressel said. “That’s why I’m not going to speak on anyone else’s behalf. That’s why I’m okay with the call that Simone did.”

Like many others that offered Biles support, Dressel believes that the only one that knows what’s best for her is Biles.

“No one else’s opinion matters because they’re not the one in her situation,” Dressel said. “She’s literally the best to ever do it, and everyone wants to chime in. Just leave her alone.”

Dressel shared his own experience with stress during the Olympics. He said that at times, the experience could be “too much.”

“I’ve had a couple breakdowns. It does pile up,” Dressel said. Despite the stress, he added that the pressure was “worth it.”

Part of the reason he was able to handle the emotional toll of the Games is that he had a shoulder to lean on in Phelps, winner of eight gold medals and now retired.

“I texted [Phelps] more than my wife at these Games,” Dressel said. “I really leaned on him. And why would I not?”

Phelps, Dressel and other athletes are pleased that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be remembered for the spotlight on mental health and how it will help young up-and-coming athletes as well as elite athletes.

Phelps said he identified with the monumental pressure and mental strain on Biles and other athletes.

Phelps said Biles’ story “broke my heart” and that he hopes it will serve as a springboard for more public conversations that can de-stigmatize mental health and mental well-being.

“I hope this is an eye-opening experience, I really do,” Phelps said. “I hope this is an opportunity for us to jump on board, and to even blow this mental health thing even more wide open. It is so much bigger than we can ever imagine.”

Phelps has been open about his own mental health struggles and battle with depression in the past, and said Biles’ withdrawal and decision to prioritize her health is a teachable moment.

“It’s so important, especially to teach kids at a young age, to take control of their physical and mental health,” Phelps said. “You guys hear me talk about that so much, if we’re not taking care of both, how are we ever expecting to be 100 percent?”

Phelps founded the Michael Phelps Foundation, which promotes swimming along with a healthy lifestyle for youngsters. He believes his public appearances and talking about his struggles with depression are helping others.

Phelps shares his mental health story and empowering benefits of therapy in collaboration with Talkspace, a company in online therapy.

“Mental health over the last 18 months is something people are talking about,” Phelps said. “We’re human beings. Nobody is perfect. So yes, it is OK not to be OK.”

The International Olympic Committee developed the Athlete365 website which surveyed more than 4,000 athletes in early 2020. The results led the IOC to shift its tone from sports performance and results to mental health and uplifting the athlete’s voices.

Content was created for various social media platforms to feature current Olympians championing mental heath causes. And the Olympic State of Mind series on Olympics.com shares compilations of mental health stories and podcasts.

“Are we doing enough? I hope so. I think so,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “But like everyone in the world, we are doing more on this issue.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Swimming Begins Saturday At 2020 Tokyo Olympics; Florida Gold Coast Well-Represented

By Sharon Robb
TOKYO, Japan, July 20, 2021—Are you ready for some really fast swimming and maybe a few world records?

The sport begins a new era at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now that legendary Michael Phelps has retired from competing although he will be at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre as an NBC commentator.

In his wake, the competition in the pool will be fast as ever with American superstars Katie Ledecky and Floridian Caeleb Dressel leading the way.

In a departure from previous teams, the U.S. has 11 teenagers on its roster, the most since 1996. Thirty swimmers from the 2016 Olympic team return.

South Florida swimming fans will get to see the Florida Gold Coast well-represented with 25 local swimmers from throughout the world compete including SOFLO’s Alia Atkinson of Jamaica, making her fifth and final Olympic appearance, and flag bearer Julio Horrego of Honduras, making his debut. They are joined by their SOFLO coach Chris Anderson coaching the Jamaican team.

Azura Florida Aquatics leads the way with 12 swimmers including Marcelo Acosta and Celina Marquez of El Salvador and Davidson Vincent of Haiti. Azura head coach Gianluca Alberani will serve as El Salvador head coach. St. Andrew’s alum Izaak Bastian of Florida State is representing the Bahamas. His former high school coach Sid Cassidy is a top official for open water swimming. Plantation American Heritage alum Dylan Carter will represent Trinidad & Tobago at his second Olympics. Veteran swimmers Bruno Fratus of Brazil and Renzo Tjon-A-Joe of Suriname trained at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex for Tokyo. University of Miami, Florida International and Florida State will all be represented by current or former local swimmers.

Swimming features a total of 37 events. The 37 events are 18 men’s and 18 women’s events. There is also the debut of the women’s 1500 freestyle, men’s 800 freestyle and mixed 4 × 100 meter medley relay.

The United States leads the medal table winning 553 medals in swimming (246 gold, 172 silver, 135 bronze) since the inception of the Olympics. Australia and the former East Germany are second and third in the medal count.

The Tokyo Games will feature preliminary sessions in the evening local time and finals sessions in the morning. Since Japan is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Time, as a result, every finals session will air in the evening in the U.S. and will feature prominently in the first week of NBC’s prime time Olympics coverage. In addition, every session of qualifying heats will air live on USA starting at 6 a.m. each day of competition.

Every swimming session can also be streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and on the NBC Sports app. Swimming including open water runs through August 4.

