Florida Gold Coast Well-Represented At NCAA Division I Men’s Championships

Florida Gold Coast Well-Represented At NCAA Division I Men’s Championships

Written by Sharon Robb

March 27, 2013

Florida Gold Coast will be well-represented at the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships that get underway Thursday at IU Natatorium in Indianapolis.

Nicholas Schwab, a senior at Indiana and 2012 Olympian, will compete in the 500-yard freestyle. He is seeded 29th in 4:18.70 and will swim in the opening event on Thursday.

Southern Cal sophomore Cristian Quintero is seeded first in 4:13.37.

Another Florida Gold Coast swimmer, Carlos Omana, a sophomore at University of Florida, is seeded 28th in 4:18.66.

Other Florida Gold Coast swimmers entered in the meet are Florida State senior John Jessell and junior teammate Paul Murray.

A field of 235 swimmers from 51 teams will compete over three days.

Michigan is the overwhelming favorite to win the team title. The Wolverines have 510 seeded points. Based on its seeding, the Wolverines have a 211-point advantage over the rest of the field.

Cal-Berkeley, Stanford, Texas and University of Florida are the top challengers.

Florida is led by redshirt junior Sebastien Rousseau who has returned to the team, and top freshman Pavel Werner.

The Gators qualified 14 swimmers and divers, including eight from last year’s meet, for NCAAs. The Gators have finished in the Top 10 for 12 consecutive years and earned 27 All-American honors in 2012.

Florida State may be the meet’s surprise team with the mid-season addition of Pavel Sankovich. The Seminoles relays have also been impressive this season and most recently at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships.

Louisville, led by Joao de Lucca, may be another surprise and finish in the Top 10 for the second consecutive year. Former FGC swimmer and three-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov is finishing up his first season as assistant coach at Louisville.

In addition to the 500 freestyle, other Thursday events are 200-yard freestyle relay, 200-yard individual medley, 50-yard freestyle, 1-meter diving and 400-yard medley relay.

ESPN3 is streaming the event live on Friday and Saturday. Live results can also be found at ncaa.com.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

SOFLO’s Oliver Finishes 10th; Georgia, Tennessee Leaders On Day One Of NCAA Women’s Championships

SOFLO’s Oliver Finishes 10; Georgia, Tennessee Leaders After Day One Of Women’s NCAA Championships


March 21, 2013

On the opening night of the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships at IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis, Georgia took the lead as expected with surprise runner-up team Tennessee close behind.

South Florida Aquatic Club’s Tiffany Oliver, a junior at No. 22-ranked Florida State, was tenth in the 50-yard freestyle in 22.23.

Oliver also led off the Seminoles 17th place 200-yard freestyle relay that finished in 1:30.28 with teammates Kaitlyn Dressel, Katie Cook and Grace Hoffman.

Tennessee opened with a victory in the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:27.14 for its first-ever win in the event in the program’s history.

Winning relay members were senior Caroline Simmons, freshman Faith Johnson, junior Lindsay Gendron and senior Kelsey Floyd.

Southern Cal’s Haley Anderson repeated as NCAA champion in the 500-yard freestyle in 4:34.66. During the race, seven swimmers were in contention but it was Anderson who had the fastest last 50 yards.

Olympian Allison Schmitt, who has won the 500 title her first three years at Georgia before red-shirting last year to train for the Olympics, finished sixth in 4:36.73.

California swept the top two spots in the 200-yard individual medley. Olympian Caitlin Leverenz defended her title winning in 1:53.39 and freshman teammate Elizabeth Pelton was second in 1:53.82.

Arizona junior Margo Greer won her first NCAA title in the 50-yard freestyle in a season-best 21.73. Megan Romano of Georgia was second in 21.88. Another Arizona junior, Samantha Pickens won the 1-meter diving title with 348.445 points. University of Miami’s Carrie Dragland and Kara McCormack finished 12th and 13th.

Tennessee finished the night with another relay win, this time in the 400-yard medley relay in 3:28.51 with Lauren Solernou, Molly Hannis, Kelsey Floyd and Lindsay Gendron. Florida was eighth in 3:33.61.

On the opening day of prelims and finals, more than 80 percent of swimmers in individual events were slower than their seed time for the meet. According to head coach Arthur Albiero of Louisville, three-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov is an assistant coach, only 45 out of 231 individual swims in morning prelims were faster than their seed times.


Two-time all-county swimmer Jemal LeGrand, an Olympian for Aruba his senior year, verbally committed to Florida State. Legrand, a state runner-up in the 200-yard freestyle, is expected to sign on April 17th when the regular signing period opens for swimming.


TEAM TOTALS: 1. Georgia 163, 2. Tennessee 150.5, 3. Arizona 127, 4. California 102, 5. Stanford 90.5, 6. Southern Cal 90, 7. Florida 74, 8. Texas A&M 72, 9. Texas 65, 10. Minnesota 41, 21. University of Miami 9, 23. Florida State 7.

200-yard freestyle relay:

1.Tennessee 1:27.14 (Caroline Simmons, Faith Johnson, Lindsay Gendron, Kelsey Floyd), 2. Georgia 1:27.38, 3. Arizona 1:27.51, 8. Florida 1:28.93 (Ellese Zalewski, Natalie Hinds, Sinead Russell, Lindsey McKnight), 17. Florida State 1:30.28 (Tiffany Oliver, Kaitlyn Dressel, Katie Cook, Grace Hoffman).

500-yard freestyle:

1.Haley Anderson, SOCAL 4:34.66, 2. Amber McDermott, Georgia 4:34.86, 3. Shannon Vreeland, Georgia 4:35.95, 47. Lauren Driscoll, California 4:47.95.

200-yard individual medley:

1.Caitlin Leverenz, California 1:53.39, 2. Elizabeth Pelton, California 1:53.82, 3. Maya Dirado, Stanford 1:53.86, 56. Lindsey McKnight, Florida 2:01.25, 61. Eszter Bucz, Florida Atlantic 2:01.84.

50-yard freestyle:

1.Margo Geer, Arizona 21.73, 2. Megan Romano, Georgia 21.88, 3. Faith Johnson, Tennessee 21.89, 10. Tiffany Oliver, Florida State 22.23, 24. Harper Bruens, Tennessee 22.49.

1-meter springboard diving

1.Samantha Pickens, Arizona 348.45, 2. Margaret Keefer, Minnesota 338.20, 3. Jodie McGroarty, Tennessee 335.75, 12. Carrie Dragland, Miami 314.20, 13. Kara McCormack, Miami 308.25, 27. Lindsay Lester, Miami 268.75.

400-meter medley relay:

1.Tennessee 3:28.51 (Lauren Solernou, Molly Hannis, Kelsey Floyd, Lindsay Gendron), 2. Arizona 3:28.83, 3. California 3:29.47, 8. Florida 3:33.61, 23. Arizona State 3:36.90 (Taylor Wohrley, Alexandra Popa, Caroline Kuczynski, Shannon Landgrebbe).

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

SOFLO’s Tiffany Oliver Shines At ACC Championships

SOFLO’s Tiffany Oliver Shines At ACC Championships


February 26, 2013

Tiffany Oliver of South Florida Aquatic Club walked away from last week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships with two gold medals in individual events and unwavering confidence for the upcoming NCAA Division I Championships.

