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Dec 23 14

16 Breakfast ideas for the young swimmer

by ZwemZa
No matter what age you are, it is very important to eat healthy food. It is never late to start eating healthy food and improve you eating habits.

No matter what age you are, it is very important to eat healthy food. It is never late to start eating healthy food and improve you eating habits.

To eat, or not to eat, breakfast? This is the question young swimmers may struggle with as they scurry out the door to make morning practice or catch the bus and get to school on time.

For growing kids and teens, starting the day with breakfast has its benefits. Breakfast consumption has been linked to better nutrient intake, mental function and academic performance. Skipping breakfast has it drawbacks. A 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 1999-2006) survey of children aged 9-18 looked at self-reported breakfast eating patterns and the types of breakfast foods eaten. Researchers found that 20% of children and 35% of teens skipped breakfast, 36% children and 25% teens ate cereal, and the rest ate a variety of different breakfast foods. Interestingly, breakfast skippers had higher body mass indices (BMIs) and a higher prevalence of obesity, while cereal eaters had the most favorable nutrient intakes and weight scores.

We have less data for young athletes and their breakfast consumption patterns, particularly about what constitutes the perfect breakfast amount, and composition. However, it is known that carbohydrate-based foods are needed as fuel for athletic performance, and protein sources help build and repair muscle tissue. So it makes sense that young athletes may benefit from the healthy habit of a daily, balanced breakfast.To make getting breakfast on board for your young swimmer easier, check out these breakfast ideas categorized by preparation method:

Refrigerate overnight

1. Peanut Butter and Chocolate Swirl Overnight Oats

2. Greek Yogurt Parfait: Layer vanilla Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola in a glass or Mason jar.


3. Nut butter sandwich on whole grain bread: Make this the night before. Add jelly if you like.

4. Trail mix: Use a commercial trail mix or make your own with nuts and dried fruit.

5. Nut butter and fresh fruit: Can you say banana or apple and peanut butter? Vary your nut butters with almond, cashew and try sunflower seed butter too. There are many small convenient packets of nut butter available.

6. Gorp: Mix dry cereal, nuts, raisins/other dried fruit, carob or chocolate chips together in a baggie.

7. String cheese and whole grain crackers

8. Hard-boiled eggs

Prep In 5 Minutes…

9. Smoothie: ½ cup 100% juice or nectar; ½ cup milk; 1 cup frozen fruit; ¼- ½ cup Greek yogurt

10. Bagel sandwich: Layer ham and cheese on a bagel. Zap in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm.

11. Egg and cheese on an English muffin: fry an egg; toast the muffin; assemble with a slice of cheese into a sandwich.

12. Breakfast burrito: Take a whole grain tortilla, fill it with scrambled egg or tofu, add cheese, avocado, leftover veggies and salsa, and roll it up.

13. Walking waffle: Toast two whole grain waffles, spread with nut butter or cream cheese, top with fresh fruit or jam, and assemble as a sandwich.

14. Instant oatmeal: Mix hot water and oats in a to-go coffee cup; top with walnuts and blueberries. Don’t forget the spoon!

Freeze Ahead

15. Egg and veggie cups: Make these over the weekend and freeze them. Heat them in the microwave in the morning and grab a piece of fruit as a side.

16. Breakfast cookies: Try these Pumpkin breakfast cookies or these dried fruit and peanut butter cookies. Toss in a milk box or 100% juice alongside.

Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a childhood nutrition expert and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School ( and author of Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete (July 2015). She is the creator of Just The Right Byte (

Dec 23 14

L’Equipe honors Katie Ledecky as “Champion of Champions” for 2014

by ZwemZa
Katie Ledecky of Bethesda, with the FINA Best Female Swimmer trophy after winning four golds at the world championships in Barcelona in August, was named the USOC Sportswoman of the Year - Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Katie Ledecky with the FINA Best Female Swimmer trophy after winning four golds at the world championships in Barcelona in August, was named the USOC Sportswoman of the Year – Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder Katie Ledecky was honored by the French newspaper L’Equipe on Friday as the women’s international “Champion of Champions” for 2014 for her record-setting season.

“I am very honored to receive this award and international recognition from L’Equipe, and I’d like to thank its journalists for this prestigious accolade. I also would like to thank my family; my coach, Bruce Gemmell; my teammates on the Nation’s Capital Swim Club and the USA National Team; and everyone at my high school, Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, for all of their support in making this a wonderful year,” Ledecky said. “I would also like to thank USA Swimming for all it does to make America’s swim team the best swim team in the world.”

Ledecky was unable to attend Friday’s live, televised award ceremony in Paris due to her school and training schedules. The presentation of Ledecky’s award was filmed in New York last month prior to USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Awards.

She is the first swimmer to earn L’Equipe’s international “Champion of Champions” award, which has been presented annually since 1980. This year marked the third occasion that top male and female athletes were each honored, with tennis star Serena Williams earning the women’s award in 2012 and 2013. Past winners of the award include the likes of Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt, Roger Federer and Lionel Messi. In addition to the international award, L’Equipe also honors France’s top male and female athletes on an annual basis.

The 17-year-old Ledecky posted five world-record swims last summer. She set world records in the 400- and 1500-meter freestyle events on back-to-back nights at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, and in Australia became the first woman to win four individual gold medals at a single Pan Pacs, as she topped the podium in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m free and added gold in the 800m free relay. At the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships, Ledecky won titles in the 200m, 400m and 800m free. Earlier this month at the AT&T Winter National Championships, Ledecky won three events and set an American record in the 1650-yard free.