Phelps, the most decorated Olympian with 28 Olmpic medals including 23 gold in five Olympic Games (2000-2016) will join NBC’s broadcast team along with veteran swim announcers Rowdy Gaines and Dan Hicks. Phelps had joined NBC during the Olympic trials and was well-received.

“From the moment he joined our team at Trials, Michael’s ability to provide insightful analysis, thoughtful commentary and tell entertaining stories was apparent,” said Molly Solomon, executive producer and president at NBC Olympics Production. “We’re thrilled to have him join us in Tokyo, and our audience will benefit from hearing the perspective of the most decorated Olympian of all time.”

First Session, 6 a.m. EST
Heats for Men’s 400m Individual Medley; Women’s 100m Butterfly; Men’s 400m Freestyle; Women’s 400m Individual Medley; Men’s 100m Breaststroke; Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay.
Second Session, 9:30 p.m. EST
Men’s 400m Individual Medley Final; Women’s 100m Butterfly Semifinals; Men’s 400m Freestyle Final; Men’s 400m Individual Medley Victory Ceremony; Women’s 400m Individual Medley Final; Men’s 400m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Men’s 100m Breaststroke Semifinals; Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final; Women’s 400m Individual Medley Victory Ceremony; Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Victory Ceremony.

First Session, 6 a.m. EST
Women’s 100m Backstroke Heats; Men’s 200m Freestyle Heats; Women’s 100m Breaststroke Heats; Men’s 100m Backstroke; Women’s 400m Freestyle Heats; Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Heats.
Second Session, 9:30 p.m. EST
Women’s 100m Butterfly Final; Men’s 200m Freestyle Semifinals; Women’s 100m Breaststroke Semifinals; Women’s 100m Butterfly Victory Ceremony; Men’s 100m Breaststroke Final; Women’s 400m Freestyle Final; Men’s 100m Backstroke Semifinals; Men’s 100m Breaststroke Victory Ceremony; Women’s 100m Backstroke Semifinals; Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final; Women’s 400m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Victory Ceremony.

First session, 6 a.m. EST
Women’s 200m Freestyle Heats; Men’s 200m Butterfly Heats; Women’s 200m Individual Medley Heats; Women’s 1500m Freestyle Heats.
Second session, 9:30 p.m. EST
Women’s 200m Freestyle Semifinals; Men’s 200m Freestyle Final; Women’s 100m Backstroke Final; Men’s 100m Backstroke Final; Men’s 200m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Women’s 100m Breaststroke Final; Women’s 100m Backstroke Victory Ceremony; Men’s 200m Butterfly Semifinals; Men’s 100m Backstroke Victory Ceremony; Women’s 200m Individual Medley Semifinals; Women’s 100m Breaststroke Victory Ceremony.

TUESDAY, July 27
First session, 6 a.m. EST
Men’s 100m Freestyle Heats; Women’s 200m Butterfly Heats; Men’s 200m Breaststroke Heats; Men’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay Heats; Men’s 800m Freestyle Heats.
Second session, 9:30 p.m. EST
Men’s 100m Freestyle Semifinals; Women’s 200m Freestyle Final; Men’s 200m Butterfly Final; Women’s 200m Butterfly Semifinals; Women’s 200m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Men’s 200m Breaststroke Semifinals; Men’s 200m Butterfly Victory Ceremony; Women’s 200m Individual Medley Final; Women’s 1500m Freestyle Final; Women’s 200m Individual Medley Victory Ceremony; Men’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay Final; Women’s 1500m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Men’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Victory Ceremony.

First session, 6 a.m. EST
Women’s 100m Freestyle Heats; Men’s 200m Backstroke Heats; Women’s 200m Breaststroke Heats; Men’s 200m Individual Medley Heats; Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay Heats.
Second session, 9:30 p.m. EST
Men’s 800m Freestyle Final; Men’s 200m Breaststroke Final; Women’s 100m Freestyle Semifinals; Men’s 200m Backstroke Semifinals; Men’s 800m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Women’s 200m Butterfly Final; Men’s 100m Freestyle Final; Men’s 200m Breaststroke Victory Ceremony; Women’s 200m Breaststroke Semifinals; Men’s 200m Individual Medley Semifinals; Women’s 200m Butterfly Victory Ceremony; Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay Final; Men’s 100m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay Victory Ceremony.

First session, 6 a.m. EST
Women’s 800m Freestyle Heats; Men’s 100m Butterfly Heats; Women’s 200m Backstroke Heats; Mixed 4 x 100m Medley Relay Heats.
Second session, 9:30 p.m. EST
Men’s 100m Butterfly Semifinals; Women’s 200m Breaststroke Final; Men’s 200m Backstroke Final; Women’s 100m Freestyle Final; Women’s 200m Breaststroke Victory Ceremony; Men’s 200m Individual Medley Final; Men’s 200m Backstroke Victory Ceremony; Women’s 200m Backstroke Semifinals; Women’s 100m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Men’s 200m Individual Medley Victory Ceremony.

