Mental health on swimmers’ minds at nationals

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IRVINE, Calif. — When Allison Schmitt changed clothes for her medal ceremony, she grabbed a shirt that read, “Mental health is just as important as physical health.”

Thirteen minutes after Schmitt received her 200m freestyle silver medal at the U.S. Swimming Championships, Micah Sumrall won the 200m breaststroke.

Sumrall, who took a break from swimming after missing the 2016 Olympic team, received applause in her post-race, pool-deck interview for broaching a growing subject in society, sports and swimming.

“Allison Schmitt really inspires me,” an out-of-breath Sumrall said on Olympic Channel. “In 2016, I had a really big problem with mental health. So, coming back like this, is really a testament to the people that have been starting talking about it.”

Later Thursday night, Missy Franklin, choking back tears, reflected on her last two years after missing the finals in both of her nationals events.

The four-time 2012 Olympic champion revealed last summer that she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety going into the Rio Olympics, where she struggled in the pool. Franklin says she’s feeling better now.

“A lot of people have been coming up to me and saying that I look really happy, which I appreciate so much, but at the same time, I think that’s part of the problem,” she said. “You can look like the happiest person in the world and still be going through one of the hardest struggles.”

In 2012, Schmitt and Franklin looked like the U.S.’ happiest swimmers. They won a combined 10 medals at the London Games.

Schmitt was credited for injecting levity into coach Bob Bowman‘s practices and boosting training partner Michael Phelps‘ morale. Schmitt would struggle in races after her breakout Olympics, failing to make the next two world championships teams.

In May 2015, Schmitt’s 17-year-old cousin, April Bocian, committed suicide. It led to Schmitt, at her next swim meet, discussing her own battle with depression. She wanted to spread awareness and remove the stigma of talking about mental health.

Shortly after, Schmitt’s swimming began improving and she eventually made one more Olympic team in Rio as a 4x200m free relay member. Schmitt, a veteran 26 years old in Rio, believed she would retire after those Games. But last year, Schmitt began swimming to stay in shape. One thing led to another, and soon enough she was training for a competitive comeback in April.

“Watching the next Olympics, if I was sitting on the couch and never gave it a shot, I didn’t want that what-if,” Schmitt said at her return meet in Arizona, echoing what Phelps had repeated after he unretired in 2013.

On Thursday, Schmitt was the crowd-pleasing runner-up to Katie Ledecky in the 200m freestyle. The result wasn’t a surprise — Schmitt came to Irvine ranked second in the U.S. in the 200m free this year — but the time (1:55.82) was Schmitt’s fastest since her still-standing American and Olympic record at the London Games (1:53.61).

Immediately after the race, Ledecky threw all of her weight over the lane line to hug Schmitt, who was nearly dunked back under water. Before the race, Schmitt said she received a pep talk from Phelps, who sent her “paragraphs of messages.”

Phelps, watching from a VIP area with Kobe Bryant on Thursday night, began discussing his mental health in 2015.

Following his September 2014 DUI arrest, Phelps said he spent days curled in a fetal position, “not wanting to be alive anymore,” according to Sports Illustrated. In two years of retirement, Phelps has continued to be open about his depression and anxiety and, in May, partnered with a mental health campaign.

“[Phelps] just reminded me that swimming is such a small part of life,” Schmitt said of Phelps’ pre-race encouragement. “Yes, I love it. … But at the end of the day it is a sport. It doesn’t matter if you get first or last, you’re still loved by the same people and you’re still who you are.”

A small part of life, but a significant one.

“I can honestly say that swimming did save my life,” she said. “Having that regimen of coming to practice saved my life. … Swimming did not make me depressed. Other factors did it, and swimming actually saved me.”

Told that, Franklin said she felt a different relationship between swimming and depression.

“I think [my swimming] was more along the lines of causing it,” she said, noting that it became too much of an identity before she began struggling in races in 2015 and 2016. “There were a lot of days where getting out and going to practice was the absolute last thing I wanted to do, then lying in bed almost made me feel worse about it and more guilty and kind of led toward that spiral of emotions and negative feelings toward myself.”

Franklin, who still feels pain from shoulder surgeries in early 2017, said she was inspired by Schmitt and Phelps to reveal her mental-health struggles to a group of young female athletes last September.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the past three, four years is that, for me, the biggest reason why we go through what we go through during hard times or suffering is not only so we can grow from it, but so we can help others grow as well,” she said last week. “In order to do that, we need to be open, honest and vulnerable.”