She was named USA Swimming’s Athlete of the Year for the second straight year and won three Golden Goggle Awards, Female Athlete of the Year, Female Race of the Year and Relay Performance of the Year. Ledecky, a two-time USA Swimming Scholastic All-American, recently signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Stanford University.

USA Swimming

Dec 22 14

My wish list for SA sport for 2015

by ZwemZa

joffers1My wish list for SA sport for 2015

* A new Sports Minister who really knows about sport and spends less on dinners, awards and parties (a former employee in the Department of Sport and Recreation told me that he has never seen spending like this)

* A Sports Minister who doesn’t hog the media limelight

* The bubble bursts on all the corruption

* Freedom of the press

* Investigative sports journalism becomes a culture

* Provincial and National team selections on merit

* Athletes to get proper funding

* More athletes to be on OPEX funding and reimbursements to be paid on time

* Forensic audits: SASCOC, Sports Trust, Swimming South Africa and SA Rugby

* Lifestyle audits: Sports Ministry, Department of Sport and Recreation and Lottery distribution agency members

* Bafana Bafana alleged match fixing scandal from 2010 to be properly investigated and the guilty parties to be brought to book

* No SA sports awards and that R60 million is used for development and given to the minnow sports who get little to no funding

* Transparency with all tenders

* Less maladministration and nepotism across the board

* A Department of Sport and Recreation that answers emails and the tough questions

* Bafana Bafana wins AFCON (been a long time since 1996), Proteas and Springboks win their respective World Cups

* SAFA and PSL bury hatchet and work together

* PSL and corporates to bus kids to stadia on weekends for a free football experience (could double some of the match attendances)

* Corporate sponsors stop turning a blind eye to blatant corruption

* Get more former sportsmen and women involved at the highest level, coaching and administration

* ASA (Athletics), BSA (Boxing), SSA (Swimming) and VSA (Volleyball) to clean house

* A blue/clean pool for SA Swimming National championships

* CSA to do away with “unofficial quota” system

* Ernie Els wins the Masters

* A SA player in the top 20 on both the ATP and WTA tours

* Lions win the Super 15

* TV programme exposing corruption in SA sport

* All administrators and officials travel economy class

* SASCOC not to spend millions on their 11th birthday and just to get a cake with candles (a save of around R10 million)

* Joffers to get married (okay, now you asking for too much)!

I’m allowed to dream

Sports Fire Daily

Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy

Email Graeme at:

Disclaimer: ZwemZa encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on ZwemZa are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of ZwemZa.

Editor: SportsFire Daily will not be published from 22 December–2 January but please feel free to send any comments or letters to the editor which will be kept for future publication. Wishing all our sponsors and readers happy holidays and thanks for all the support in 2014. SportsFire Daily will continue to report without fear or favour in 2015.


Dec 22 14

Darian Townsend : Proud to be an American

by ZwemZa


Long before he was a U.S. citizen, Darian Townsend considered himself an American.

Having lived in the states since 2004 – the same year he won a relay gold medal at the Athens Olympics for his home country South Africa – Townsend has been immersed in and influenced by American customs and culture for the last decade.

He’s become a big fan of American sports, especially basketball, hockey and football, and has adopted other American practices and interests as well.

And even though he only recently became a U.S. citizen (2013) as well as a member of the USA Swimming team (2014), he’s been surrounded by American swimmers a third of his life, and as far as he’s concerned, he’s American through and through.

“It didn’t take long for me to feel like I belonged here in the States, even when I was still a citizen of South Africa,” said Townsend, who trains and lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I was a member of the 2012 South African Olympic team, but I didn’t feel like I belonged any more. Since 2004, I’ve felt like I belonged more to this society than my own. Now, it’s official.”

Townsend got his feet wet (literally) in a USA Swimming cap earlier this month when he swam prelims in several relays for the United States at FINA Short Course World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

At the start of the 400 freestyle relay, the United States had the lane next to his former teammates from South Africa, and while he said he was very nervous, it was a great honor to represent his new home country for the first time at such a prestigious meet.

“Before, I wore the green of South Africa, and here I was wearing red, white and blue for the first time and it was fantastic,” said Townsend, who also had the honor of being selected as the flag bearer for the United States. He also won medals for the United States in the 100 freestyle relay, 100 mixed medley relay, 400 medley relay and 800 freestyle relays (prelims).

“Most of the guys on the South African team are new and I didn’t know them, but I did see their coach and he said a friendly hello to me. No hard feelings. But I was overwhelmed with the reception I received from my U.S. teammates – many of whom I’ve known for years. It was just a great experience.”

While his change in country allegiance has caught the attention of U.S. media, back in South Africa, Townsend said he hasn’t received nearly the same interest.

As far as he’s concerned, the total media blackout about him – and swimming is a major sport in South Africa – is surprising, but he’s ok with the low-key interest. It makes his returns back to visit family all that much easier.

“There’s been no backlash or negative response about me becoming a U.S. citizen, and that means my visits are uneventful,” said Townsend, who comes from a swimming family, including his sister, who swam for Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas, before returning back to South Africa.

“My parents support me as does my sister, and my former teammates, especially Roland (Schoeman), support me largely because many of them went to college and trained in the states and understand my decision,” said Townsend, who spent two years at the University of Florida before transferring to Arizona.

“In fact, there is sort of a South African hub at Arizona – swimmers still competing for South Africa internationally but who train in the states. It always felt strange to me to be living and training in America – essentially being American – and then going back to compete for South Africa. Now, I do it all for my new home country.”