FRIDAY, July 30
First session, 6 a.m. EST
Men’s 50m Freestyle Heats; Women’s 50m Freestyle Heats; Men’s 1500m Freestyle Heats; Women’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay Heats; Men’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay Heat.
Second session, 9:30 p.m. EST
Men’s 100m Butterfly Final; Women’s 200m Backstroke Final; Women’s 800m Freestyle Final; Men’s 100m Butterfly Victory Ceremony; Men’s 50m Freestyle Semifinals; Women’s 200m Backstroke Victory Ceremony; Women’s 50m Freestyle Semifinals; Mixed 4 x 100m Medley Relay Final; Women’s 800m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Mixed 4 x 100m Medley Relay Victory Ceremony.

First session, 6 a.m. EST
Men’s 50m Freestyle Final; Women’s 50m Freestyle Final; Men’s 1500m Freestyle Final; Men’s 50m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Women’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay Final; Women’s 50m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Men’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay Final; Men’s 1500m Freestyle Victory Ceremony; Women’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay Victory Ceremony; Men’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay Victory Ceremony.

TUESDAY, August 3
Open Water, Women’s 10km, 5:30 p.m. EST

Open Water, Men’s 10km, 5:30 p.m.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

SWIMMING ROUNDUP: Michael Phelps Documentary Streaming On NBC Universal’s Peacock; Locals Bastian, Nava, Valls Earn All-ACC Academic Honors

By Sharon Robb
NEW YORK, April 14, 2021—To mark Wednesday’s 100-Day Tokyo Olympics Countdown, “Michael Phelps: Medals, Memories & More” is streaming exclusively for free on Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service.

Fans can revisit some of Phelps’ most exciting races in Olympic history.

The three-episode documentary features Phelps talking about the most dramatic races and pivotal moments in a career that earned him 28 Olympic medals, including 23 golds.

Joining him are NBC Sports swimming commentators Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines.

Episode 1: “Greatness Begins,” revisits Phelps’ Olympic debut at age 15 in Sydney, Australia.

Episode 2: “Eight Golden Races,” focuses on his races at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Episode 3: “London to Lasting Legacy,” looks at Phelps’ last two Olympics, his personal struggles and his decision to retire.

“The opportunity to revisit each of my Olympic races with Rowdy Gaines and Dan Hicks was filled with a lot of laughs and emotions,” Phelps said in a press release.

“The sport of swimming has come a long way over the years, and I’m excited to share some memories and insights from my Olympic career as the world looks forward to the upcoming Tokyo Games this summer.”

You can watch it on Peacock, the streaming service that offers hundreds of movies, binge-worthy TV shows, sports, news, and culture for free at any time.

Another sports documentary still streaming is “In Deep with Ryan Lochte.” Both are worth watching whether you swim or not.


NCAA champions Paige Madden of Virginia and Nicolas Albiero of Louisville highlight the 2021 All-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Swimming and Diving Teams as the Scholar-Athletes of the Year.

Madden was named the ACC Women’s Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second season in a row. The Mobile, Ala. native majors in kinesiology with a minor in health and well being and has a 3.703 career GPA. She achieved a GPA of 4.0 in the Fall 2020 semester, is a three-time CSCAA Scholar All-American and was a 2020 CoSIDA Academic All-American.

The senior Cavalier led Virginia to the ACC’s first-ever NCAA Championship in swimming in diving, earning three individual national titles in the process. She is the 2021 ACC Women’s Swimmer of the Year, was the Most Valuable Swimmer at the 2021 ACC Championships and five-time All-American at the NCAA Championships.

Albiero was selected as the ACC Men’s Swimming & Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive season. The senior from Louisville, Ky. majors in Exercise Science and has a 3.96 career GPA. Albiero is a three-time CSCAA Scholar All-American and was a 2020 CoSIDA Academic All-American.

The reigning NCAA Champion in the 200 butterfly, Albiero helped the Cardinals to their first-ever ACC Championship. The senior was part of Louisville’s 200 medley relay team that won the Cardinals’ first NCAA relay title. Albiero is a member of the USA National Team, was the 2021 ACC Swimmer of the Year and was a seven-time All-American at the NCAA Championships.

Madden and Albiero are two of the seven total four-time All-ACC Academic honorees on the list. NC State’s Julia Poole and Eric Knowles, Florida State’s Josh Davidson, Louisville’s Nikolaos Sofianidis and Virginia’s Keefer Barnum have all been named to four All-ACC Academic Teams in their careers.

Florida Gold Coast swimmer Jessica Nava, a Westminster Academy alum and member of the reigning NCAA champion Virginia Cavaliers, earned the honor for the second year. The junior is majoring in Commerce.

Another FGC swimmer, Kyla Valls, a Gulliver Prep alum and also a member of the Virginia Cavaliers, secured the honor for a third year. She is majoring in Media Studies.

Florida State junior Izaak Bastian, a St. Andrew’s alum and Bahamas national team member, earned the honor for the third year. He is majoring in Athletic Training.

Minimum academic requirements for selection to the All-ACC Academic Team are a 3.0 grade point average for the previous semester and a 3.0 cumulative average during one’s academic career. Athletic achievements during the most recent season are also considered in selecting the All-ACC Academic Team.