The Florida State junior won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events finishing ahead of Olympian and 2012 ACC Swimmer of the Year Lauren Perdue of Virginia.

In the 100-yard freestyle, Oliver came from behind to overtake Perdue to win in a school record and lifetime best 48.19, just two days after winning the 50-yard freestyle in 22.17, another school record and best time.

Oliver trailed Perdue at every turn during the four-lap race before surging to the wall in the final ten yards.

“She is gaining confidence,” FSU coach Neil Harper said. “She had success in the 50 earlier in the meet and she swam well in relays so we knew it was coming. It was just a great performance and she paced herself well throughout the race and just took off in the end to win it.”

On the final night, Oliver won a silver medal and broke another school record in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Swimming anchor leg, Oliver closed the gap and reeled in Perdue again to take a silver. Oliver’s split was 47.24. The relay finished in 3:16.54 with Kaitlyn Dressel, Kelsey Buckley, Katie Cook and Oliver.

Oliver also swam 1:46.77 in the 200-yard freestyle prelims.

Oliver earned All-ACC Conference honors.

Florida State, ranked No. 22 in the nation, finished fourth as a team with 497 points behind defending champion Virginia (832), Virginia Tech (536) and North Carolina (508).

“That was one of the best team efforts and success we’ve had in about six or seven years,” Harper said. “The team points don’t quite measure up to the success we had with our “A” cuts and school records and lifetime best times we got.”

Another Florida Gold Coast swimmer, FSU junior Ashley Hicks, swam a lifetime best 1:56.98 in the 200-yard backstroke to finish sixth.

The men’s ACC competition is Feb. 28-March 2 in Greensboro, N.C. FSU is ranked No. 15 in the nation and features FGC swimmers Paul Murray, who will compete in the 50- and 100-yard meter and Connor Knight in the 100-yard butterfly.

Kuczynski Makes Final PAC-12 Meet Appearance

Caroline Kuczynski, who frequently trains with SOFLO during college breaks, will make her final appearance in the four-day PAC-12 Championships that begin Wednesday in Federal Way, Wash.

Kuczynski, Arizona State team captain, is among favorites in the butterfly events. Kuczynski is a 2016 Canadian Olympic hopeful. ASU is ranked No. 25 in the nation.

ASU will compete against No. 1 USC, No. 2 California, No. 4 Stanford, No. 6 Arizona and No. 14 UCLA.

Back-to-back national champion California is the favorite despite losing to Arizona and No. 1 ranked USC in dual meets.

PAC-12s are the last chance for swimmers to make NCAA cuts.

Schwab Competes In Big 10 Championships

Another Florida Gold Coast swimmer, 2012 Olympian Nick Schwab and his Indiana teammates will host the Big 10 Men’s Championships Wednesday through Saturday at Indiana University’s Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center in Bloomington, Ind.

Nine out of the 12 individual winners from the 2012 Championships return to defend their titles including four from defending team champion Michigan.

Indiana is ranked No. 8 in the nation.

Last weekend Minnesota won the Big 10 women’s team title for the second consecutive year and fifth overall. Minnesota won with 831.5 points and Indiana was second with 671.5.

Minnesota coach Kelly Kremer was named Women’s Coach of the Year. Lindsay Vrooman of Indiana was named Swimmer of the Meet and Brooklyn Snodgrass of Indiana won Freshman of the Year.

Florida Gators, Georgia Win SEC Championships

University of Florida men’s team broke Auburn’s streak of 16-straight SEC Championships, the third longest streak in SEC sports history, won the men’s title with 1,408 points.

The Gators won four individual events and one relay.

“It’s great for the guys,” Gators coach Gregg Troy said. “We have been chasing Auburn and nipping at their heels every year and we have been close a couple of them. I think this kind of takes us over the top from the standpoint that it gets the monkey off our back.

“It’s a good building point towards the NCAA meet and it’s not an end in itself but it certainly is a good conference win.”

Junior Marcin Cieslak won two events in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly.

The Gator women’s team finished third with 1,190.5 points. Georgia won its fourth straight SEC team title and Texas A&M was second.

Olympian Elizabeth Beisel won the 400-yard individual medley and 200-yard backstroke for the third consecutive year. Freshman Natalie Hinds won the 100-yard butterfly.

Florida Gold Coast swimmer Luke Torres made his SEC debut as a freshman a memorable one. Torres made his NCAA “B” cut in the 200-yard butterfly, winning the “B” final in 1:46 and also swam a best time in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:00.87 to finish 22nd.

Several other Florida Gold Coast swimmers competed for the Gators including Carlos Omana, Ryan Rosenbaum and Lindsey McKnight. Omana was fifth in the 1,650-yard freestyle in 14:55.53. Rosenbaum, a freshman, was 31st in the 1,650 in 15:42.37. Torres posted a lifetime-best in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:00.87 to finish 22nd.

Three U.S. Olympians set two American records during the meet. Olympic gold medalists Shannon Vreeland and Allison Schmitt along with Georgia teammates Megan Romano and Jordan Mattern set the American, U.S. Open, NCAA and SEC record in the women’s 800-yard freestyle in 6:52.40.

Olympian Breeja Larson of Texas A&M set the American, U.S. Open, NCAA and SEC record in the 100-yard breaststroke in 57.43.

Hinds was named SEC Female Freshman Swimmer of the Year; Beisel won the Commissioner’s Trophy Award for high point winner and Troy was named SEC Men’s Coach of the Year.

Grigull Medals At MAAC Championships

Florida Gold Coast swimmer Justin Grigull of Iona College finished third in the 100-yard freestyle in 45.98 at the MACC Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. He was also third in the 200-yard freestyle in a lifetime-best 1:40.80, qualifying for ECAC “A”. On the opening day, he was third in the 500-yard freestyle in 3:34.50, another ECAC “A” time. Iona finished ninth among teams. Grigull, a junior, was a member of the seventh place 400-yard freestyle relay.

Polyakov Makes Coaching Debut; O’Shaughnessy Competes At Big East Championships

Three-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov and former Florida Gold Coast Swimmer of the Year, in his first year as assistant coach at Louisville, will make his coaching debut at the Big East Conference Championships at the IUPUI Natatorium Wednesday through Saturday.

Another FGC swimmer, Ryan O’Shaughnessy, a senior breaststroker at Seton Hall, is among favorites.
O’Shaughnessy is coming off a successful tri-meet against Georgetown and Villanova on Feb. 9. He was third in the 100-yard butterfly in 53.39 and third in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:14.41. He also was a member of the third-place 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relays.

O’Shaughnessy is one of 17 swimmers at the Big East meet.

Notre Dame and Louisville head the nine-team field. Former Pine Crest swimmer Austin Evenson, a freshman, will compete in the distance events for Georgetown. Joao de Lucca is Louisville’s top sprinter and will swim the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyles. Louisville’s Kameron Chastain and Addison Bray are the top two seeds in the 100-yard breaststroke.

Florida Gulf Coast Wins CCSA Team Title

Florida Gulf Coast women’s team won the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association Swimming and Diving Championships for the fifth consecutive year. The Eagles won with 712 points.

Emma Svensson of FGCU was named Most Outstanding Freshman Performer of the Meet after winning the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke including two with NCAA “B” cut times. She was also a member of the winning 200- and 400-yard medley relays.