And while he is very happy and proud to call himself an American and don the American flag cap at international meets moving forward, Townsend said the process hasn’t been without its share of internal conflict, second-guessing and a bit of sadness.

“I swam in three Olympics for South Africa, and my family is still there, so I still have a connection, and that made my decision complicated,” said Townsend, whose mom and dad both swam, his mother holding many Zimbabwe national age group records that have since been broken by Olympic champion Kirsty Coventry. “But ultimately, this is where I belong. It’s where I’ve belonged for a long time.”

The next big meet for Townsend is next summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto followed by Olympic Trials in 2016 – his first as a U.S. citizen.

He said the process of making the South African team was relatively simple because he was one of the top three or four freestylers in the country. It was almost a slam dunk.

But now that he will be competing for a spot on the best, deepest swim team in the world, he knows the prospect of making the next – and most likely his last – Olympic Team will be particularly challenging – and he’s couldn’t be more excited.

“It’s one of things I’m most looking forward to, being able to compete against the best and make the best team in the world,” said Townsend, who plans to get into college coaching when he’s done competing. “I know it won’t be easy, but that’s what makes it all worth it. Just to have competed at U.S. Olympic Trials will be enough for me whether or not I make the team.

“I owe so much to the coaches who have impacted my swimming and life over the years, starting with my club coach, Wayne Riddin, and more recently Frank Busch. Swimming has taught me many life lessons that I know will help guide me through the rest of my life.”

Dec 22 14

Chad le Clos ascends to swimming throne

by ZwemZa
Chad le Clos

Chad le Clos

Two years after emerging as the crown prince of the pool at the London Olympic Games, Chad le Clos has finally ascended to the throne.

The halfway mark to the next Olympics is usually considered a quiet year for athletes but, in Le Clos’ case, it was a record-breaking one.

On the back of unprecedented success at the Fina World Cup series where he won 27 gold medals from as many finals, Le Clos would still go on to even greater success in the months to come.

Le Clos received the honour of being named Male Swimmer of the Year by the sport’s governing body Fina – the first non-American to receive this title.

Affirming his new-found status, Le Clos did not disappoint as he sizzled at the Hamad Aquatic Centre in Doha, Qatar, at the World Short Course Championships.

The 22-year-old bagged the 200m freestyle title before demonstrating that he was the undisputed king of butterfly. On the final night of the gala, he became the first swimmer to win the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly at a world championship.

Victories in his specialist stroke brought his medal tally to four golds – the biggest medal haul ever by an individual South African swimmer at the global showpiece.

His achievement surpassed the three golds won by Ryk Neethling at the 2006 edition in Shanghai.

Cameron van der Burgh

Cameron van der Burgh

Olympic gold medallist and world record-holder Cameron van der Burgh nabbed South Africa’s fifth medal, sharing second place with Britain’s Adam Peaty in the 50m breaststroke.

Going into the global gala, Van der Burgh had recovered from a shoulder injury and narrowly missed out on a podium spot in the 100m breaststroke.

Earlier in the year, swimming once again proved to be the most valuable code for the South Africans at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

They produced a dozen of the country’s medals, with Le Clos winning four individual medals and three in relays.

In doing so, Le Clos equalled Australian legend Ian Thorpe’s record of seven medals at a Games.

Le Clos’s haul in Glasgow brought his total to 12 medals stretching over two Commonwealth Games which included five medals from Delhi four years ago.

Also at the Games, Van der Burgh, swimming one of the most tightly contested strokes, relinquished his 100m breaststroke crown to Peaty to finish in second place.

However, he pipped the youngster to successfully defend his 50m breaststroke title in a new Games record time of 26.76 seconds.

Sebastiean Rousseau

Sebastiean Rousseau

Twenty-three-year-old Sebastien Rousseau was also one of the standout swimmers for South Africa at the Games, winning two individual medals – bronze for the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley.

He also featured in the silver-medal winning 4x200m relay freestyle team and 4x100m medley relay team to boast four medals.

Stalwart Roland Schoeman drew the curtain on his Commonwealth Games career, having accumulated 12 medals during his five appearances.

The Games also saw the emergence of a new crop of young freestyle sprinters who formed an integral part of the relay teams’ success there.

Karin Prinsloo

Karin Prinsloo

Calvin Justus, Clayton Jimmie and Caydon Muller – all under 20 – earned the 4x100m freestyle relay team a spot in the final where Muller, Schoeman, Leith Shankland and Le Clos won the silver medal.

The swimming team also won bronze medals in the 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley, along with a silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s top women’s swimmer Karin Prinsloo made a stellar start to the year where she was the country’s star swimmer at the Aquatics Super Series in Perth.

She claimed five medals – 200m freestyle gold, 400m freestyle silver, 100m freestyle bronze – setting three national records before winning the bronze medal in the 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle relays.


Dec 22 14

Swim champion Cate Campbell scoops awards

by ZwemZa
Cate Campbell

Cate Campbell

Cate Campbell has swept the major awards at Swimming Australia’s annual awards ceremony.

Commonwealth Games star Cate Campbell continues to scoop the pool, winning the major gongs at Swimming Australia’s annual awards.

Campbell, who won three gold medals in Glasgow followed by four gold at the Pan-Pacs in August, was a clear winner as the Australian swimmer of the year – retaining the award she won in 2013.

The Brisbane freestyler also received the peer-based swimmer’s swimmer award and the Georgina Hope Foundation Olympic Program Swimmer of the Year prize on Monday night at Brisbane City Hall.