The ACC Honor Roll, which recognizes all conference student-athletes with a grade point average of 3.0 for the current academic year, will be released in July.


There is now concrete evidence that swimming pools can be safe and secure environments if appropriate measures are taken.

The proper operation of public pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds (such as at an apartment complex or owned by a community) and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

A study out of London backs that up saying chances of getting the COVID-19 virus from a swimming pool are “negligible.”

In a study commissioned by Swim England and Water Babies Swim School, with support from the Royal Life Saving Society, virologists from Imperial College London studied what effect varying concentrations of chlorine in water have on the coronavirus.

“By mixing the virus with swimming pool water that was delivered to us by the Water Babies team, we could show that the virus does not survive in swimming pool water, it was no longer infectious,” Wendy Barclay of Imperial College London told the Daily Mail. “That, coupled with the huge dilution factor of virus that might find its way into a swimming pool from an infected person, suggests the chance of contracting COVID-19 from swimming pool water is negligible.”

Although the water should be safe, precautions should still be taken when using a public pool, the CDC said, including wearing a mask and social distancing in addition to not sharing goggles, pool noodles and other equipment with anyone not in your household.


Chlorine tablets commonly used in backyard swimming pools to keep the water clean may be facing a shortage this summer, which means higher prices for pool owners because of the high demand.

The expected shortage is due in part to a fire destroying a Louisiana factory which accounted for about 80 percent of the nation’s supply.

Now, pool experts say a bucket of chlorine could cost about $200 more than it did this time last year.

Retailers are working on importing chlorine tablets from foreign vendors in China and Europe to keep up with the demand, but customers should still expect a high price tag.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

100-Day Countdown To Tokyo Summer Olympics Begins Wednesday

By Sharon Robb
TOKYO, Japan, April 13, 2021—The 100-day countdown for the long-awaited, much-anticipated 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games begins Wednesday.

The 32nd edition of the Summer Olympics were delayed from 2020 to 2021 despite growing worry over the pandemic. A cloud of uncertainty still hangs over the Olympics after a number of Japanese regions have reported a spike in coronavirus cases since the public health emergency was lifted on March 22.

In Tokyo and five other regions authorities have limited the number of spectators in sporting venues to a maximum of 5,000 and reduced the opening hours of bars and restaurants. Several Olympic test events have been postponed until early May and late June or cancelled.

Officials have gone ahead planning for the Games this summer despite objections from many fans, media and Japanese citizens.

The Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23 with the Opening Ceremony and last until Aug. 8.

On Tuesday the Olympic torch relay ran through a mostly empty Osaka City Park. Officials re-routed the relay off city streets and barred the public.

The torch relay began three weeks ago in northeastern Japan, attempting to navigate around the pandemic with a total of 10,000 runners across the country and ending at the opening ceremony.

After last year’s postponement, organizers talked of cancelling the relay to save money. But it was never really considered because of the IOC’s largest sponsors including Coca-Cola and Toyota.

The top sponsors paid the International Olympic Committee $1 billion in the last full Olympic cycle (2013-2016). That number is expected to double when the next cycle is completed with the postponed Tokyo Games.

According to a recent Kyodo News poll, 72 percent of Japanese want the Games cancelled or postponed because of the ongoing pandemic and country’s slow vaccine rollout. In a recent Wall Street Journal story, only one percent of Japan’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Olympic organizers have already taken unprecedented measures including not allowing fans to travel to Japan to watch the Games.

Still, the Olympics and Paralympics are expected to attract 15,400 athletes and thousands of judges, officials, judges, coaches and media even though numbers are expected to be scaled back.

Officials released a 33-page playbook detailing the health and safety protocols that will be in place. There are many guidelines in place for athletes, including tracking, tests and mask mandates. Fans will not be allowed to cheer or sing loudly because of the airborne virus, but are allowed to clap.

Officials have asked that athletes get vaccinated before participating, but say they will not require a vaccination before attending.

South Florida Aquatic Club’s four-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson, 31, has already qualified for her fifth Olympics in her signature event, 100-meter breaststroke. She will be accompanied by her longtime coach, SOFLO CEO and head coach Chris Anderson, who will also coach the Jamaican swim contingent which features Sarasota resident and Gator Swim Club’s Keanan Dols.

Dols, 22, recently surpassed the “B” qualifying standard of 2:03.26 and set a new national record of 2:02.15 in the men’s 200-meter individual medley at the Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo, California. In addition to outpacing the Olympic “B” standard, Dols broke his previous national record of 2:03.74 that he set at the International Swim Coaches Association (ISCA) Senior Cup in St. Petersburg on March 24. His time of 2:02.15 ranks as the sixth-fastest time in the event from the Carifta region.


Aussies Adjusting Body Time Clocks
When Australia’s top swimmers compete in their national championships that begin on Wednesday, the meet will look just like the Olympic format. The meet begins at night with heats in eight disciplines, followed by finals on Thursday morning. The meet ends with finals on Sunday morning. The swimmers are learning to adjust their routines and body clocks looking ahead to the Olympics.