Sumrall, née Lawrence, was a 2012 Olympian and earned world championships medals in the 200m breaststroke in 2013 and 2015. But it was at the 2015 Worlds in Kazan that Sumrall remembers feeling at her lowest.

“Like my world was coming down” she said Thursday. “It really devastated my 2016 year, trying to be at meets and be excited about the meets was so difficult.”

Sumrall was the U.S.’ fastest woman in the 200m breast in 2015 by 1.5 seconds, but she went into the Rio Olympic Trials ranked 10th in the U.S. for 2016 and finished fourth.

She didn’t retire but moved on from competitive swimming, relocating from Charlotte to Georgia and living with her fiance’s parents for a while not having a job.

“I went from being at a swimming pool every single day, having something very structured and scheduled to kind of being like, I don’t know what to do with myself, so I’m going to lock myself in a room,” she joked.

She married former swimmer Austin Sumrall in January 2017. One day, his old club team offered Lawrence some work doing breaststroke clinics. By the middle of the year, one of the club’s coaches left and Sumrall was offered a position teaching 8- to 13-year-olds. That led to her joining the senior group’s practices.

On July 28, 2017, Sumrall competed for the first time since the Olympic Trials. On Thursday, she clocked 2:22.06, her third-fastest time ever. The time would have earned bronze at the Rio Games.

On USA Swimming’s post-finals recap show, “Deck Pass Live,” hosts Amy Van Dyken-Rouen and Jeff Commings welcomed Schmitt to the set. They played Sumrall’s pool-deck TV interview where she thanked Schmitt. Schmitt wiped her eye.

“My voice is being heard,” Schmitt said separately. “That’s the biggest thing I can say out of any of this. I know sometimes when people say things, we think that it just goes out in outer space, but to know that saying something about mental health, that it’s OK to not be OK, it means the world if I can save one life.”

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U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials women’s event-by-event preview

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The top two finishers in all 26 events at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials will clinch Rio berths, which means Olympic and/or World champions will be left out of the exclusive team.

Michael PhelpsRyan LochteMissy Franklin and Katie Ledecky headline the meet in Omaha, Neb., beginning Sunday.

While they are favorites to make the Olympic team, they will be joined by many more Olympic medal threats.

For relays, the top six finishers in the 100m and 200m freestyles are in line to to make the Olympic team, too.

TRIALS: Broadcast ScheduleEntry Lists
PREVIEWS: Men | Women
FIVE KEY RACES: Men | Women

Here’s a glimpse at all 13 women’s events at the Olympic Trials:

50m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Jessica Hardy (seventh), Kara Lynn Joyce (16th)
2015 Worlds: Simone Manuel (eighth), Ivy Martin (26th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Madison Kennedy (24.45)
2. Simone Manuel (24.47)
3. Ivy Martin (24.62)
4. Natalie Coughlin (24.66)
5. Dana Vollmer (24.69)

Outlook: The fastest American woman right now is the 28-year-old Kennedy, who is vying for her Olympic debut. She’s never even competed at the World Championships, but won the 50 free national title last summer. The 19-year-old Manuel was the best American at the 2015 Worlds, where she was joined by Martin, 22.

100m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Missy Franklin (fifth), Jessica Hardy (eighth)
2015 Worlds: Simone Manuel (sixth), Missy Franklin (seventh)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Simone Manuel (53.25)
2. Missy Franklin (53.43)
3. Dana Vollmer (53.59)
4. Katie Ledecky (53.75)
5. Abbey Weitzeil (53.77)
6. Natalie Coughlin (53.85)
7. Margo Geer (53.95)
8. Lia Neal (54.01)

Outlook: There’s a serious youth movement taking place in the women’s 100m free. The top two seeds are 19 and 21 years old, respectively, and the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds are also 19. Manuel has the looks of being the next great American sprinter, but the new mother, 28-year-old Vollmer, boasts the fastest American time in the past year. Remember, the top six should make the team for the relay pool.

200m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Allison Schmitt (gold), Missy Franklin (fourth)
2015 Worlds: Katie Ledecky (gold), Missy Franklin (bronze)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Ledecky (1:54.43)
2. Missy Franklin (1:55.49)
3. Allison Schmitt (1:56.23)
4. Leah Smith (1:56.64)
5. Melanie Margalis (1:57.33)
6. Shannon Vreeland (1:57.38)
7. Katie McLaughlin (1:57.55)
8. Maya DiRado (1:57.70)

Outlook: It’s not often the reigning Olympic champ isn’t favored to even qualify for a chance to defend her title, but Schmitt will have to oust either the 2013 World champion (Franklin) or 2015 World champion (Ledecky) for an individual 200 free spot (top six likely for relay). Franklin would love a 200 free Olympic medal after finishing fourth in London, while Ledecky is a freestyle machine.