Not to finish there, Campbell shared the Speedo Golden Moment award with her record-smashing 4x100m freestyle relay teammates from Glasgow – sister Bronte Campbell, Melanie Wright (nee Schlanger) and Emma McKeon.

It capped a superb year for the 22-year-old who continued to reign supreme in the sprint events at the major international competitions to hold the fastest 50m (23.96) and 100m (52.62) times in the world for 2014.

Outdoing her Glasgow feats, Campbell won the 50m and 100m freestyle races at the Pan-Pacs on the Gold Coast as well as the 4×100 freestyle and medley relays.

Simon Cusack was named Australian coach of the year thanks to his success with both Campbell sisters plus Christian Sprenger and Tommaso D’Orsogna.

Rising long-distance star Mack Horton, who took 1500m silver at the Commonwealth Games, was recognised as the AIS discovery of the year.

Other notable awards went to open-water swimmer Jarrod Poort and Paralympic program swimmer Grant Patterson.


Dec 21 14

Another Swim NZ restructure puts coaches’ jobs on line

by ZwemZa
New Zealand Swimming coach David Lyles.

New Zealand Swimming coach David Lyles.

Dysfunction deepens at Swimming New Zealand, with half the high-performance coaching staff set to be axed in yet another overhaul of the Crown’s beleaguered Olympic investment.

With the Rio Olympics just over 18 months away, the Sunday Star-Times can reveal Swimming NZ is preparing another elite coaching restructure – just two years after its last attempt at a reshuffle in the wake of a dire London Olympic campaign that cost taxpayers more than $7.4 million.

Top coaching jobs, including that of head coach David Lyles – only appointed in May last year, are on the line.

In the past month, the Sunday Star-Times has revealed how world champion and top Olympic medal hope Lauren Boyle has been seven months without a specialist coach. Associate Minister of Sport Murray McCully is now taking an interest.

It’s the same national sport body that in 2012 was subject to a third, major governance investigation in four years – an investigation paid for by taxpayers – and saw a raft of recommendations rock Swimming NZ, including the mass resignation of the board.

Christian Renford, the Swimming NZ chief executive who was appointed only last year as part of sweeping administration changes, yesterday failed to respond to repeated requests for an interview.

However, Lyles did respond – confirming Swimming NZ’s elite coaches have been told by Renford that a restructure is imminent.

Lyles says that while Renford has dropped the bombshell, he has so far supplied few details, other than what amounts to four elite coaches having to reapply for two jobs in the new year.

“It’s Christian who told us. They’re looking at restructuring the high-performance coaching,” Lyles told the Star-Times.

“It’s not 100 per cent clear what exactly they’re looking at, what they’re looking for, or, the reasons behind what they are doing. But as far as I’m aware, there’ll be two positions advertised. Other than that, I don’t have a massive amount of information.

“It’s only been put to us this week. It hasn’t really sunk in, I haven’t got my head around the situation and it’s a little unclear.

“From my point of view, the whole point of coming in to Swimming NZ was to help restructure it. You’re chasing the right man [Renford] and you’re speaking to the wrong one.”

Aside from Lyles, Kiwi swimming legend and double gold medallist from the 1996 Atlanta Games Danyon Loader is now faced with reapplying for a coaching job he was appointed to less than a year ago. Gary Hurring and Kelly Bentley, who run the Wellington high-performance system, are the other two coaches affected.

While Swimming NZ this year increased its coaching numbers, the number and quality of athletes those coaches have been working with has gone down.

Boyle is in Australia while the nation’s top male swimmer, Glenn Snyders, permanently relocated to California last year.

And top male freestyler Matt Stanley has recently moved to Matamata, away from Swimming NZ’s high-performance centres.

Over the past fortnight Crown entity High Performance Sport New Zealand has slashed swimming’s elite funding by $100,000, meaning the organisation will receive $1.4 million in 2015.


Dec 21 14

Shane Gould: are the Aussies a nation of swimmers?

by ZwemZa
Shane Gould

Shane Gould

Swimmer Shane Gould became an Olympic gold medallist at the age of 15 at the Munich Olympic Games.

While swimmer Shane Gould retired from competitive swimming in the 1970s, her interest in swimming has remained strong. Recently she has been researching the relationship Australians have to swimming.

Her husband, Milt Helms, is an elite swimming coach and co-founder of the Swedish Centre for Aquatic Research. Here, they share their thoughts on how we learn to swim and the limitations of the swimming pool.

“The learn-to-swim experience for many people is very memorable because it is a life and death thing.”Shane Gould


On learning to love the water…

Shane Gould: I had a bad accident when I was about 18 months old and poured boiling hot water on myself and [then] I reacted to a small pox injection, so I got quite sick. My parents used to take me down to the beach at Parsley Bay and Rose Bay in Sydney Harbour, and then we moved to Fiji when I was three years old.

In my father’s words, I came alive in the water. It became water therapy and he just kept taking me there until I was independent. Then my older sister used to accompany me to the pool, and we just spent hours and hours, although we’d get in trouble if we were home after 5:00 pm.

It started from an accident, but it was also an accident of birth in some ways, in that I was born in Australia and many Australians love being in the water and around the water.

On how swimming is taught today…

Shane: I think the idea of swimming has become a lot more regulated, not only the facilities but learn-to-swim is much more structured and has kind of gone back to its roots a bit, which were militaristic methodologies.

For example, in Hobart there was a guy who taught swimming for the military in the ‘40s. He had a five-day program and then he adapted that for children.

Many Tasmanian children learnt to swim in this militaristic style. I think they didn’t really like [the experience] much at all. A lot of fear was not really addressed and it was terribly cold water, so it was a pretty unpleasant experience.