The morning-final, evening-heat pattern is being used in Tokyo. The distinctive format is a demand of American broadcaster NBC, which wants blockbuster medal races scheduled for prime time in the United States (the same approach was taken for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing).

Aussie officials said the format is crucial. The rest of the world is doing the same format in various sports preparing for the time changes. The swim race times posted at this week’s meet will factor into team selection for the Aussies. The country’s Olympic trials are still scheduled for June in Adelaide unless the pandemic plays a role.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Anyone? Yes Please

The perennial chocolate and peanut butter powerhouse is partnering with three of the greatest U.S. Olympic athletes, Team USA and swimming: Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel.

Phelps, Ledecky and Dressel are joining forces to support Big Orange and form the Ultimate Team Reese’s.

Starting with Phelps, a 23-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Reese’s lover, will be the face of the Reese’s brand this summer appearing in a new ad campaign highlighting the newest member of the Reese’s family, Reese’s Ultimate Lovers Cup, a new peanut buttery candy version of Peanut Butter Cups without the chocolate.

“As America’s number one chocolate brand, we couldn’t settle for anything other than the best and that’s exactly why we’ve partnered with these legendary U.S. Olympians,” said Margo McIlvaine, Reese’s Brand Manager. “These three know exactly what it takes to be the ultimate, and we welcome them to the Ultimate Team Reese’s.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Michael Phelps, Other Olympians Share Mental Health Struggles Wednesday On HBO’s “The Weight Of Gold”

By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, July 28, 2020—In one of the most riveting HBO sports documentaries, Michael Phelps talks candidly about his mental health struggles before, during and after his four Olympic appearances.

The legendary swimmer narrates and executive produces the one-hour documentary “The Weight of Gold” that premiers tonight on HBO at 9 p.m.

The gut-wrenching film shows another side of Olympic fame seldom talked about by Olympians and coaches.

Phelps, 35, the most-decorated Olympian of all time, looks at the mental health effects on Olympic athletes and their relentless training, intense pressure of competing and the aftermath when the Olympic spotlight no longer burns bright.

“None of us had normal childhoods,” Phelps said. “Now there are good sides to that and bad sides to that.”

Phelps has intimately discussed his depression before. He went on record in 2018 and announced that he suffered from depression, revealing that he contemplated suicide following the 2012 Olympics.

“A good 80 percent, maybe more, go through some kind of post-Olympic depression,” Phelps said in the film. “There was one question that hit me like a ton of bricks. Who was I outside of a swimming pool?”

Phelps talks candidly again along with other athletes Sean White, Lolo Jones, Bode Miller, Gracie Gold, Sasha Cohen, Apolo Anton Ono, Katie Uhlaender and the late Steven Holcomb. The champion bobsledder was found dead in 2017 in his room at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. with alcohol and prescription sleeping pills in his system.

“I believe I have experienced a state of depression after every Olympics I competed in,” said Phelps. “For a long time, I only saw myself as a swimmer, not a person. When I walked off the podium in Rio, I knew many of my teammates and competitors were not aware of or prepared for the post-Olympic transition.

“In sharing our stories, it is my hope that we can encourage others to open up, let them know they are not alone and that it’s ok to not be ok. For me, the opportunity to help break the stigma surrounding mental health and potentially save a life is way more meaningful than any Olympic medal.”

Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President of HBO Sports, added: “As we all cope during this time of anxiety, Michael Phelps and the Olympic athletes of this film are courageously leading a movement for greater mental health awareness, giving a vulnerable look into the emotional costs of exceptional athleticism. When Podium Pictures and Octagon brought us this project, we quickly recognized its power along with the relatability of its theme for so many.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Olympic Coach Gregg Troy Inspires South Florida Aquatic Club Swimmers, Coaches

By Sharon Robb

GAINESVILLE, May 7, 2020—If anyone knows how to accomplish goals, take on challenges and overcome adversity, it’s Olympic coach Gregg Troy.

Troy has worked with some of the greatest swimmers in the world and has pretty much seen and heard everything a swimmer has gone through at the age group, high school, college and international level.

His resume speaks for itself. He was head coach of University of Florida men’s swimming and diving teams from 1999 to 2018, and head coach of the women’s team from 1998 to 2018. Before joining the Gators in 1998, he was head coach at Bolles for 20 years.

Under his guidance, UF athletes won 43 individual national championships, 177 SEC titles and earned 1,145 All-America honors. He also coached 47 Gator Olympians, who had 78 appearances at the last five Olympic Games. Those athletes won 23 medals, including 11 gold.

Troy served as head coach of Team USA at the 2012 London Olympic Games and Team Thailand in 1992, with his other two Olympic stints as assistant coach (1996, 2008).

He now works with individual swimmers for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics as high performance coach for the Gator Swim Club. And, of course, waiting patiently to get back on the pool deck with his swimmers.