400m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Allison Schmitt (silver), Chloe Sutton (10th)
2015 Worlds: Katie Ledecky (gold), Cierra Runge (ninth)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Ledecky (3:58.37)
2. Leah Smith (4:03.33)
3. Cierra Runge (4:04.55)
4. Allison Schmitt (4:06.88)
5. Becca Mann (4:07.09)

Outlook: Here’s another event in which Schmitt may not even get a chance to return to the Olympics despite claiming a medal four years ago. The 400 is dominated by Ledecky, the reigning world champ with a top time nearly five seconds better than Smith. The battle will really be between Smith, Runge and Schmitt for that second berth.

800m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Katie Ledecky (gold), Kate Ziegler (21st)
2015 Worlds: Katie Ledecky (gold), Becca Mann (10th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Ledecky (8:06.68)
2. Becca Mann (8:21.77)
3. Cierra Runge (8:24.69)
4. Leah Smith (8:24.74)
5. Stephanie Peacock (8:25.89)

Outlook: This is Ledecky’s event and the others are just swimming in it. Again, the battle at Trials will be for second place because no one’s catching Ledecky. The 18-year-old Mann holds the second seed and will try to hold off Runge, Smith and Peacock.

100m Backstroke
2012 Olympians: Missy Franklin (gold), Rachel Bootsma (11th)
2015 Worlds: Missy Franklin (fifth), Kathleen Baker (eighth)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Natalie Coughlin (59.05)
2. Missy Franklin (59.38)
3. Olivia Smoliga (59.41)
4. Claire Adams (59.58)
5. Kathleen Baker (59.63)

Outlook: This is the 33-year-old Coughlin’s best shot at making a fourth Olympic team individually. Two of her 12 Olympic medals are golds from the 100 back (2004 and ’08), but she couldn’t advance past Trials in the event four years ago. Her toughest competition should come from Franklin, the reigning Olympic champion.

200m Backstroke
2012 Olympians: Missy Franklin (gold), Elizabeth Beisel (bronze)
2015 Worlds: Missy Franklin (silver), Elizabeth Beisel (13th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Missy Franklin (2:06.34)
2. Maya DiRado (2:08.19)
3. Elizabeth Beisel (2:08.33)
4. Lisa Bratton (2:09.31)
5. Elizabeth Pelton (2:09.36)

Outlook: Franklin’s best event – she holds the world record from her final race in London (2:04.06) – sees her with a top time nearly two seconds faster than DiRado, who’s looking for her first Olympic berth. She’ll have to beat Beisel, the Olympic bronze medalist from 2012.

100m Breaststroke
2012 Olympians: Rebecca Soni (silver), Breeja Larson (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Jessica Hardy (10th), Micah Lawrence (19th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Meili (1:05.64)
2. Lilly King (1:05.73)
3. Molly Hannis (1:06.16)
4. Sarah Haase (1:06.31)
5. Jessica Hardy (1:06.51)

Outlook: Meili is the reigning national champ, and her top time is third-best in the world since the end of 2014. King’s top mark in this event is the fourth-best over the same span. Less than a second back is Hardy, who seeks a second Olympic berth but first in a breaststroke event.

200m Breaststroke
2012 Olympians: Rebecca Soni (gold), Micah Lawrence (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Micah Lawrence (silver), Breeja Larson (19th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Micah Lawrence (2:22.04)
2. Laura Sogar (2:23.54)
3. Katie Meili (2:23.69)
4. Breeja Larson (2:24.16)
5. Lilly King (2:24.47)

Outlook: Lawrence has stepped in nicely to fill the void left by Soni, the retired 200 breast Olympic champion in 2008 and ’12. She’s moved from sixth at the London Games, to bronze at the 2013 Worlds and silver at last year’s worlds. Yet, Sogar is the defending national champ.

