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Overcoming Insurmountable Hurdles


It seems that the USA is blessed with another naturally talented swimmer…Missy Franklin, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Swim team. Last week she set a world record in the 200 backstroke as well as winning four Olympic medals. A superstar is revealed and we are all in awe. Sheer athletic brilliance!

It’s evident that Missy has an incredible gift; a great swimming physique…at the age of 17 she is already 6.1 ft tall, has a size 13 feet and a wingspan of 6.4 feetand a really smart coach.  It is not her raw talent or her decade long dedication and practice that that I want to point out today but rather the unique decision made by her coach, Todd Schmitz last week when they discovered that the finals for the 100m backstroke was only 14 minutes after the 200m freestyle heat. 14 minutes.

It’s hard enough to just qualify to make it to the Olympic team, let alone then to participate in different events, but to have these events take place so close together, makes it almost impossible to triumph. No one has ever has so little time to regain their strength and prepare. Even Phelps admitted to having at least 30 minutes between any of his races.

Normally swimmers would make the short walk over to the warm-down pool to prepare for the next swim. But Todd was concerned about her lactic acid levels. Lactic acid is a powerful organic acid, and its accumulation can cause distress and fatigue during exercise. Todd needed to address that. They would petition the IOC to allow Missy to use the adjacent Diving Pool instead of going to the warm-down pool. So after the previous qualifying heat Missy climbed out of the competition pool, walked to the Diving Well, and began swimming back and forth for about 10 minutes. Only then did she go and join her rested competitors in the ready room before walking out to the competition pool.

The final was super fast – less that 60 seconds – and in the end the 17-year-old high school student took home the Olympic gold for the women’s 100-meter backstroke, ahead of former backstroke world record holder, Emily Seebohm from Australia.

Wow…and that most likely because of an unconventional but clever tactical move to have Missy continue swimming between races instead of going to the warm-down pool.

Don’t you just love forward thinking strategic lions!

Stefan Swanepoel

Stefan Swanepoel - Stefan Swanepoel’s life has been a “Serengeti journey”—from his birth in Kenya to schooling in Hong Kong and South Africa eventually, running a New York-based global franchise network with 25,000 sales associates in 30 countries. In all he has served as president of seven companies and two non-profit organizations.

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