Recently, Troy spent more than an hour talking with SOFLO swimmers and coaches on the Zoom platform. He covered a multitude of topics from staying in touch with people and reading Richard Bach’s inspiring Jonathan Livingston Seagull to doing various core workouts during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Troy talked about several of his swimmers including Ryan Lochte, Caleb Dressel, Gustavo Borges, Trina Jackson and Elizabeth Beisel and the common thread they shared in swimming.

“They had a tremendous ability to accept challenges through dedication and consistency,” Troy said. He pointed out that Lochte’s first national time standard was in the 1,650 freestyle.

“He made challenges for himself by racing other guys in practice,” Troy said. “He was always trying to look for ways to get better. He was finding ways of making practice exciting and would fall behind teammates five to seven seconds only to catch them. When he got really good the second part of his career, he was always great at the end of his races because of those challenges he gave himself.

“The really great athletes I worked with always liked challenges. ‘What do I need to be better?’ athletes would ask. Those challenges are an important part of what you are doing and right now is a gigantic challenge.

“Were they perfect or great every day at practice? No. But they found ways to make practice fun and stayed focused on what they were doing.

“The really good swimmers had a tremendous sense of resiliency. They took their ups and downs during their journey from age group to college and on. Every one of them had challenges.”

Whether it was distance or sprints, his swimmers shared a common bond.

“It didn’t matter what they worked on in practice, they would challenge themselves,” Troy said. “I told age groupers I work with, all these ingredients–sprinting, breath control, turns, strokes–those are all challenges.

“Everyone has the same ingredients. There are no miracles. The best swimmers in the world have bad swims and best coaches in world have bad swim meets. Every thing you do at practice is important, some things more than others, you choose what’s important.”

Troy talked about how swimmers can choose to communicate with their coach.

“All the great ones would communicate with me,” Troy said. “The more honest they became, the more we got out of practices. It wasn’t quite the same when they were younger. But the older ones gave me the ability to take practice and refine it more and tailor it to them. The time to go and talk to your coach is at the conclusion of a practice or better than that, make an appointment and sit down with your coach. ”

Troy emphasized the three key people in a swimmer’s life.

“Who is the most important person or most invested person in your life? Troy asked. “Some will say their coach or parents but the most important person is you. You are the one most invested in what you do at practice or anything extra you do.

“The next most invested are your parents. They love you immensely. They want the best for you. They don’t know nearly as much as your coach but they love you.

“The third most invested is your coach. Why would anyone want to fight with their coach is a mystery to me. Your coach wants you to do well. It’s his job. It makes no sense to argue with your coach.”

Troy had some suggestions for swimmers while they are in quarantine.

“No. 1, the most important is to get a routine,” Troy said. “Some are better than others but it keeps you from getting bored. The absolute tool of swimming fast is the mind. Mentally practice skills, visualization, where’s our next journey, your first meet back, go to old meets, re-rehearse those and be a better student of the sport. The mind is the most important tool.

“Ride a bike hard for 15 minutes, forcing your heart rate up is really good. Any exercise, dryland, stretching. Take them and make them your own.

“Reading is important. Read about the sport. Keep a log book. The importance of keeping a log book is that it’s a map of where you are going on this journey, where you’ve been and set up where you are going.

“Set two goals for yourself for the week. Your coaches will help with that. Two goals that will make you a better person that also relate to being a better athlete. I have found that what college coaches are looking for is changing more and more in today’s world–good attitude, coach’s recommendation and good grades. They are still looking for swim ability but they want that person who is the best to work with, that’s fun to be around. Those are the real priorities.”

Troy said when he was recruiting college prospects, he would watch to see who showed up early or on time to practice and who was there until the end of practice. On home visits, he would observe how recruits treated their parents. He would look for the most intrinsic values that made for better teammates.

The final subject Troy touched upon were hitting plateaus in swimming. He pointed out that even the great ones like Michael Phelps hit a plateau. From 2004 in Athens until January 2007, Phelps did not swim a best time in any of his best events.

“Then he had a tremendous meet at World Championships in Australia and everything took off again,” Troy said.

“The first thing you realize is that swimming is one of the hardest sports, it’s very unforgiving. The plateaus are part of the sport. You have got to find ways to get off that plateau which takes us back to challenging yourself in practice, what you do, how you do it, watch your nutrition. This is why it is important to keep a log book.

“It’s so important to do things right when you were instructed the first time. As you get older and faster the law of physics work against you. As you get faster, the mistakes you make will hold you back. That’s why people reach plateaus. They got so good doing the wrong things that as they got older they refused to make the necessary changes. It takes time, but stay after making that change.

“It goes back to talking to your coach,” Troy said. “There are very few things your coach tells you that you can not improve.

“When we come out of this (COVID-19), go back to practice and be so excited. Don’t be really good for two or three weeks and then become normal again. You don’t want to be normal. You want to challenge yourself. ”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Michael Phelps Shares Advice About Mental Health Of Athletes During COVID-19 Lockdown

By Sharon Robb

April 3, 2020—Michael Phelps, one of the greatest athletes of all-time, has great insight and first-hand experience when it comes to athletes’ mental health.

The world record holder and Olympic gold medalist has been a public advocate for mental health and has talked openly about his own struggles.