100m Butterfly
2012 Olympians: Dana Vollmer (gold), Claire Donahue (seventh)
2015 Worlds: Kendyl Stewart (10th), Claire Donahue (20th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Dana Vollmer (56.94)
2. Kelsi Worrell (57.24)
3. Kendyl Stewart (57.82)
4. Katie McLaughlin (57.87)
5. Claire Donahue (58.03)

Outlook: Vollmer followed up her Olympic title with a bronze in this event at the 2013 Worlds, but she didn’t compete in the 2015 Worlds after having a baby earlier that March. She’s back in form now, posting her U.S.-best time of 56.94 earlier this year. Worrell was a butterfly star in college, so much so that she was recently nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

200m Butterfly
2012 Olympians: Kathleen Hersey (fourth), Cammile Adams (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Cammile Adams (silver), Katie McLaughlin (sixth)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Cammile Adams (2:06.33)
2. Katie McLaughlin (2:06.95)
3. Maya DiRado (2:07.42)
4. Hali Flickinger (2:07.59)
5. Cassidy Bayer (2:08.03)

Outlook: DiRado has become America’s best in the medley races, but she could steal another berth in butterfly. Adams, a 2012 Olympian, is the favorite after taking silver at the 2015 Worlds, but she’s pushed by the 18-year-old McLaughlin, who’s been hampered by a neck injury suffered earlier this year on a training trip with her college team, Cal.

200m Individual Medley
2012 Olympians: Caitlin Leverenz (bronze), Ariana Kukors (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Maya DiRado (fourth), Melanie Margalis (seventh)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Maya DiRado (2:08.99)
2. Melanie Margalis (2:10.20)
3. Caitlin Leverenz (2:10.35)
4. Ella Eastin (2:10.54)
5. Madisyn Cox (2:10.75)

Outlook: While DiRado is a strong contender for multiple Olympic berths, she’s separated herself from her compatriots the most in the 200 IM. She missed a medal at the 2015 Worlds by .22 of a second. Joining her in that final was Margalis in her Worlds debut. She hopes to fend off Leverenz, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist whose best shot at a return Olympic trip is through this event.

400m Individual Medley
2012 Olympians: Elizabeth Beisel (silver), Caitlin Leverenz (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Maya DiRado (silver), Elizabeth Beisel (12th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Maya DiRado (4:31.71)
2. Elizabeth Beisel (4:31.99)
3. Caitlin Leverenz (4:35.46)
4. Becca Mann (4:37.04)
5. Katie Ledecky (4:37.93)

Outlook: This is the 23-year-old Beisel’s best shot at getting to a third Olympics. DiRado is the same age but looking to make her Olympic debut. She’s come on strong in the medleys since placing fourth in both the 200 and 400 at the 2012 Trials. Beisel and DiRado’s best times are nearly four seconds faster than the rest of their compatriots.

MORE: Olympic Swimming Trials broadcast schedule

U.S. men stunned in Worlds relay as streaks snapped

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The U.S. won three silver medals at the World Swimming Championships on Friday but saw its two longest gold-medal streaks in major international meets snapped in Kazan, Russia.

Great Britain’s James Guy overcame a 1.63-second deficit on Michael Weiss on the 4x200m freestyle relay anchor leg to win by .42. The U.S. had won the event at 11 straight major international meets dating to Ryan Lochte‘s first Olympic medal in the Athens 2004 relay.

Lochte led off the relay Friday and gave the U.S. a .54 lead. Conor Dwyer extended it to .85 and Reed Malone to 1.38 over Russia, but Weiss couldn’t hold off Guy, the individual 200m freestyle World champion. Had the U.S. had Michael Phelps, it might have been a different result.

“I know that we were missing some guys; I think everyone from each team is missing some guys,” Lochte told media in Kazan. “We came up short, but we’re going to definitely remember this and hopefully train our butts off all next year and hopefully not let that happen again.”

Australian Mitch Larkin ended a 20-year American run atop the men’s 200m backstroke, sweeping the 100m and 200m back golds in Kazan. Larkin clocked 1:53.58, followed by Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki (1:54.55) and Russia’s Yevgeny Rylov (1:54.60).

Americans Ryan Murphy and Olympic champion Tyler Clary were fifth and seventh, respectively. The U.S. had won the 200m back at 20 straight major international meets (Olympics/Worlds/Pan Pacific Championships), the last loss coming at the 1994 World Championships.

The U.S. owns 14 medals through six of eight days at the World Championships, leading the medal standings over Australia and China, which both have 11. The U.S.’ fewest medals won at a Worlds or Olympics in the last 50 years was 21 at the 1994 World Championships.

World Swimming Championships: Friday results | Broadcast schedule

In the 100m freestyle, Australian sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell took gold and bronze, respectively, to become the first siblings to share a Worlds individual podium.