FGCU head coach Neal Studd was named Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year for the third time.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 218: Marinheiro Competes In Opening Event At Speedo Winter Junior Nationals

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 218: Marinheiro Competes In Opening Event At Speedo Winter Junior Nationals


December 6, 2012

Melissa Marinheiro of South Florida Aquatic Club finished among the Top 50 in the 500-yard freestyle on the opening day of the Speedo Winter Junior Nationals.

Marinheiro, 15, was 43rd in 4:56.32 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She was seeded 24th in 4:51.88 among a field of 104 swimmers.

The West Broward High School sophomore still has the 200-yard freestyle (1:50.71) and 1,000-yard freestyle (9:07.32) to swim during the three-day meet. She swims the 200 on Friday.

Lindsey Engel, 16, of the Orange County Waves won the girls 50-yard freestyle in a meet record 22.24 to highlight opening night action. The previous record was 22.63 set in 2010.

Brett Ringgold, 17, of North Texas Nadadores won the boys 50 in 19.73, also a meet record. The previous record was 19.83 set in 2009. Dylan Carter, 16, of Davie Nadadores and Trinidad and Tobago was third in 19.94 cracking the 20-second mark he just missed in prelims,  and Jason McCormick of FLA Aquatics was sixth in 20.47.

In other finals:

Bolles won the boys 4×50-yard freestyle relay of Caeleb Dressel, Santo Condorelli, Emiro Goossen and Joseph Schooling in a meet record 1:19.03, breaking its own record of 1:19.82 set in 2011.

Leah Stevens, 16, of Lakeside won the 500-yard freestyle in 4:43.25.

Jonathan Roberts, 17, of North Texas came back with a strong second half to win the 500-yard freestyle in 4:21.33.

Kathleen Baker, 15, won the 200-yard individual medley in a meet record 1:56.53, following Meaghan Raab’s meet record of 1:57.86 in prelims which broke former CSSC swimmer Lindsey McKnight’s record of 1:58.03.

Steven Stumph, 18, of Orinda won the 200 IM in 1:46.79.

In Florida Gold Coast results:

Texas-bound Tasija Karosas, 17, of St. Andrew’s Swimming won the “B” final and finished ninth overall in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:00.18 that would have placed her seventh in finals.

St. Andrew’s teammate Quinn Cassidy, Florida-bound, was 16th in the

boys 200 IM in 1:52.06 after going a U.S. Open cut of 1:49.47 in a swim-off.

St. Andrew’s relay of Karosas, Darby Goodwin, Brenna Ruth and Megan Moroney finished fifth in the 4×50-yard freestyle relay in 1:34.18 ahead of Bolles in 1:34.46. Pine Crest’s Carolina Nava, Marta Ciesla, Casey Francis and Brittany Hammond were 16th in 1:36.25.

St. Andrew’s boys were tenth in the 4×50-yard freestyle relay in 1:24.91 with Cassidy, Gage Kohner, Luke Hayhoe and Shawn Warner.

Megan Moroney of St. Andrew’s was 20th in the 500-yard freestyle in 4:52.27; Casey Francis of Pine Crest, 38th, 4:55.44; Melissa Marinheiro of SOFLO, 43rd, 4:56.32; Clara Smiddy of AK Sharks, 49th, 4:57.17; Isabella Paez of Metro Aquatics, 95th, 5:06.44.

Kent Haeffner of Pine Crest was 19th in the 500-yard freestyle in 4:31.58.

Rachael Bradford-Feldman, 15, of St. Andrew’s was 30th in the 200 IM in 2:03.90. Casey Francis of Pine Crest was 58th in 2:04.87. Darby Goodwin of St. Andrew’s was 98th in the 200 IM in 2:06.82. Brittany Hammond, Pine Crest, 115th in the 200 IM in 2:07.71. Tyla Martin, Pine Crest, 120th, 200 IM, 2:08.07; Isabella Paez, Metro Aquatics, 139th, 200 IM, 2:09.17.

Julian Radice, 17, of Metro Aquatics was 52nd in the 200 IM in 1:52.55.

Marta Ciesla, 14, of Pine Crest Swimming was 28th in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.58. Caroline Nava, 15, of Pine Crest was 55th in 23.84. Megan Moroney was 61st in 23.87.

Julian Ballestas, 18, was 19th in the 50-yard freestyle in 21.00.

College Rankings

University of Florida is ranked No. 7 in this week’s College Swimming Coaches Association NCAA Division 1 Men’s Swimming and Diving poll.

The Gators are undefeated overall (4-0) and in the Southeastern Conference (3-0).

Florida State is the only other Florida team ranked in the Top 25 with a No. 13 ranking with a 5-2 overall record and 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference record.

Michigan remains on top with the No. 1 ranking, 4-0 overall record and 3-0 Big Ten record.

Arizona State women’s team, with local swimmer Carolina Kuczynski, is ranked 18th, tied with Florida State led by SOFLO’s Tiffany Oliver, coming

off a record-breaking weekend. The Seminoles are 10-0 overall and 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. ASU is 2-2 and 1-2 in the PAC 12.

Southern California is ranked No. 1 with an undefeated 5-0 overall record and 4-0 in the PAC 12. Texas A&M is ranked second with a 4-0 overall record and 2-0 SEC record. The Gator women, 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the SEC, are ranked ninth. Louisville women are ranked 17th with a 2-1
overall record and 1-0 record in the Big East.

MEN’S POLL: 1. Michigan 4-0, 2. California 2-0, 3. Arizona 3-1, 4. Texas 1-2, 5. Southern California 3-0, 6. Ohio State 4-0, 7. Florida 4-0, 8. Stanford 1-0, 9. Auburn 3-0, 10. Indiana 4-2, 11. Minnesota 2-1, 12. Georgia 3-1, 13. Florida State 5-2, 14. Missouri 3-1, 15. Virginia 4-1, 16. Louisville 1-2, 17. Virginia Tech 6-1, 18. Iowa 1-1, 19. LSU 2-1, 20. Notre Dame 5-0, 20. Penn State 2-2, 22. North Carolina 3-0, 23. UNLV 3-2, 24. Georgia Tech 1-2, 25. Denver 1-2.

WOMEN’S POLL: 1. Southern California 5-0, 2. Texas A&M 4-0, 3. Georgia 5-0, 4. California 4-0, 5. Texas 3-1, 6. Arizona 4-2, 7. Stanford 2-1, 8. Virginia 3-0, 9. Florida 1-3, 10. Tennessee 5-0, 11. Auburn 3-0, 12. Penn State 3-1, 13. UCLA 8-0, 14. Minnesota 5-0, 15. Ohio State 4-1, 16. North Carolina 2-1, 17. Louisville 2-1, 18. Florida State 10-0, 18. Arizona State 2-2, 20. Missouri 3-2, 21. Notre Dame 1-3, 22. Indiana 2-4, 23. SMU 1-1, 24. Michigan 1-3, 25. Arkansas 3-1.


