04/30/2012 4:45 PM
Photo by Graham Hughes
For about as long as I can remember, the 200-metre individual medley has been my "best event." The 200 IM was the first event I ever won at the Canadian championships, the event that got me into an Olympic final, and my first individual international medal.
That's why people are so surprised that I've decided not to swim it at the Olympics this summer. For about as long as I can remember, the 200-metre individual medley has been my "best event." I've always swam in a lot of events, and I've had meets where a different race was my most successful of the competition (the 100 freestyle at the NCAA championships, for example), but the 200 IM has always been consistent for me.
The 200 IM was the first event I ever won at the Canadian championships, the event that got me into an Olympic final, and my first individual international medal. That's why people are so surprised that I've decided not to swim it at the Olympics this summer.
For those of you who have followed my blog for the past year, this may not come as a huge shock to you. Last summer, I attempted to swim both the 100-metre backstroke and the 200 IM at the world championships, even though the semifinal of the backstroke was less than 10 minutes before the final of the IM. This ended in disaster: I failed to qualify for the final of the backstroke, and came dead last in the final of the IM after having my eyes set on the podium in both.
Needless to say, after seeing that the schedule for London presented another conflict between these two events, I was fairly certain I would have to choose. I love swimming lots of events, but there's something I love more: standing on the podium. If I want my chance at a medal, I have to narrow my focus.
A dreadful end
I expected the decision to be a harder one, but after comparing both races from the Canadian Olympic Trials last month, the choice was obvious: my best chance at a medal is in the 100-metre backstroke.
My biggest problem in the past with my backstroke was consistency. Sometimes I would have a great race in mid-season, but then fail to repeat the performance even when I was tapered. I had no idea why I would swim fast when I did. Now, after working with my coach Randy Bennett and our biomechanist Dr. Allan Wrigley on the technical and tactical aspects of my race, this is no longer an issue. When I'm standing behind those blocks in London, I'll know what I need to do to swim fast. This is the most powerful tool I can have once I set foot on the pool deck in London.
Furthermore, my 200-metre IM was dreadful in Montreal. Well, 150 metres of it was not so bad, but my breaststroke leg was terrible. At the bare minimum, a world-class 200-IMer needs to split 39 seconds for the breaststroke leg, preferably 38, with the best breaststrokers in the field splitting 36 seconds. In Montreal, I didn't even break 40 seconds.
This is even worse in light of the fact that I've been working so hard on my breaststroke since last summer! When I finished my race, I was shocked at how slow my time was, and when I saw my breaststroke split, I was blown away - in a bad way. How can so much hard work lead to a worse result?
This only helped with my decision to drop the 200 IM from my schedule: I lack the knowledge of how to fix this part of my race, plus I have less than four months to do so. Why would I waste time trying to improve my weaknesses, when I could instead focus on my strengths?
Bye, bye, baby
I thought that the idea of dropping the 200 IM would terrify me. I've always referred to this event as "my baby" But, to tell you the truth, since I lack confidence in my race plan, it has become harder and harder for me to enjoy the race. Most of the times I've thrown up in the ready room happened right before the 200 IM. I don't have the same confidence and swagger as the Julia who steps on the blocks for the 100 freestyle, or jumps into the pool for a backstroke race.
The IM has been my "finals guarantee" at so many international meets, but at the biggest meets like world championships and Olympics, no matter how hard I work I've been stuck with seventh and eighth placements. I'm not going to continue to put my hopes on an event that has become stagnant. It's time for me to branch out, take a risk, and get on that podium once and for all.
So, "my baby," I'll hold onto the good memories we had: winning a bronze at the Commonwealth Games, placing second in the semifinals at the Olympics, and qualifying for the final against all the odds.
But I'm not going to miss you. I've got bigger and better things on my plate this summer.