Milt Helm: [Swimming lessons have] kind of removed those feral and natural learning experiences … If your only experiences are limited to regimented and programmed lessons, I think the way to naturally adapt to the water and become less fearful is sometimes skipped over.

On how are attitudes to swimming are shaped…

Shane: The learn-to-swim experience for many people is very memorable because it is a life and death thing. Breathing is compromised—you don’t know when you’re going to be able to get a breath again, and you’re also quite unstable in the water. That can create very deep memories and that’s what we’re finding with our program in Sweden, working with children who are fearful [through the Swedish Centre for Aquatic Research].

Milt: We have issues with breathing and we have issues of stability in the water and these are pretty serious things and if those issues aren’t resolved early in the process … then anything you learn on top of that is built on a foundation of fear that’s just around the corner.

On rethinking swimming pool design…

Shane: My Masters [research] was about public space, the swimming pool as a public space and seeing how teenagers use that space with the view to looking at how swimming pools were designed and how they functioned.

We’re finding that because they’re concrete boxes with straight lines and quite uninviting edges, many young people … teenagers in particular, will prefer to go to a natural water location rather than being in that very rigid space.

[They’re] uninvited in some ways because the pools these days are built for lap swimmers, competition swimmers and for families with young children so the teenagers, I felt, were excluded.

On swimming with your head out of the water…

Shane: We’ve just been in Sweden and we saw a lot of people … doing that head-out-of-the-water swimming and that’s great but when you get water inside your mouth and around your eyes and in your nose and up your nose, it can be very distressing but you have to go to it. When you go in the water you are going to get water in your eyes, in your ears and up your nose.

Milt: The stroke is learned … so you can see and you’ve got your mouth out of the water so you can breathe. If you learn to do that at a swimming pool then you don’t get water in your mouth, you don’t experience a lot of unpleasant things. If you try and take that same style of swimming into the ocean then you’re certainly going to run into some issues.

On swimming for the next generation…

Shane: I think that swimming is quite different now for this next generation. A lot of it is because there hasn’t been compulsory swimming lessons at school; it’s either been reduced down to one or two years, perhaps in grades four and five.

Those children are missing out on wonderful opportunities … that feeling of being weightless in the water, of having the physical exertion of being adventurous, being a bit wicked [or] finding a place to go skinny dipping.

Milt: And just experimenting with moving, there’s nothing more quintessentially natural than the water, and you’re inside it and you’re immersed in it, it’s all around you. There’s nothing else like it.

Natasha Mitchell

Dec 20 14

Claim of rapes roils swim community

by ZwemZa
Photo from Randall Smith's LinkedIn page.

Photo from Randall Smith’s LinkedIn page.

Sitting in a coffee shop in Southampton, Monica Strzempko of Westfield recalled when her now 20-year-old daughter, Anna, was a happy, popular 13-year-old who was good at most everything — especially swimming. She had Olympic aspirations and was training hard with the Greater Holyoke YMCA Vikings club, an elite team that drew swimmers from across the region.

But 2½ years later, Anna had become depressed and anorexic. She could not sleep alone. In December 2010, a doctor ordered her to stop swimming on the team due to her anorexia.

“I remember being surprised that she wasn’t disappointed,” Monica Strzempko said.

She wasn’t disappointed, Strzempko knows now, because quitting swimming meant no more private meetings at the YMCA with her then coach, Randall Smith. It wasn’t until years later that Anna told her family that Smith had beaten and raped her in the storage room next to his office roughly 20 times for 2½ years, starting when she was 13.

“There were signs,” Monica Strzempko said. “I missed them.”

She knew her youngest daughter was going through something. But she never dreamed that Smith, then the 55-year-old who had coached Anna since she was 10 and hinted he might get her to Olympic Trials, could brutalize her daughter in the storage room next to the fitness center where she worked out while Anna was at practice.

“I was literally on the other side of the door on the treadmill while he was raping her,” Monica Strzempko said.

Photo taken by Jesse Burke from Anna Strzempko's Facebook page

Photo taken by Jesse Burke from Anna Strzempko’s Facebook page

Smith, 61, of Holyoke, denies the allegations and has never been charged with a crime. The Gazette left a message at Smith’s home and sent him a letter seeking his comments on the allegations against him, but got no reply. His attorney, Michael Aleo of Northampton, said his client won’t talk to reporters until USA Swimming , the governing body for the sport in America, reaches a decision about whether to ban him from coaching.

The Strzempko family did not want Anna to have to testify in court, so they never asked prosecutors to press charges.

Nonetheless, Anna’s story has had an impact locally and across the country. Smith was fired, although the YMCA has refused to say why.

The allegations were investigated by Holyoke Police, the state Department of Children and Families and USA Swimming, which closed but then this year reopened an inquiry into the allegations against Smith. Its National Board of Review held a hearing Nov. 17 as part of the process of considering whether to ban Smith from coaching.

The same week as the hearing, USA Swimming settled out of court with the Strzempkos. Anna posted on her blog that she was given $400,000 for pain and suffering.

Also last month, Outside magazine published an article about Anna and the prevalence of sexual abuse in the world of elite swimming. In response, the Greater Holyoke YMCA released a statement to reassure members that it fired Smith and that it has taken steps since then to prevent abuse and protect children.