Phelps said the coronavirus lockdown is hard for anyone, but for athletes including swimmers, there is an extra mental strain to go from a highly active lifestyle of training and competing to isolation and boredom.

The most decorated athlete in Olympic history had a mentally tough time after the 2012 London Olympics Games. He was arrested for drunk driving and ended up battling depression and anxiety. He was suspended by USA Swimming and he spent nearly two months in rehab.

Phelps, 34, married with two sons, is now involved with several business ventures and swimwear company.

“Your whole life is based on the play and then you get an unexpected turn of events,” Phelps said. “Mental health is of the utmost importance.

“As athletes, we’re so regimented,” Phelps said. “At this point, all the work is done. We’re just fine-tuning the small things to get to this point. Now it’s like, ‘Oh … we’re not competing.’ All these emotions start flaring up. I really think mental health is so important right now.”

Phelps said the key is keeping things as simple as possible.

“Just control what you can control,” he said. “We’re in such uncharted waters. We’re getting all these big questions thrown at us: What if? What if? What if? It’s so hard to understand. We’re having a hard time just wrapping our head around it.”

While stay-at-home orders in effect across the country can take their toll on swimmers and other athletes of all ages, experts recommend athletes stick to routines, focus on what can be controlled and use their extra time for a hobby or online virtual training with their coaches and trainers to maintain their mental health.

Phelps also feels for Olympians and Olympic hopefuls who had their dream of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics put on hold and now rescheduled for 2021.

“There’s such a wave of emotions,” Phelps said. “Honestly, my first thought was I was relieved (about the postponement). Now, there’s more of a chance that we can beat this thing and do what we need to do to save as many lives as possible.”

Phelps is also among some of the world’s greatest athletes that have joined together to create “Athletes For Relief” raising money for COVID-19 response efforts.

Phelps has joined Steph Curry, Simone Biles, Jack Nicklaus, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Hawk and more than 100 athletes for disaster philanthropy to support those impacted by the pandemic.

The athletes and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy have launched AthletesRelief.org. The athletes have donated signed memorabilia for fans to bid on through May 1.

Unlike a typical auction, all fans who donate a minimum of $25 for an item will be entered into a raffle at the end of the campaign. All proceeds will go to Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which is supporting frontline healthcare workers and clinics, food security, and distribution of needed products, with a focus on assistance to vulnerable communities.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Dressel, Smith Break World Records, Manuel Sets American Record On Day Six Of 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships

By Sharon Robb

GWANGJU, South Korea, July 26, 2019—Caeleb Dressel continued his historic run on Day Six of the 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships Friday at Nambu International Aquatics Centre.

The University of Florida and Bolles Sharks Club alum pursuit of history continued when he broke one of Michael Phelps’ 10-year old world records, this time in the 100-meter butterfly semifinals in 49.50. Phelps record was 49.82 set in 2009. Dressel now owns six of the 10 fastest time in history.

Dressel came back to earn the top seed after the 50-meter freestyle semifinals in 21.18, just 3/100ths of his American record.

Another world record was broken in the semifinals of the women’s 200-meter backstroke. Seventeen-year-old teenager Regan Smith broke Missy Franklin’s record of 2:04.06 set when Franklin was also 17 at the 2012 London Olympics. The high school senior broke the record in 2:03.35.

“I don’t know how to put it into words,” said Smith during her on-deck interview.

Defending champion Simone Manuel held on to win the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and set an American record swimming in Lane 1. Manuel won in 52.04. Aussie Cate Campbell took silver in 52.43 and world record holder Sarah Sjostrum of Sweden was the bronze medalist in 52.46. Manuel is only the second woman to repeat as a champion in this event.

Russian Yuliya Efimova won the 200-meter breaststroke to become the first woman to three-peat in 2:20.17. South African Tatiana Schoenmaker was second in 2:22.52 and Canadian Sydney Pickrem was third in 2:22.90.

Russian Evgeny Rylov knocked off three-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy to win the 200-meter backstroke in 1:53.40. The Bolles alum took silver in 1:54.12 and Brit Luke Greenbank was bronze medalist in 1:55.85.

Russia won its third goal medal of the night when Anton Chupkov won the 200-meter breaststroke in a world record 2:06.12. Aussie Matthew Wilson, who had broken the world record at 2:06.67 in semis, was second in 2:06.68 and Japan’s Ippei Watanabe was third in 2:06.73.

Australia won the 4×200-meter freestyle relay in 7:00.85. Russia took silver in 7:01.81 and the U.S. hung on for the bronze in 7:01.96.

Four-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson of South Florida Aquatic Club was 36th in the 50-meter butterfly 27.49.

U.S. Olympian and world record holder Katie Ledecky, still not 100 percent, qualified second in the 800-meter freestyle in 8:17.42 behind teammate Leah Smith in 8:17.23.

Among other former or current Florida Gold Coast swimmer results: 50-meter freestyle, 21. Renzo Tjon-A-Joe, Suriname 22.33; 41. Dylan Carter, Trinidad and Tobago 22.65, 82. Jorge Depassier, Chile 24.29; 50-meter butterfly, 41. Chade Nersicio, Curacao 28.45.