Bieber Fever is allowed by the NCAA, go figure! A day after Olympian Missy Franklin told media outlets that she returned all the swag that Justin Bieber sent her over the summer when he found out that she was a fan and loved his music. She was worried about it affecting her NCAA eligibility when she begins California next fall. Not so, said an NCAA official spokesperson on Thursday. “We applaud Missy Franklin’s commitment to amateurism but Bieber Fever is allowed under NCAA rules,” spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said. Bieber is known for giving fans gifts and was never suspected of giving her special treatment or recruiting her for any college…

Five-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte has volunteered his services as a coach to help raise money for Hurricane Sandy Relief victims. Lochte has joined in the Hurricane Sandy Relief auction, organized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue Magazine. The winning bidder and a guest will receive a one-hour lesson with Lochte and lunch with him afterwards. The starting bid is $4,000. Though no bids have been made the auction still has 12 days left.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 214: AT&T Winter Championships Begin Thursday In Austin

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 214: AT&T Winter Championships Begin Thursday In Austin

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 214: AT&T Winter Championships Begin Thursday In Austin

Written by Sharon Robb

November 28, 2012

Seventeen members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team head the field for USA Swimming’s AT&T Winter National Championships that begin Thursday at the University of Texas.

Olympic gold medalists Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky will compete among a field that includes top high school, college and club swimmers.

Franklin and Lochte are coming off the Minneapolis Grand Prix.

The three-day meet marks the fall return of most of the Olympic swimmers including Ledecky, the Breakout Performer of the Year; Haley Anderson, Nathan Adrian, Matt Grevers, Jimmy Feigen and Jessica Hardy.

Olivia Smoliga, a high school swimmer from Illinois, will get a chance to swim against Olympic veterans in the 50 freestyle. Two weeks ago, Smoliga became the first woman to go under 22 seconds in high school competition.

Several swimmers are swimming through nationals preparing for the Dec. 12-16 Short Course World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

The meet ends Saturday at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center. Highlights from the meet will air on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m.

College Swimming

Coral Springs Swim Club’s three-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov, now an assistant coach at Louisville, will be coaching in the Atlantic Coast Conference beginning in the 2014-15 season. The Big East Conference’s last major football team decided to join the ACC which means all its sports including swimming and diving will follow. Louisville is the nation’s fastest-rising swim program under head coach Arthur Albeiro, who is producing NCAA champions and All-Americans. The school’s Ralph R. Wright Natatorium is a national-caliber pool and is a candidate to host the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials…University of Florida coach Gregg Troy made it official on Wednesday announcing ten early high school signees including Quinn Cassidy of St. Andrew’s and Daniel Spas of American Heritage Plantation…Olympian Katie Hoff has been accepted to the University of Miami and will begin classes in January. She is not expected to swim for the Hurricanes since she is a pro and has accepted prize and appearance money.

Franklin Makes Decision

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin will compete for her high school team, Regis Jesuit in Aurora, Colo. in her senior year. Franklin said she loves her school and her teammates but had wrestled with the decision the past few weeks for several reasons including comments from opposing teams and parents. The high school swimming season begins this week. Franklin will join her team after the New Year. She plans on competing in a handful of meets, league and state championships. Franklin will go after a few national high school records during the season. Her state meet is Feb. 8-9.


Former University of Florida All-American Omar Pinzon, Colombia’s top swimmer, tested positive for cocaine. After graduating from Florida as a 12-time All-American in 2010, he trained with Dave Salo at USC. He holds South American national records in the 200-meter backstroke. He faces at least a two-year ban…Olympian Ryan Lochte is on GQ Magazine’s 25 Least Influential People list of 2012. The list also includes Mitt Romney and Lance Armstrong. The magazine called the list “a collection of people so uninspiring that we should round them all up and stick them on an iceberg.”…Olympian Martha McCabe was named Canada’s Female Swimmer of the Year at the swimming federation’s Big Splash Awards in Toronto. Last week she was selected Breaststroke Female Swimmer of the Year. Ryan Cochrane was chosen as Male Swimmer of the Year and was named Distance Freestyle Male Swimmer of the Year last week. Jozsef Nagy of the National Swim Centre Vancouver was named Coach of the Year for female swimmers. Randy Bennett of the Victoria Academy of Swimming was named Coach of the Year for male swimmers.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 194: SOFLO’s Oliver Wins Two Events At FSU’s Garnet & Gold Meet

AQUATIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 194: SOFLO’s Oliver Wins Two Events At FSU’s Garnet & Gold Meet


September 22, 2012

In Florida State’s annual Garnet and Gold swimming battle on Friday, Garnet defeated the Gold, 146-114 in the men’s competition and 139-121 in the women’s events.

Junior Tiffany Oliver of the South Florida Aquatic Club won two events in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:51.06 and 100-yard freestyle in 50.22 for the Garnet.

Two other swimmers who competed in the Florida Gold Coast, Paul Murray won the 100-yard freestyle in 45.97 and Connor Knight won the 100-yard butterfly in 49.76.

“I thought we did well today,” FSU head coach Neil Harper said. “We had another week of hard work and today we forced them to race each other.

“By dividing them in half, you can see who you can count on, who loves to race and who is going to be able to push through adversity. The main thing is we had some great races today. I like where we are and I look forward to unifying and going against our next opponent.”

FSU will compete in the Sept. 28-30 All-Florida Invitational in Gainesville.

More College Swimming

Vlad Polyakov is getting ready to begin a new chapter in his swimming career. The three-time Olympian for Kazakhstan has been hired at the University of Louisville as an assistant coach and recruiter.

Polyakov will reunite with senior Kevin Bandy, a former Coral Springs Swim Club swimmer and Douglas graduate who used to train with Polyakov and six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg. Bandy, whose family now lives in Georgia, competes in the freestyle, backstroke and butterfly.

The St. Thomas Aquinas High School and University of Alabama alum has an extensive swimming resume. He was a five-time SEC champion, two-time NCAA champion and two-time U.S. national champion and was inducted into the Alabama Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame. He holds the school record in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. He has competed professionally the past five years in the U.S. and internationally.

Polyakov, who will be 29 on Nov. 30th, competed in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. In 2004, he finaled in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events in the Athens Olympics. The same year he won a bronze medal in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events at the world championships and two years later won gold in the 200 breaststroke.

“I am thrilled to rejoin Arthur and look forward to this incredible opportunity,” said Polyakov.  Polyakov also coached age group swimmers at CSSC before resuming training for the 2012 Olympics.

“We have always had a great level of understanding and respect for each other,” Polyakov said. “I’ve always appreciated his professional attitude and individual approach towards his athletes. What he has been able to accomplish at Louisville within such a short period of time, really tells you a lot about this organization and its vision.

“It is a true honor to be part of a program that has shown consistent record of success in the past years, both academically and athletically. I think the sky is the limit for this program and I can’t wait to contribute to its future success.”…

Olympic relay gold medalist Claire Donahue, who trains at SOFLO’s Academic Village Pool part-time, was part of the christening for the Claire Donahue Aquatic Center in her hometown of Lenoir City, Tenn. The city, with a population of 6,000, decided to name its six-lane, 25-yard city pool after their hometown hero.