In testimony Smith gave to investigators at the Department of Children and Families in 2012, Smith said he never touched Anna and never had private meetings with her in his office, though he told investigators that he did talk to her when she came to his office. Other former swimmers and YMCA staff told police in 2012 that they could not believe Smith would do such a thing. With the exception of one former swimmer, they all said meetings never happened behind closed doors. The department initially supported Anna’s allegations, but after Smith appealed, a DCF official ruled in November 2012 that the agency did not have enough evidence to support the allegations against him.

It isn’t clear whether USA Swimming has ruled on whether to ban Smith. USA Swimming’s spokesman, Scott Leightman, said in an interview Nov. 23 that no decision had been made. But after being asked the same question Dec. 17, he said he could not comment on whether a decision had been made because all decisions are confidential until there has been an opportunity to appeal.

Smith could still technically coach swimming, but Aleo says he isn’t working. “He’s unemployable at the moment,” Aleo said, because of the allegations against him.

Smith filed a complaint in April with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, alleging that he should not have been fired. An MCAD spokesman confirmed the commission was investigating to see if there is probable cause to move Smith’s complaint forward.

Swim community

Meanwhile, Smith’s supporters in the area have ostracized the family and accused Anna of lying about being raped to get attention, according to Strzempko.

In a Facebook message, Anna declined to speak with the Gazette, saying she had no interest in making herself a target of the people in western Massachusetts “who have been torturing my family and me for years.” She said they have called her names on the Internet and scrutinized her mother’s parenting skills. “We’ve lost friends and been outcast.”

But nationally, Anna’s story has renewed discussion about the problem of sexual abuse in swimming. It was a major scandal back in 2010 when several media outlets reported on court cases involving coaches abusing swimmers and criticism that USA Swimming failed to crack down on the abuse.

Strzempko and the family’s lawyer, Jonathan Little of Indianapolis, said the assaults are part of the historic culture of elite swimming. In general, the swimming community has for years accepted relationships between coaches and their swimmers, as long as the relationship seems consensual.

They say that coaches in competitive programs have nearly unlimited power over the young swimmers. The athletes fear and idolize them and try desperately to please, all while dreaming of the Olympics, she said.

“The more competitive they are, the more at risk they are,” Strzempko said.

Strzempko said her daughter, now a student at Wesleyan University, is continuing to heal. “She has good days and she has bad days. Writing has been her therapy,” she said.

Starting in the summer of 2013, Anna began to post poems and pieces on a blog about the alleged abuse. This was around the time that, according to Strzempko, Anna came clean about the abuse. She had told family in 2011 that Smith had touched her with his fingers, but in 2013, she said he had beaten and raped her multiple times.

Her blog posts weave together violent scenes — her coach hitting and raping her and leaving her on the storage room floor — with recollections of times she struggled to get past guilt, suicidal thoughts and other lasting effects. Her mother said she has post traumatic stress disorder.

Anna Strzempko started swimming at the YMCA at age 10. She was good, her mother said, and started competing on the club’s national team.

Smith was her coach. He demanded faster times and threw clipboards, Strzempko said. In blog posts, Anna described being simultaneously afraid of Smith and desperate to please him. She called it “the master/subject mentality between male coaches and young, fast female swimmers.”

Anna would later say that in August 2008, right after the national competition, she met with Smith alone in his office to talk about her future. She wrote in a blog post that he angrily questioned her commitment to the sport, ordered her into the adjacent storeroom, and beat and raped her.

Strzempko said that while the assaults continued from when Anna was 13 to 16, her daughter gradually became more reclusive, distanced herself from friends, and started climbing into her parents’ bed every night.

“Her personality changed. She said, ‘I don’t want to live anymore,’” Strzempko said. And she was dropping weight too fast. “I kept thinking everything was because of the eating disorder,” Strzempko said.

Her doctor ordered her to stop swimming in December 2010 because of her anorexia. She seemed relieved, Strzempko said.

In October 2011, when Anna was a 16-year-old junior at Suffield Academy and working the desk at the YMCA, she told a male friend that she had been sexually assaulted by her former coach. The friend called Strzempko, who confronted her daughter about it. She said Anna told her she couldn’t talk about it.

Strzempko said her impulse was to isolate and protect her daughter, and not to press her for details. “But when I saw the 11- and 12-year-olds walking into practice, I felt I had no choice,” she said. “I went home in December and said, ‘I’m a prisoner with this information, you have to tell me what happened.’ And a few days later, she did.”

But Strzempko said that what Anna said at the time — that Smith had kissed and touched her inappropriately — was not the full story.

Strzempko said that looking back, she can see that Smith was a predator who “groomed” his victim with a mix of control and praise. “He was an expert. He knew who pick. Anna likes to please. She likes to do good. She likes to be special,” she said.

When Anna told her she was molested, Strzempko reported it Dec. 29, 2011, to YMCA staffers, who immediately put Smith on paid administrative leave.

The Greater Holyoke YMCA

The Greater Holyoke YMCA

The Strzempkos had no idea where to start, but a friend who was a police detective in another community suggested Anna give a statement to police so that it was on record for any investigation that might follow.

The Gazette reviewed the statement Anna gave to Holyoke Police Detective Jennifer Sattler on Jan. 15, 2012. Anna told the detective that during private meetings in his office, Smith violated her with his fingers roughly five times between 2008 and 2010.

Strzempko recalled that Sattler later told her on the phone that her daughter didn’t act like a “regular victim.”

“She said, ‘I think we should give her a lie detector test,’” Strzempko said.

Strzempko said that shocked her, but she really didn’t care what Sattler thought. The statement was on record, which was their goal, since they did not want authorities to press charges. “We were reeling. She was hardly starting to heal. The police were the least of my worries,” Strzempko said.