The world championships has brought together a record 2,620 athletes from 194 countries and territories around the world with 76 sets of medals up for grabs in pool swimming, open water swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming.

The meet will be streamed and televised by the Olympic Channel and live timing will be available.

TV Schedule: https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2019/07/17/swimming-world-championships-tv-stream-schedule/

Live Results: http://omegatiming.com

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Hungarian Teenager Breaks Phelps World Record On Day Four Of 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships

By Sharon Robb

GWANGJU, South Korea, July 24, 2019—Hungarian teenager Kristof Milak broke Michael Phelps’ 10-year-old record in the 200-meter butterfly by nearly 8/10ths of a second Wednesday on Day Four of the 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships at Nambu International Aquatics Centre.

In front of a deafening crowd on its feet, Milak, 19, won in 1:50.73 to highlight world championship action. Milak had already won his semifinal in 1:52.96 and last year he swam 1:51.71 so he was poised to flirt with the record.

Phelps’ record was 1:51.51 at the 2009 World Championships in Rome during the era of the high-tech super suits.

Milak had the same first half split as Phelps did in 52.88 and went a full 0.78 on the back half after a great turn at the wall to blow away the field. Milak slapped the water in jubilation after he touched.

Milak is the first teenager to win a world title in the event since Phelps at age 18 in 2003.

“It is an amazing feeling,” said Milak who climbed out of the pool to a standing ovation and bowed twice in gratitude. “When I turned back and saw the time, all the pressure, all the tension just got off my back and all the joys came out.

“I tried to switch off everything, and I tried not to think of swimming at all before the race. It’s a tremendous honor to set such a great record.”

“There was a lot of chatter on the deck but this kid is 19…19 years old,” said NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines in a state of disbelief.

Milak’s 3.13-second margin of victory also overtakes Phelps for the largest in history. At the 2007 Championships in Melbourne, Phelps won by 3.04 seconds in 1:52.09 (which broke the world record by 1.62 seconds).

Phelps was asked about the world record performance after the race and said “Records are made to be broken.

“As frustrated as I am to see that record go down, I couldn’t be happier to see how he did it,” Phelps said. “That kid’s last 100 meters was incredible. He put together a great 200 fly from start to finish.”

Phelps owned the world record since 2001. His streak of 18 years was the longest for one men’s event in swimming.

Japan’s Daiya Seto was second in 1:53.86 and South African Chad Le Clos took bronze in 1:54.15. Le Clos was out under world record pace through the first lap before Milak overtook the lead after 150 meters.

“Unbelievable race, really,” Le Clos said. “Probably one of the greatest races ever.”

Phelps, 34, still holds world records in the 100-meter butterfly, which he broke in 2009, and the 400-meter individual medley, which he set in 2008.

In other finals:

Italian Federica Pellegrini, at 31 the oldest swimmer in the final, won the 200-meter freestyle in 1:54.22. Without Katie Ledecky in the field, the only swimmer in her way was Aussie 18-year-old Ariarne Titmus. It was her fourth career gold and record eighth consecutive medal in her signature event. Pellegrini is training to make her fifth Olympic team in Tokyo next year.

“I am too old for this,” Pellegrini joked after the race.

Titmus, who knocked off Ledecky earlier in the week, took silver in 1:54.66 and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom was third in 1:54.78. Sjostrum was administered oxygen on the pool deck after the race and later said she had a headache.

Australia came from behind to win the mixed 4×100 medley relay, with Cate Campbell reeling in American Simone Manuel on the final lap.

Mitch Larkin, Matthew Wilson, Emma McKeon and Campbell won in 3:39.08. Caeleb Dressel swam a blistering butterfly leg to haul the Americans from fourth to first before turning it over to Manuel for the anchor leg. But she couldn’t hold off a charging Campbell.

Ryan Murphy, Lilly King, Dressel and Manuel took silver in 3:39.10.

The crowd clapped along to the Italian national anthem for a second time when Gregorio Paltrinieri won the 800-meter freestyle in 7:39.27. Henrik Christiansen of Denmark earned silver and David Aubry of France took bronze.

Brit Adam Peaty cruised to a win in the 50-meter breaststroke, a non-Olympic event. He won in 26.06 seconds, adding to his 100 breast gold medal. Brazilians Felipe Lima and Joao Gomes Junior took silver and bronze.

Among past or current local swimmers results: 100-meter freestyle, 16. Dylan Carter, Trinidad & Tobago 48.77; 39. Renzi Tjon-A-Joe, Suriname 49.85; 200-meter individual medley, 47. Julio Horrego, Honduras 2:11.10 and 48. Patrick Groters, Aruba 2:11.38.

The world championships has brought together a record 2,620 athletes from 194 countries and territories around the world with 76 sets of medals up for grabs in pool swimming, open water swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming.

The meet will be streamed and televised by the Olympic Channel and live timing will be available.

TV Schedule: https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2019/07/17/swimming-world-championships-tv-stream-schedule/

Live Results: http://omegatiming.com

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com