More Miscellaneous Swimming News

Nine Olympians including Ricky Berens and girlfriend Rebecca Soni were among more than 700 swimmers raising $85,000 by competing in cancer survivor Eric Shanteau’s  SwimForYourLife open water swim at Lake Lanier Islands. Aaron Piersol, Amanda Weir, Jimmy Feigen, Kathleen Hersey, Mark Gangloff and Dominik Meichtry also competed. Berens won the 1K swim in 13:30 followed by Hersey (13:44), Gangloff (14:12) and Shanteau (14:24)…

Great Britain’s Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder Rebecca Adlington, 23, said she will not be competing in Rio for the 2016 Olympics and is toying with the idea of quitting swimming altogether. “I’ll be 27 then and swimming, especially for distance swimmers, is a young person’s game,” she said. “Do I want to carry on and not get any faster? The answer is no.” Adlington finished third behind 15-year-old American record holder Katie Ledecky in the 800 meter freestyle. Adlington may still hold on for next summer’s world championships in Barcelona, Spain…British teammate and former world champion Gemma Spofforth has officially retired from swimming at age 24 saying that she cannot top the experience of competing at a home Olympics. She was a four-time Olympic finalist and finished fifth in the 100-meter backstroke in London. The University of Florida alum plans to work with under-privileged children.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 5: Swimming Takes Center Stage At Olympics, SOFLO’s Atkinson Competes Sunday

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 5: Swimming Takes Center Stage At Olympics, SOFLO’s Atkinson Competes Sunday


July 28, 2012

Reigning world champion Ryan Lochte won his first gold medal of the 2012 London Olympics Saturday night to highlight a dramatic night of swimming at the steamy Aquatics Centre.

Lochte, 27, of Daytona Beach, won the 400-meter individual medley, the first of two highly-anticipated races against rival Michael Phelps. Lochte pulled away during the backstroke and won in 4:05.18, a textile-best.

Phelps, the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist and world record holder, was fourth in 4:09.28, 34/100ths out of medal contention.

It was the first gold medal for the U.S. team and first time Lochte beat Phelps in an Olympic final.

“I think I am in shock right now,” Lochte said. “Going into these Games I knew I was capable of getting the win. I’m happy that I was able to do that. I am ready to rock. This is going to be an Olympics to remember.

“I heard the fans screaming all throughout the race and definitely had my family there. It definitely helped me out a lot.”

Lochte was his laidback self before the race and on the medal podium. He wore new bright green shoes and put his diamond Stars and Stripes grill across his top front teeth for photographers. Lochte was not allowed to wear his grill on the podium. An IOC official told him he would not get his gold medal if he did.

“It’s just a unique way of showing my personality,” Lochte said.

Three-time Olympian Thiago Pereira of Brazil took the silver, his first-ever Olympic medal, in 4:08.86 and 17-year-old Kosuke Hagino of Japan finished with the bronze in 4:08.94. Hagino, who won the 200 IM at last year’s FINA Junior World Championships, was not expected to reach an Olympic final.

The race was no contest with Lochte leading from start-to-finish and crushing the men’s field. Lochte, who has six Olympic medals including three golds in his lifetime, had flirted with world record pace for the first 350 meters.

“I know he gave it everything he had,” Lochte said of the 16-time medal winner. “That’s all you can really ask. I’m going to talk to him and see how he feels about that.”

Phelps had barely made it into the final, qualifying eighth just out-touching Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh. Lochte, who said he didn’t feel good in the morning prelim, was third fastest qualifier.

“I was lucky to get in,” Phelps said. “I had a chance to put myself in a spot to start off on a good note and didn’t do it. Ryan had a good race.”

It is the first time since 2000 when Phelps was 15 that he has missed a medal in an Olympic event. It was the 400 IM that Phelps kept saying he would never race again after 2008 because it was too painful. But inexplicably decided to race it at trials.

“It was just a crappy race,” Phelps said. “They swam a better race than me, they swam a smarter race than me and that is why they are on the podium. It’s just really frustrating to start off on a bad note like this. It’s pretty upsetting.

“The biggest thing now is to try and get past this and move forward,” Phelps said. “I have a bunch of races and hopefully we can finish this a lot better than we started.”

On Wednesday, the two go head-to-head for the second and final time in the 200-meter individual medley, an event Phelps has won in each of the last two Olympics.

Meanwhile, China dominated the remainder of the swimming.

Sun Yang, 20, won the men’s 400-meter freestyle in an Olympic record 3:40.14, eclipsing Ian Thorpe’s Olympic record set in 2000. Olympic defending champion Tae-Hwan Park of South Korea, after being disqualified in morning prelims for a false start and then reinstated by FINA, was second in 3:42.06. American Peter Vanderkaay, who relocated to Gainesville to train for the Olympics, took the bronze in 3:44.69.

“I am very glad to have won the gold, it means a lot to me,” Yang said. “It is a reward for the many years of effort. Tonight, I did a good race. If I had won the gold without Park swimming in the final, maybe the Korean media would have said that it was a medal not gained well enough. To have Park in the race was a very good challenge for me.”

China’s 16-year-old Ye Shiwen won the women’s 400-meter individual medley in a world record time of 4:28.43, knocking off American Elizabeth Beisel of University of Florida, who was second in 4:31.27. China’s Xuanxu Li took bronze in 4:32.91.

The Aussies looked unbeatable on the women’s 400-meter freestyle relay with Alicia Coutts, 24, Cate Campbell, 20, Brittany Elmslie, 18, and Melanie Schlanger, 25, winning in an Olympic record 3:33.15. Schlanger held off the Netherlands, the defending Olympic champion that finished second in 3:33.79. The U.S. took bronze with Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt. Neal became the first African-American woman to swim in an Olympic final.

Natalie Coughlin, 29, as a member of the U.S. relay that swam prelims along with Amanda Weir and qualified, tied for most career Olympic medals with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres of the Coral Springs Swim Club with 12. Coughlin, who did not qualify in an individual event, is now done for the week and will be a team cheerleader, she said.

“I really have no idea what to think of it so far,” Coughlin said. “I’ll have to let that one sit and I’ll have to take it all in. I’m very proud of it but I’ve never been on a morning relay before.”

If the Florida Gators swimmers were a country, they would be tied with China for Olympic swim medals with three.

SOFLO three-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov was eliminated in the morning prelims of the men’s 100-meter breaststroke, his only event in London.

Polyakov finished 34th in 1:02.15. His splits were 29.06 and 33.09. Suriname’s Diguan Pigot of Metro Aquatics was 43rd in 1:05.55.

In the men’s breaststroke semifinals, which were crazy fast, South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh broke 59 seconds for the second time in his career to earn the top seed in an Olympic record 58.83, breaking Kosuke Kitajima’s Olympic mark of 58.91 set in 2008. American Brendan Hansen barely qualified for finals with the eighth fastest time in 59.78.

American Dana Vollmer set an Olympic, American and textile-best in prelims of the 100-meter butterfly prelims in 56.25 and earned the top seed after semifinals in 56.36.

On Sunday, SOFLO’s three-time Olympian Alia Atkinson of Jamaica will compete in the prelims of the 100-meter breaststroke, the first of three events she is entered in.

The swimming attracted its share of VIPs including Queen Elizabeth for the morning session and First Lady Michelle Obama for the evening session.

NBC, with its mega hours and channels of coverage, is not making any friends by showing the swimming finals on tape-delay especially in this social media era where followers know who won immediately after races. Twitter lit up with complaints about it and NBC’s sub-par live streaming which kept cutting in out and out online on the first full day of competition.

The U.S. swim team’s “Call Me Maybe” video parody has now hit 2 million viewers on YouTube.