Holyoke Police Capt. Denise Duguay disputed Strzempko’s account of Sattler’s behavior, in a statement to the Gazette. She said Sattler, like the department’s other trained investigators, knows there is no such thing as a person acting like an abuse victim, “as sexual assault survivors are individuals who respond in a wide range of human emotions with no two being exactly alike.”

Duguay said that in addition to Anna, Sattler interviewed approximately 10 others about the allegations and “provided an opportunity for an interview to the accused,” although he did not take her up on it. She also said the Strzempkos were informed that Anna could change her mind about pressing charges at any time.

Because of that, the department considers the case to be open, though inactive, and denied a Gazette request to view documents related to it.

The Gazette informed Duguay about how Anna had changed her story from the one she gave police — that she was touched inappropriately — and later said she was beaten and raped.

Duguay said she could not comment on the specifics of this case, but said that it is fairly common for a sexual assault victim to minimize crimes or delay giving details about what happened. She said that could be due to embarrassment, shame, or denial, as well as fear of not being believed or of the reactions or judgment of loved ones, the offender, and others.

State review

After the Greater Holyoke YMCA reported the allegations to law enforcement, the Department of Children and Families started investigating. The YMCA never did its own investigation, telling DCF staff that the organization “was not skilled to do so,” according to DCF documents that Strzempko provided.

The Strzempkos refused to let DCF staff interview Anna, explaining that they did not want to put her through it, so they arranged for Sattler to send Anna’s police statement to DCF.

The main DCF investigator on the case, Amy Coelho, interviewed Smith at the department’s Holyoke office Jan. 17, 2012, with his attorney present.

According to the DCF report on the investigation, Smith denied touching Anna. He told Coelho that he only had meetings to discuss goals with swimmers in the conference room with the doors open while other people were in the building. He said the doors to the conference room were always open during the two meetings with Anna he could recall. When Coelho asked if Anna ever came to his office, Smith replied, “Sure, she came to my office.”

The investigator and her supervisors agreed in January 2012 that there was reasonable cause to support the girl’s allegations. But that decision was overturned later that year after Smith appealed. A DCF official who presided over the appeal hearing May 23, 2012, ruled that the investigation was insufficient and that Smith seemed credible, while Anna’s statement was vague.

Strzempko said that on the advice of their lawyer, her family did not participate in the hearing of Smith’s appeal, so his was the only side told at the hearing.

Linda A. Horvath, an attorney for DCF who served as hearing officer and decided the appeal, wrote in her decision that she had to question Anna’s credibility because of the “multiple versions of alleged abuse.” Strzempko said that the “multiple versions” were because she misunderstood Anna’s initial disclosure and then gave incorrect information to the DCF and the YMCA about where and when the alleged assaults took place.

Horvath considered testimony that six of Smith’s former swimmers and fellow coaches gave to Sattler, something DCF did not when coming to the earlier decision. And perhaps most damning was the fact that Coelho’s supervisors approved supporting Anna’s allegations even before they had read the swimmer’s statement. Documents used in the appeal indicate that the initial decision to support came Jan. 18, 2012, almost two weeks before Detective Sattler sent the statement to DCF Jan. 31.

Horvath also believed after Smith’s testimony that it was his decision to take Anna off the swim team after she tried to rejoin in April 2011 but lost too much weight again. Horvath wrote that she may have falsely accused Smith because he “denied her the chance to be part of a nationally ranked swim team.”

Strzempko sharply disputed that, repeating that it was her decision to take Anna off the team both times.

The YMCA fired Smith in July 2012, after his appeal hearing but before the decision in his favor. Strzempko said she and her lawyer spoke to the YMCA’s executive board in May, challenging them about keeping Smith on the payroll despite the allegations, and she believes that led to his firing.

“The Y did all the right things on paper,” Strzempko said of the organization’s suspension and firing of Smith. “How the Y failed us was they slammed the door in Anna’s face.”

Strzempko said the YMCA’s lawyers advised staff not to talk to the Strzempkos, and their donation banners were taken down. Most surprising was that most of the swim team families closed ranks and stood by Smith, she said.

“When I told the other mothers, I expected support, I expected them to say, ‘What can I do?’ and they all ran in the opposite direction with a few exceptions,” Strzempko said. “One of the mothers said, ‘she does wear her suit higher up on her hips than the other girls.’”

It was easier for them to believe that Anna was lying than that their coach was a child molester, she said. “There has been nothing in this for Anna but shame and isolation,” Strzempko said. “That she did this for attention, which was the charge of her former teammates, is ludicrous.”

Some were upset because they felt that without Smith’s coaching, their children may not earn college scholarships. “That’s what swimming is like. That’s what they would do for their coach,” Strzempko said.

The Gazette left messages over three days for families who were part of the Vikings swim club at the time, seeking responses to Strzempko’s statements. The only one who commented to the Gazette was Lisa Manzi of Holyoke, who was a member of the YMCA’s Parent Advisory Committee at the time of the allegations. Her children were swimmers who were several years younger than Anna.

Manzi said she takes guidance from the fact that Smith has never been charged or found to be guilty of the charges. “When Randy was removed, I thought he was removed until it could be investigated — you have to protect kids no matter what. I had faith that the Holyoke Police and the district attorney would do due diligence,” she said. “But he was never arrested and we never heard anything …. If I don’t see them come forward with charges against someone, I’m going to hope they’re innocent.”

She said that Anna could very well be telling the truth, but she can’t help but worry that the allegations are false.

“I loved Randy as a coach. I felt like he dedicated his life to this program,” she said. “And if no one who investigated found anything, why is it still coming up? I feel like he’s being tried in the court of public opinion.”

