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Gators gearing up for Olympics; Lochte and Phelps dueling at practice

The Beijing Games are right around the corner and Gator Clause has already caught the Olympics fever. The Miami Herald has always been one of the nation's leading sources for Olympics coverage. Here at Gator Clause, you'll find all the Olympics coverage you can stand as it relates to the University of Florida. Today's blog includes news about Gators and current Olympians Ryan Lochte, Dara Torres, Caroline Burckle and Bradley Alley in addition to general news about the U.S. Olympics swim team. Enjoy...   

GAINESVILLE -- Today Gator Clause takes a break from football and goes inside the huddle of the U.S. Olympics swim team. Three former Gators are headed to Beijing with Team U.S.A. and UF swim coach Gregg Troy, one of the sport’s most respected voices, is an assistant.

Swimming_logoTeam U.S.A. is currently in California, training for The Games at Stanford University before shipping out to China around the beginning of August. The following news and information is from a recent interview with Troy, who is in California with Team U.S.A.

Here’s an idea of how respected Troy is in the swimming world: It’s one thing to be named an assistant to an Olympics team. It’s a whole different kind of honor to be the direct assistant to individual medley superstars Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. Troy directs Lochte and Phelps every day and, according to Troy, the rivalry between the two swimmers plays out in the form of healthy competition.

“Every day I’m watching the two best guys ever in the individual medley go head to head,” Troy said. “It’s a pretty interesting couple of hours.

“One of the reasons I’m here is to keep [Lochte] on track but at the same time we’re looking at some of the other guys to swim the medley relays. [Lochte] and Phelps are doing a lot of training together right now, so we’re looking for them both to get better but at the same time their both competitors. It brings the best out in both of them and makes it a good training situation.”

Gregg_troyA little background on Troy [PICTURED] before we get into the meat of the interview. In his career, Troy has instructed more than 50 Olympians, over 200 All-America swimmers and has coached athletes to more than 150 U.S. and international records. He took over UF’s women’s program in 1998 and became head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams in 1999.TROY: Ryan loves to race and he loves to compete. Having someone in front of him becomes a driving force for him. They’re both good for one another and I think Michael is especially good for him because it gives him something to shoot for.

Troy has served as head coach of the U.S. swim team several times (World Championships in 2001 and Pan American Games in 1999). In short, the guy is a better swim coach than Urban Meyer is a football coach.

Troy was instrumental in sculpting former Gator Ryan Lochte into the world-class sensation he is today. If there was no Michael Phelps, then Ryan Lochte would be the cover boy for the U.S. Olympic swim team.

“Right now if there’s no Michael Phelps, then [Lochte] is the fastest guy in the world in three events,” Troy said. “He’s the second fastest guy in another event and he’s in the top five in three or four others. So, if there’s no Michael Phelps, then [Lochte] would be exactly in the same dynamic that Michael is in.”

RyanpageLochte [PICTURED] and Phelps will form the white-hot core of an immensely talented U.S. men’s team in Beijing. The U.S. men are the overwhelming favorites to win it all.

“I think the men’s team certainly has the potential to be the best one ever,” Troy said. “There are solid people, world record holders and a tremendous amount of international experience in every event. From that dynamic the men’s team has the opportunity to be dominate."

The U.S. women’s team will not be considered the favorite in Beijing. That honor will go to the Australians.

“The women’s team is unique in that there is a tremendous age difference from a 15-year-old to a 41-year-old, rookies to experienced people,” Troy said. “The women will have a little more challenge than the men because the Australian women have a tremendous team. The women face some bigger challenges than the men to be a success.”

The women’s team features two former Gators. Caroline Burckle recently completed her eligibility at Florida and was named the NCAA Swimmer of the Year. Dara Torres, a Broward County native, is now 41 years old and recently qualified for her fifth Olympic Games.

Burckle75570276Burckle finished fourth at the U.S. trials in the 200 free, qualifying her for a relay. She set five school records while at UF.

“Caroline Burckle is one of the most improved women swimmers in the United States,” Troy said. “She just missed making the [U.S.] team in two events. She’s very fresh. She’s the type of women who, if she continues, will do very well."