Water polo

Hungary will put its 17-match unbeaten Olympic streak on the line Sunday as it begins its quest for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal. Hungary opens up against gold medal favorite Serbia on opening day of the water polo competition. The U.S. team, 2008 Olympic silver medalist, opens up against Montenegro.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


Coral Springs Swim Club Hosts FGC Senior Championships This Weekend

Coral Springs Swim Club Hosts FGC Senior Championships This Weekend


July 25, 2012

With the excitement of the London Olympics in the air, the Florida Gold Coast Senior Long Course Championships will have a little extra kick to it.

The three-day meet begins Friday and will be hosted by the Coral Springs Swim Club at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, training site for SOFLO three-time Olympians Arlene Semeco and Vlad Polyakov who will be competing in London.

The field features some of South Florida’s top age group swimmers.

SOFLO’s Caroline Kuczynski and Melissa Marinheiro head SOFLO’s 58-swimmer contingent.

Marinheiro, 15, is the top seed in the 15-16 200-meter freestyle (2:07.51). Marinheiro recently qualified for next month’s Speedo Junior Nationals in Indianapolis.

Kuczynski, 21, is the top seed in the open 100-meter butterfly (59.65) and seeded second in the 50 butterfly (27.45). Kuczynski, who is entered in seven events, is coming off a gold medal performance at last weekend’s Summer Nationals in Canada.

Among other top SOFLO swimmers entered are:

Marcella Marinheiro, 17, seeded second in the 200 backstroke (2:19.66).

Emma Lincoln, 16, seeded second in the 100-meter freestyle (59.03).

Brandon Goldman, 17, seeded second in the 50-meter backstroke (28.35). Goldman is also preparing for the upcoming junior nationals.

Zuhayr Pigot, 15, of Metro Aquatics and Doral Academy will compete while his sister, Chinyere, 19, and brother Diguan, 18, will swim in London for Suriname. Chinyere was voted to carry the country’s flag in Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies. The family, since moving to South Florida six years ago, trains with Kirk Peppas at Metro Aquatics.

Other SOFLO swimmers qualified for the meet are:

The girls are Kaitlin Armstrong, 16; Kristina Brennan, 16; Leysha Caraballo, 15; Danielle Ginzburg, 14; Kylie Herman, 15; Amber Hunter, 16; Daniela Jimenez, 17; Evelin Jimenez, 17; Emily Jurich, 15; Kelly Kealty, 15; Anne Kuczynski, 17; Rachel Ling, 17; Maria Lopez, 16; Bianca Muniz, 20; Astrid Rigau, 16; Kennedy Sanes, 16; Lindsey Sauer, 15; Selina Voelkel, 16; Rebecca Wilkerson, 15; and Haley Wright, 15.

The boys are Brian Arnaud, 18; Xavier Brown, 17; Roger Capote, 16; Ryan Capote, 14; August Charni, 15; Jordan Colon, 15; Joshua Coote, 16; Joshua Cutter, 16; Kyle Desrosiers, 16; Ilya Evdokimov, 16; Ben Fruitman, 17; Matthew Gonzalez, 17; Mauricio Hidalgo, 18; Edward Kon, 16; Derek Maguire, 18; Carlo Morante, 19; Ivan Parada, 17; William Perry, 16; Bryce Pierce, 16; Austin Pillado, 17; Fernando Quintero, 15; Jonathan Rivas, 15; Marc Rojas, 18; Juan Saldana, 15; Diego Sanguinetti, 21; Julio Simon, 20; David Stoddard, 15; Jonathan Strod, 13; Bowie Suen, 16; Brendan Teeters, 15; and Jacob Walters, 16. 

Other top teams competing are St. Andrew’s Swimming, Pine Crest, Metro Aquatics and Davie Nadadores.


What: Florida Gold Coast Senior Long Course Championships

When: Friday-Sunday

Where: Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, 12441 Royal Palm Blvd.

Schedule: Friday, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. prelims, 5-7:47 p.m. finals; Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-noon prelims, 5-8:14 p.m. finals; Sunday, 8:30 a.m.-1:49 p.m. prelims, 5-7:49 p.m. finals.

Admission: $3 per session, $3 heat sheets. For information call 954-345-2121.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 3: Let The Games Begin, SOFLO’s Three-Time Olympian Polyakov Swims Saturday

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 3: Let The Games Begin, SOFLO’s Three-Time Olympian Polyakov Swims Saturday


July 25, 2012

Surrounded by the grandeur of historic buildings and pageantry that can only happen every four years at the Summer Olympic Games, Vlad Polyakov, who grew up training at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex with some of the best swimmers in the world, will be the first South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer to compete in London.

The 28-year-old St. Thomas Aquinas High School alum will make his third Olympic appearance for Kazakhstan at the Games. He also competed in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

Polyakov will compete in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke prelims and semifinals on Saturday, the opening day of swimming, one of the most popular events along with track and field, soccer and gymnastics. While he is not a medal favorite, he is favored to make the championship final on Sunday night.

SOFLO teammates Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and Arlene Semeco of Venezuela will also compete over eight days of pool swimming in multi events. The open water 10K events are Aug. 9-10.

Several swimmers including Polyakov and Michael Phelps will not march in Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies to rest for Saturday events. Phelps will compete in the 400-meter individual medley.

The Opening Ceremonies are expected to be one of the best in the history of the Games. Former Beatle Paul McCartney has been heard practicing on-stage this past week by several athletes and coaches. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) is organizing the Opening Ceremonies entitled The Isles of Wonder. The production is expected to be very British, of course, featuring James Bond movie star Daniel Craig and soccer hottie David Beckham. Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali is also expected to have some involvement as well. Ali is in London for the Beyond Sport Ambassadors award ceremony.

On Wednesday, U.S. fencer Mariel Zagunis, a two-time gold medalist in sabre, was named the U.S. flagbearer for Friday night. She was chosen by her peers at the Games and is the first fencer to carry the flag since 1968. In 2004, she was the first American fencer to win an Olympic gold in 100 years. Her parents were 1976 Olympians.

London is the first city to host the modern Olympics there times. In 1908, the Games were reassigned to London from Rome after Mount Vesuvious erupted. After 12 years of Olympic moratorium because of the war, the 1948 Games were held in London.

The Games will feature 10,500 athletes and coaches from 204 nations in 32 sports competing for 302 medals. In addition to Atkinson, Polyakov and Semeco, SOFLO coaches Chris Anderson and Bruno Darzi will be on the pool deck. Former Douglas and Coral Springs Swim Club swimmer Nick Schwab will make his Olympic debut for the Dominican Republic.

China, which surpassed the U.S. in gold medals four years ago in Beijing, will again challenge the U.S. for Olympic supremacy, only not in swimming where the U.S. is favored to maintain its longstanding tradition of dominating the sport. Australia and Brazil will win their share of swimming medals.

Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals in 2008, is entered in seven events. If he wins three medals of any color, he will surpass Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won a record 18 medals in 1956-1964 as the most decorated Olympian. Phelps mom, Debbie and two sisters will be cheering him from the stands in what he insists will be his final Olympic Games even though his mom keeps saying she wants to go to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Teenager Missy Franklin is expected to be women swimming’s breakout star of the Olympics. She is already being called the female version of Phelps, only with more of a bubbly personality.

Swimmers have been practicing at Olympic Park Eton Manor, a sports and leisure venue in Leyton, London that features five indoor swimming pools side-by-side-by-side-by-side-by-side, three 50-meter pools and two 30-meter pools.

“Unbelievable pool, warm up was mind blowing…damn, the Olympics is awesome,” tweeted Schwab.

