Everyone will tell you that having fun is the most important factor in your swimming career. Some may not understand how swimming up and down a black line constitutes as fun, but when you’re training with the right group of people, enjoying that competitive thrill, and feeling good while doing it, the black line doesn’t seem so bad.
Spectators at the Mesa Grand Prix this morning may had to check their ears to make sure they were hearing things correctly when the announcer spat out the names Michael Phelps, Allison Schmitt, and Katie Hoff. It’s been a while since we’ve seen all three of these veterans suit up and make a splash, but make a splash is exactly what they did this morning.
The most awaited comeback kid was Phelps himself. After scratching the 100 free, all eyes were on his 100 fly. Trying to hold a grin back before heat 14 was called to the blocks, Phelps, who felt like a summer league swimmer this morning, looked like he was back to his Phelpsian ways, finishing in the top spot with a 52.84. It looks to be another legendary Phelps-Lochte showdown tonight, but what we may not be used to is the expression that will be on Phelps’ face: smiles from ear to ear. There’s no point in rehashing Phelps’ “I’m just having fun”-filled pre-meet press conference, but that’s the most important message here. He repeated it after his first swim in 18 months, saying that I”I felt like a summer league swimmer today…tell the kids ‘have fun’. I’m a 28 year old man having fun and that’s why I’m here.'”
The greatest of all time’s comeback is an inspiration to all and could be just what the doctor ordered for all the swimmers out there who are struggling with the black line, Allison Schmitt being one of them.
Schmitt, the most awaited comeback kid’s best friend, had a return of her own this morning. In a star studded NBAC A final tonight in the 400 free, Schmitt got herself a spot, finishing sixth in a 4:12.12. Up next was the 100 free where she just finished a hair behind Simone Manuel in a 55.11. While it’s been a whirlwind for Schmitt since London, finishing her degree and now getting back intro training, the word fun is also a part of her return to the sport. While it’s not as impactful as it is in Phelps’, the training group is a bigger part in the equation for her. Schmitt’s admitted to the hard days she’s had while getting back into shape, but has added that it’s the people on deck and the swimmers that fill the lanes next to her that help her get through it, another credit to the group at NBAC.
A former NBAC team member took steps toward a triumphant return this morning too, Katie Hoff, who now swims under the sunny skies in Miami. While she may be all smiles because of her recent engagement to her long time boyfriend, one or two of them may be because of her impressive morning in Mesa. Just missing out on the A final in the 100 free with a time of 56.04, Hoff bounced back with a huge swim in the 100 fly. Hoff remained the top seed for quite a while until the circle seeds hit the water, but still remained in the top eight, placing fifth with a time of 1:00.67. While Hoff hasn’t quite lived up to the legacy that was built for her at age 15 when she was tabbed the ‘female Michael Phelps,’ she’s back and is taking it seriously. While her best events are to come later in the weekend, day one for Hoff showed the spark that she may have traces of that legacy still inside her, ready to prove everyone right.
Swimming is a sport full of numbers. And while our comeback kids put up some pretty ones this morning, it’s important to take a second (no pun intended) to look at why swimmers do what they do to produce the numbers that they do. Through all the 10,000 yard sets or the four hours a day starting at the black line, it all comes down to one word: fun. If that word isn’t a part of your swimming, you’re doing it all wrong. But for our comeback kids, they sure have figured it out.