Even if USA Swimming decides to ban Smith, Manzi said she would still want to know what evidence they had to come to that conclusion. “I know they have to protect privacy and there are legal issues, but we’ve had no information on it,” she said.

The Strzempkos are still considering suing the YMCA, their attorney said.

Strzempko said the organization should have done more to protect her daughter and other swimmers. “Why is this guy having private meetings with kids? Why wasn’t anyone policing that?” she asked.

Little, the family’s lawyer, said that compared to USA Swimming, the national YMCA has been “cleaning up faster” and making changes to protect athletes.

In a message to YMCA members after the Outside Magazine article, Greater Holyoke YMCA Executive Director Kathy Viens said the YMCA keeps children safe by not allowing staff to be alone with them, doing background and reference checks on staff and training staff and volunteers to recognize and report abuse.

Viens said she could not answer questions about the case because of the threatened litigation.

USA Swimming actions

Strzempko said she first met with Little in December of 2012 in Boston to talk about forcing change at USA Swimming. But he said a suit could take years, so the Strzempkos decided not to pursue legal action at that time.

“They had faith that USA Swimming would do something,” Little said in a phone interview from Indianapolis. The organization did interview people involved, but eventually closed the investigation without banning Smith.

It isn’t clear why USA Swimming reopened the case earlier this year. Strzempko and Little both said they could not discuss it because of the terms of the recent settlement, although Strzempko did say that USA Swimming never contacted her about reopening the investigation — she heard about it from her lawyer. Scott Leightman, a USA Swimming spokesman, said he also could not discuss it.

Little read Anna’s blog posts and contacted the family again this spring, and they agreed he should represent them, Strzempko said. She is adamant that the family’s goal is not money. They got a lawyer to force things to change at USA Swimming, she said. “It’s the only way to get them to listen to you,” she said.

She said her daughter did not participate in Smith’s hearing before USA Swimming in November because she did not want to see him or hear his voice.

Meanwhile, Smith’s attorney, Aleo, said that Smith made a strong case in front of USA Swimming’s National Board of Review at his hearing Nov. 17.

“We presented very strong evidence that Randall Smith did not engage in any behavior that the swimmer alleged,” Aleo said. “Neither the swimmer nor anyone who ever spoke with the swimmer testified at the hearing. Mr. Smith testified on his behalf and presented other evidence to support his innocence.”

USA Swimming will not announce its decision about whether to ban Smith. His name will either appear on the public list of 110 others who have already been banned — overwhelmingly for sexual misconduct or other illegal activity — or it won’t. He could also be suspended, Leightman said.

Smith’s name has not appeared on the list, which was last updated on the USA Swimming website Dec. 3. If a decision is made to ban a coach, the ruling would not be made public until after an appeal period.

Strzempko said that with all this going on, her daughter is still trying to be a normal college student, but the effects of her alleged abuse “have turned her life upside down.”

Strzempko was reluctant to talk to a Gazette reporter, saying she was not sure what the point would be because Anna did not want any more attention. But in the coffee shop Dec. 1, Strzempko said she was willing because it is important for parents to hear the story, be vigilant and know the signs of abuse.

“Listen to your kids,” she said. “It can happen to you.”

Rebecca Everett

Dec 20 14

U.S. swimmer Phelps sentenced to 18 months probation for drunken driving

by ZwemZa
Phelps said he was "looking at a much brighter future" after a 45-day spell in a rehabilitation clinic

Phelps said he was “looking at a much brighter future” after a 45-day spell in a rehabilitation clinic

American swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, pleaded guilty on Friday to driving under the influence of alcohol and received 18 months of supervised probation and a one-year suspended jail sentence.

The 18-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested for drunken driving early on Sept. 30 after speeding and then crossing the double yellow lines inside a Baltimore tunnel, police said.

“The last three months of my life have been some of the hardest times I’ve ever gone through, some of the biggest learning experiences I’ve ever had,” Phelps, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie, told reporters.

“I’m happy to be moving forward. I’ll continue to grow from this.”

Phelps, 29, was clocked by radar at around 1:40 a.m. traveling 84 miles per hour (135 kph) in a 45-mph (72-kph) zone, police said, adding that he blew a .14 on a Breathalyzer, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 in Maryland.

He faced up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“I hope we don’t have this conversation again and I’m optimistic that we won’t have this conversation again,” Judge Nathan Braverman told Phelps during his sentencing.

Among the observers in the courtroom were Phelps’ mother, Debbie, his two sisters, and close friend Ray Lewis, the retired 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens.

Police said an officer followed Phelps’ 2014 Land Rover onto northbound Interstate 95, through the Fort McHenry Tunnel, and pulled him over just beyond the tunnel’s toll plaza.

The drunken-driving arrest was the second for Phelps, who has spent most his life working feverishly in the pool but admits he likes to have a good time when not competing.

Following his arrest, Phelps, who is eyeing a spot on the U.S. team for the 2016 Olympics, was suspended for six months by USA Swimming and barred from representing the United States at the 2015 FINA World Swimming Championships in Russia.

Phelps said he completed a 45-day rehab program at an Arizona treatment center following his arrest, continues aftercare in Baltimore, and will participate in Alcoholics Anonymous.

“What I did was wrong, and I made a bad mistake,” Phelps told Braverman. “I’m looking forward to having a much brighter future than I had in the past.”

Phelps was charged in Salisbury, Maryland, in 2004 for drunken driving. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of driving while impaired in exchange for 18 months’ probation.


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