There will be around-the-clock coverage on NBC, NBCSN, NBCSP, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo and NBCOlympics.com live streaming every sport and social media including Twitter. It will be the most media exposure the Olympics has ever had, more than 3,500 hours.  


July 28, Saturday: Morning session, MEN: 100-meter breaststroke, 400-meter freestyle, 400-meter individual medley heats; WOMEN: 100-meter butterfly, 400-meter individual medley, 4×100-meter freestyle relay, heats; Evening session, MEN: 100-meter breaststroke semifinals, 400-meter freestyle final, 400-meter individual medley final; WOMEN: 100-meter butterfly semifinals, 400-meter individual medley final, 4×100-meter freestyle relay final.

July 29, Sunday: Morning session, MEN: 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter freestyle relay heats; WOMEN: 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter breaststroke, 400-meter freestyle heats; Evening session, MEN: 100-meter backstroke semifinals, 200-meter freestyle semifinals, 100-meter breaststroke final, 4×100-meter freestyle relay final; WOMEN: 100-meter backstroke semifinals, 100-meter breaststroke semifinals, 100-meter butterfly final, 400-meter freestyle final.

July 30, Monday: Morning session, MEN: 200-meter butterfly heat; WOMEN: 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter individual medley heats; Evening session, MEN: 200-meter butterfly semifinals, 100-meter backstroke final, 200-meter freestyle final; WOMEN: 200-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter individual medley semifinals, 100-meter backstroke final, 100-meter breaststroke final.

July 31, Tuesday: Morning session, MEN: 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter breaststroke, 4×200-meter freestyle relay heats; WOMEN: 200-meter butterfly heats; Evening session: MEN: 100-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter breaststroke semifinals, 200-meter butterfly final, 4×200-meter freestyle relay final; WOMEN: 200-meter butterfly semifinals, 200-meter freestyle final, 200-meter individual medley final.

August 1, Wednesday: Morning session, MEN: 200-meter backstroke, 200-meter individual medley heats; WOMEN: 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter breaststroke, 4×200-meter freestyle relay heats; Evening session, MEN: 200-meter backstroke semifinals, 200-meter individual medley semifinals, 100-meter freestyle final, 200-meter breaststroke final; WOMEN: 100-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter breaststroke semifinals, 200-meter butterfly final, 4×200-meter freestyle relay final.

August 2, Thursday: Morning session, MEN: 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly heats; WOMEN: 200-meter backstroke, 800-meter freestyle heats; Evening session, MEN: 50-meter freestyle semifinals, 100-meter butterfly semifinals, 200-meter backstroke final, 200-meter individual medley final; WOMEN: 200-meter backstroke semifinals, 100-meter freestyle final, 200-meter breaststroke final.

August 3, Friday: Morning session, MEN: 1500-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter medley relay heats; WOMEN: 50-meter freestyle, 4×100-medley relay heats; Evening session, MEN: 50-meter freestyle final, 100-meter butterfly final; WOMEN: 50-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter backstroke final, 800-meter freestyle final.

August 4, Saturday: No morning session; Evening session, MEN: 1500-meter freestyle final, 4×100-meter medley relay final; WOMEN: 50-meter freestyle final, 4×100-meter medley relay final.

August 9, Thursday: Women’s Marathon Swimming 10K.

August 10, Friday: Men’s Marathon Swimming 10K.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 2: South Florida Stepping Stone For SOFLO’s Atkinson, Polyakov, Semeco To London Olympics

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 2: South Florida Stepping Stone For SOFLO’s Atkinson, Polyakov, Semeco To London Olympics


July 24, 2012

South Florida is a hidden jewel for athletes of all ages and ability levels, but particularly for those competing at the London Olympics that begin on Friday.

A record 67 athletes and nine coaches with South Florida ties have qualified to compete over 17 days on the world’s greatest stage for amateur sports.

South Florida Aquatic Club will be well-represented by three-time Olympians Alia Atkinson of Jamaica, Arlene Semeco of Venezuela and Vlad Polyakov of Kazakhstan and coaches Bruno Darzi and Chris Anderson.

The large local contingent that calls South Florida home has helped to solidify its reputation as a training playground for future Olympic hopefuls.

Glistening 50-meter Olympic pools at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, training home for Semeco and Polyakov and Academic Village Pool in Pembroke Pines, where Atkinson grew up, are two venues producing age group, national and international-quality swimmers.

From the pristine show rings at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington and beach volleyball courts on Fort Lauderdale Beach to the Brian Piccolo Park Velodrome in Cooper City, South Florida has become the ideal training ground for athletes from the U.S. and around the world, particularly South and Central America and the Caribbean, all working feverishly for their moment of glory.

Why are we home to so many Olympians?

Coaches and athletes agree it’s a combination of great weather and ability to train year-round at sea level; facilities, coaching, history and sheer numbers of athletes to train and compete against for a shot at Olympic stardom every four years.

“This is paradise for an athlete,” said Polyakov, who started training at Coral Springs at age 15 while attending St. Thomas Aquinas. “The atmosphere is perfect. This is where you want to be if you want to train.”

“We have everything we need here,” Semeco said. “Good coaching, good athletes to train with and world-class venue, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Coral Springs sent a record eight swimmers to the 2008 Beijing Olympics during six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg’s legendary coaching tenure. Lohberg passed away in April 2011 but the tradition remains.

Coral Springs Swim Club head coach Bruno Darzi, mentored by Lohberg as both a swimmer and coach, will coach Semeco and Polyakov in London.

Andrea Di Nino, another Lohberg protégé, will be in London as a national team coach for the Russian Swimming Federation. The 39-year-old Italian founder and head coach of the ADN Swim Project spent three years with the Coral Springs Swim Team, learning from Lohberg and his swimmers.

The popularity of swimming has grown in South Florida in the last four decades. Many say that swimming from the 1970s on was the catalyst for other sports in South Florida. 1976 Olympic women’s coach Jack Nelson of the now-defunct Fort Lauderdale Swim Team started bringing in post-college graduates from the U.S. and foreign countries to the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.

Nelson trained 40 Olympians from various countries in more than 50 years as a coach.

“It was word of mouth mostly,” said the Hall of Famer, recently honored at Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex. “They came from everywhere.”

SOFLO CEO and coach Chris Anderson, who will coach Jamaica’s one-swimmer team in Atkinson, remembers training as a swimmer in Fort Lauderdale when he was a 12-year-old age group swimmer for Bernal’s Gators.

“A lot has to do with the atmosphere that draws the athletes,” said Anderson, Florida Gold Coast General Chairman. “This is the ideal training area. We have 50-meter pools within 20 minutes of each other. We have some very good coaches in a small area that have wonderful training environments.”

Added Atkinson, “Some of our countries are so small that we don’t have enough training or competition so the majority come to South Florida for sure because of the pools, coaches and swimmers and because it’s close to these countries.”

The $5 million dollar Mission Bay Aquatic Training Center in west Boca Raton gained attention when it opened in 1985. Millionaire developer James Brady hired Olympic coaches Mark Schubert and Ron O’Brien.

The idea of an all-inclusive training site for swimmers and divers, including Greg Louganis, caught on and became a hotbed for producing national champions and Olympians for the U.S. and various countries. Before the privately-funded epicenter went bankrupt and closed in 1991, it raised the bar for the sport in the Florida Gold Coast.