Burckle has always been somewhat of a late bloomer. She was slow to develop as a youngster. In high school, Burckle didn’t dominate until late in her senior year. At the collegiate level, Burckle made her largest strides as a senior.

“She’s got a lot of natural talent and she’s just starting to figure this sport out,” Troy said. “She’s still maturing and developing as an athlete. She’s more coachable now and I think she’s just now getting the strength to swim at this level.”

OK, this is getting kind of boring. Let’s change up the format to a Q&A…Here’s the rest of the transcript from my interview with Troy.

GATOR CLAUSE: Torres will compete in Beijing in the 50-meter freestyle and the relays. What’s her secret?
TROY: “What makes [Torres, PICTURED BELOW] such and inspiration is her articulate approach to what she does,” Troy said. “She doesn’t leave stones unturned. She is always looking at other avenues of training. She’s looking at ways to be successful.
Torres“There’s a little bit of a misconception that she has been training hard. She has probably been putting in as much time as she ever did but now she’s doing it in lots of different manners.”

GATOR CLAUSE: What’s her cross-training regiment include?
TROY: “She does everything from pilates, weight workouts, stretching, yoga and five to six days a week of very intense single sessions where she is really zeroing in on specific things. When you combine those things with years of experience, she’s tough to beat.”

GATOR CLAUSE: Torres won her first Olympic gold way back in 1984 at the Los Angeles Games. So, you’re saying she knows what she’s doing when she’s up on the blocks?
TROY: “She knows what it takes and she has always been one of the best, so technically she’s refining her skills where there are not many flaws.”

Lochte_phelpsGATOR CLAUSE: How is the rivalry between Lochte and Phelps [PICTURED, LOOKING JACKED] helping both swimmers during training?

GATOR CLAUSE: Would Ryan be Phelps if there was no Phelps?
TROY: Right now if there’s no M.P. then he’s the fastest guy in the world in three events. He’s the second fastest guy in another event and he’s in the top five in three or four others, so if there’s no M.P then he’s exactly in the same dynamic that Michael is in.

GATOR CLAUSE: Ryan went through a transformation early in his career at UF. Was he a tough nut to crack in the beginning?
TROY: “I’d say we butted heads a little bit when he was younger. Not so much of Ryan being headstrong. It was more about getting him to understand what it takes to be the best.”

GATOR CLAUSE: What’s Lochte like away from the pool?
TROY: “He’s one of those guys that can turn it on with the task at hand and he can also turn it off and leave it there. So it’s kind of good in the standpoint that it doesn’t get all consuming.”

RyanlochteGATOR CLAUSE: How is Lochte’s lively personality spicing up practice these days?
TROY: Sometimes at practice it’s very much like practicing with a little kid. Sometimes out of the clear blue sky he’ll take two steps and just jump off the blocks and just take off. That whole aspect of him — the skateboarding and the scooter accident and all the things that happened to him — it’s just all a part of his make-up. He’s just a little bit of a risk taker. You have your risk takers throughout this level because you’re trying to do things that have never been done. So you can’t be afraid to take challenges.”

GATOR CLAUSE: Is there a Beijing skateboard policy in place for Ryan?
TROY: “We have no skateboards on the trip and we have don’t plan on looking for any.”

GATOR CLAUSE: UF swimmer Bradley Alley is a name swimming fans in Broward and Miami-Dade recognize. He dominated in high school and was named Broward’s high school athlete of the year. Can we expect anything out of Alley in Beijing as he suits up with Team Barbados?
TROY: “It’s a little easier to make a foreign nation’s team than the U.S. team. So, Bradley had a little easier route to the Games. But he’s in a situation where we’re seeing some real good things from him in training. He’s probably a little behind Ryan in understanding what it’s going to take to be a success at that level. But by the same token, we’ve seen big improvement. I think we’re going to see some pretty good things from him.”


OK, that was a pretty long read but I think it was worth the time. Again, Gator Clause will follow all the current and former Gators during The Beijing Games.


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