Bronte, 21, clocked 52.52 for the victory. Swede Sarah Sjostrom took silver at 52.70. Cate, 23 and the 2013 World champion, touched in 52.82.

Americans Simone Manuel and Missy Franklin finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Franklin finished fifth in the 100m free at the 2012 Olympics and fourth at the 2013 Worlds, both in faster times than Friday. A U.S. woman has not won a Worlds 100m free medal since 2005 (Natalie Coughlin) and a gold medal since 1998 (Jenny Thompson).

Franklin came back 16 minutes later to win her 200m backstroke semifinal, qualifying third overall into Saturday’s final behind Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and Australian 100m backstroke champion Emily Seebohm.

American Kevin Cordes earned silver in the 200m breaststroke, .29 behind German Marco Koch. Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta took bronze in a bid to become the third swimmer to earn four straight World titles in one event. Cordes, 21, won bronze in the non-Olympic 50m breast earlier at Worlds.

Cordes has rebounded well from a disastrous Worlds debut in 2013, when he disqualified the U.S. men’s medley relay team by taking off .01 too early in the final. Cordes also was disqualified from the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships 100m breast final after trying to take off his goggles during the race because they filled with water.

In the women’s 200m breast, Japan’s Kanako Watanabe overtook Danish world-record holder Rikke Moller Pedersen in the final 50 meters, winning in 2:21.15. American Micah Lawrence earned silver, 1.29 seconds behind. Lawrence was the bronze medalist in 2013.

Pedersen, China’s Shi Jinglin and Spain’s Jessica Vall tied for bronze Friday. It’s the first time five swimmers won medals in an individual swimming event at an Olympics or World Championships.

In semifinals Friday, Nathan Adrian broke Cullen Jones‘ American 50m freestyle record to lead all qualifiers into Saturday’s eight-man final. Adrian, the Olympic 100m free champion, finished a disappointing seventh in the 100m free Thursday.

Tom Shields was the No. 2 qualifier into Saturday’s 100m butterfly final, behind Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and in front of defending World champion Chad le Clos of South Africa.

Earlier Friday, Katie Ledecky clocked the fastest qualifying time into Saturday’s 800m freestyle final. If she wins gold, she will become the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at a Worlds. She will also become the third swimmer to win four individual golds at a single Worlds, joining Lochte and Phelps.

10-year-old girl swims at World Championships

Women’s 100m Freestyle
Gold: Bronte Campbell (AUS) — 52.52
Silver: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 52.70
Bronze: Cate Campbell (AUS) — 52.82
4. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) — 53.17
5. Femke Heemskerk (NED) — 53.58
6. Simone Manuel (USA) — 53.93
7. Missy Franklin (USA) — 54.00
8. Shen Duo (CHN) — 54.76

Men’s 200m Backstroke
Gold: Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 1:53.58
Silver: Radoslaw Kawecki (POL) — 1:54.55
Bronze: Yevgeny Rylov (RUS) — 1:54.60
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 1:54.81
5. Ryan Murphy (USA) — 1:55.00
6. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 1:55.20
7. Tyler Clary (USA) — 1:56.26
8. Li Guangyuan (CHN) — 1:56.79

Women’s 200m Breaststroke
Gold: Kanako Watanabe (JPN) — 2:21.15
Silver: Micah Lawrence (USA) — 2:22.44
Bronze: Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN) — 2:22.76
Bronze: Shi Jinglin (CHN) — 2:22.76
Bronze: Jessica Vall (ESP) — 2:22.76
6. Rie Kaneto (JPN) — 2:23.19
7. Vitalina Simonova (RUS) — 2:23.59
8. Kierra Smith (CAN) — 2:23.61

Men’s 200m Breaststroke
Gold: Marco Koch (GER) — 2:07.76
Silver: Kevin Cordes (USA) — 2:08.05
Bronze: Daniel Gyurta (HUN) — 2:08.10
4. Andrew Stephen Willis (GBR) — 2:08.52
5. Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN) — 2:09.12
6. Dmitriy Balandin (KAZ) — 2:09.58
7. Anton Chupkov (RUS) — 2:09.96
8. Mao Feilian (CHN) — 2:10.02

Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay
Gold: Great Britain — 7:04.33
Silver: U.S. — 7:04.75
Bronze: Australia — 7:05.34
4. Russia — 7:06.89
5. Germany — 7:09.01
6. Belgium — 7:09.64
7. Netherlands — 7:09.75
8. Poland — 7:10.34