Ultra Swim Swimmer of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based swimmer who has proven themselves over the past month. As with any item of recognition, Swimmer of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one athlete whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a swimmer who was visibly outperforming other swimmers over the month, or one whose accomplishments slipped through the cracks among other high-profile swims. If your favorite athlete wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.
Heading into the 2019-2020 season, the arrow wasn’t trending the right way for Hugo Gonzalez.
The 2015 and 2017 World Junior champ had hit a wall with time drops. A former junior-level standout for Spain, Gonzalez hadn’t bettered his long course backstroke or 400 IM times since 2017. He had a stellar short course yards season as a freshman for Auburn in 2018, but regressed badly at NCAAs, transferred out and bounced from Virginia Tech back to Spain and ultimately to California.
Opinions were extremely mixed as to Gonzalez’s impact on the Golden Bears this NCAA season. His ceiling was extraordinary, perhaps one of the top swimmers in all of college swimming. But his gap year times were fairly uninspiring. A career-best 1:58.0/4:14.6 IMer and 54.1/1:56.6 backstroker in long course, Gonzalez was no better than 2:01.6 IM and 54.5/1:58.6 backstroke, with no 400-meter IMs registered during his year away from the NCAA.
Though we will never know exactly what Gonzalez would have done at NCAAs, his swims at Pac-12s early this month made clear that he’s reversed what seemed to be a downward trend in his career.
Gonzalez crushed a 3:36.60 in the 400 IM and a 1:39.6 in the 200 back at Pac-12s, winning the conference title in the former. He also went 1:43.0 in a prelims 200 IM, though he took a false start DQ, and time trialed a massive 1:51.63 in the 200 breast.
With those swims, Gonzalez appeared well on pace to better his career-bests of 1:40.6/3:35.7 in the IMs at NCAAs. The 200 breast was already a lifetime-best. Gonzalez projected to score 35 points at NCAAs, even without a scoring 200 IM, and kept Cal in the hunt to defend its 2019 NCAA title against Texas.
For Gonzalez, even though the postseason and the Summer Olympics have been wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, the 2019-2020 season was a success, in changing the momentum and trajectory of his career.
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