“You always have champions inspiring potential champions,” Schubert said. “It opens their horizons.”

South Florida’s Olympic influence may now extend beyond the pool, but there is no denying that South Florida is a swimming haven for all ages, from beginners, age group and high school swimmers, to collegians and past, present and future Olympians.

Florida Gold Coast coaches including Darzi and Anderson and their coaching staffs are hoping the excitement surrounding swimming including teenager Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Cullen Jones will attract more young kids into the sport.

There always seems to be an increase in age group swimmers after the Olympics. The sport is well-publicized like mainstream sports football, basketball and baseball and it comes across as a very clean, competitive sport.

“The Olympics is like the Super Bowl or World Series for swimming,” said University of Miami All-American swimmer Kirk Peppas, now head aquatics director and coach at Metro Aquatics Club of Miami.

“I had an aunt tell my mother, ‘Priscilla, drop your son off at the pool for an hour. They come back home and they are dead tired. They don’t want to do anything after swim practice. That’s how I got involved and I enjoyed it.”

Coaches emphasize that swimming isn’t just about winning medals or earning a college scholarship. Swimming is a healthy sport for kids. It helps discipline them, it’s a team sport and great social environment. It introduces them to time management, balancing school, practice and family life. “You will notice swimmers are the ones with the best grades in school,” said one coach.

According to the U.S. Olympic Committee, the odds of a child becoming an Olympic athlete are 1 in 28,500. Not bad odds, especially if the Olympic hopeful grows up and trains in South Florida.

2012 South Florida Olympic Athletes


LeBron James, U.S., Miami Heat.


Sylvia Fowles, Miami-born, went to Miami Edison, transferred to Gulliver Prep, second straight Olympic appearance.


Steve Grotowski, Great Britain, Boynton Beach resident, graduated from Oakland Park Northeast.


Kelci Bryant, former University of Miami

Reuben Ross, Canada, University of Miami alum, synchro diving.

Brittany Viola, University of Miami alum, platform

Randy Ableman, UM coach

Greg Louganis, former UM, Mission Bay, Fort Lauderdale Diving, now is USA Diving athlete mentor


Tina Konyot, Palm City, dressage

McLain Ward, Wellington, show jumping.


Danell Leyva, Miami, U.S.

Jessica Gil Ortiz, Miami, Colombia


Jhonny Prada, U.S., Coral Springs, member of coaching staff, head coach and founder of Ki-Itsu-Sai Judo Club in Coral Springs.


Robin Prendes, U.S., Miami, lightweight men’s four.


Brian Faith, Miami, keel boat

Sarah Lihan, Fort Lauderdale, St. Thomas Aquinas alum.

Mark Mendelblatt, Miami, keel boat

Anna Tunnicliffe, U.S., Plantation.


Ifeoma Dleke, Great Britain, FIU alum

Melissa Ortiz, Colombia, Cardinal Newman, Lynn University alum.


Yousef Alaskari, Kuwait, Davie Nadadores, American Heritage.

Rafael Alfaro, El Salvador, Davie Nadadores       

Bradley Ally, Barbados, St. Thomas Aquinas and University of Florida alum.

Alia Atkinson, Jamaica, Flanagan alum, South Florida Aquatic Club, will be third Olympic appearance.

Chris Anderson, Jamaica, South Florida Aquatic Club, Jamaica coach.

Pamela Benitez, El Salvador, Davie Nadadores, alum

Lani Cabrera, Barbados, Davie Nadadores

Carolina Colorado, Colombia, Davie Nadadores

Hollie Bonewit-Cron, Nova Southeastern head swimming coach, Grenada coach.

Bruno Darzi, SOFLO/Coral Springs Swim Club head coach, will be coaching Vlad Polyakov and Arlene Semeco.

Joao de Lucca, Brazil, Davie Nadadores, alum

Andrea Di Nino, Russia, national team coach for Russia, former Coral Springs Swim Club coach.

Sofyan El Gidi, Libya, Davie Nadadores

Esteban Enderica, Ecuador, Davie Nadadores

Ivan Enderica, Ecuador, open water, Davie Nadadores alum

Johanna Eyglo Gustafsdottir, Florida International University freshman, competes for Iceland, Sun Belt Women’s Swimmer of the Year.

Mauricio Fiol, Peru, Davie Nadadores

Jemal Le Grand, Aruba, Davie Nadadores

Felipe Lima, Brazil, Davie Nadadores, breaststroker

Raul Martinez, Puerto Rico, Davie Nadadores

Chinyere Pigot, Doral Academy, Suriname, country’s flagbearer for opening ceremonies

Diguan Pigot, Doral Academy, Suriname.

Vlad Polyakov, Kazakhstan, St. Thomas Aquinas alum, SOFLO, Coral Springs, third trip to the Olympics.

Alex Pussieldi, Kuwait coach, Davie Nadadores

Arlene Semeco, Venezuela, SOFLO, Coral Springs, third trip to the Olympics.

Esau Simpson, Grenada, Nova Southeastern.

Daniele Tirabassi, Venezuela, Davie Nadadores.

Dalias Torrez, Nicaragua, Davie Nadadores alum

Karen Torrez, Bolivia, Davie Nadadores

Daniela Vandenberg, Aruba, Davie Nadadores

Karen Vilorio, Honduras, Davie Nadadores alum

Branden Whitehurst, Miami, Virgin Islands


Terrence Jennings, Miami

Paige McPherson, Miami.


Andy Roddick, Boca Raton, Boca Prep International School alum.

Serena and Venus Williams, Palm Beach Gardens


Murielle Ahoure, University of Miami, Ivory Coast

Eric Alejandro, Flanagan, Puerto Rico

T’erea Brown, U.S., University of Miami

Amy Deem, U.S. women’s head track coach

Debbie Ferguson, Bahamas, UM alum

Ronald Forbes, Florida International, Cayman Islands

Michael Frater, Boyd Anderson alum, Jamaica, men’s team captain.

Tabarie Henry, Hallandale, Virgin Islands, country’s flagbearer for opening ceremonies.

Moise Joseph, Haiti, Miami Central alum.

Tony McQuay, U.S., Riviera Beach Suncoast, Florida alum

Kirsten Nieuwendam, St. Thomas Aquinas, Surinam

Sanya Richards, U.S., St. Thomas Aquinas and Texas alum, born in Jamaica, grew up in Pembroke Pines.

Lauryn Williams, U.S., University of Miami alum.


Laura Reback Bennett, U.S., Cardinal Newman alum, grew up in North Palm Beach.

Manny Huerta, Miami, ran cross country at Florida Atlantic University.


Foluke Akinradewo, U.S., Plantation, St. Thomas Aquinas alum.

Ciara Michel, Great Britain, Miami hometown, University of Miami and Miami Palmer Trinity Prep alum.

Savannah Leaf, Great Britain, University of Miami.

Olympic Torch Carrier:

Jillian Roberts, 19, Miami. She founded the Just Shoe It, which has collected more than 8,600 pairs of donated shoes. The organization’s partner, One World Running, cleans the shows and ships them to more than three dozen countries worldwide. She is one of 10 teenagers from the U.S. chosen by Coca-Cola to carry the Olympic Flame in Oxford, England. They were chosen for helping make a difference in the world.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com