Pac-12 swimmers make big haul in London
By Ann Killion
LONDON - The eight days at the pool ended Saturday night in triumphant fashion for not only U.S. swimmers, but for Pac-12 swimmers. The American men's and women's medley relay teams both won gold medals, with Pac-12 athletes contributing in big ways.
USC's Rebecca Soni and Cal's Dana Vollmer combined with Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt to set a world record.
And Cal's Nathan Adrian swam the anchor freestyle leg of the men's race which will go down in history. It was Michael Phelps' final race, completing his record medal haul of 18 golds and 22 overall medals.
"Any time you have the team behind you there's a little more pressure," Adrian said. "And going last on top of that, it's a difficult position, but I'm pretty comfortable with it at this point. I knew I could throw down a pretty decent split, so I was just trying to enjoy it.
"It was great to get out and give these guys a big hug and give Michael a big high-five and say, 'You did it buddy.'"
Adrian did it, too. Earlier in the week, he was something of a surprise winner in the 100 freestyle, beating reigning world champion James Magnussen of Australia.
"It's pretty unbelievable," Adrian said that night. "I don't like to put pressure on myself, so I don't like to think of it as the Olympics. It took me a minute to realize it. It was a moment of disbelief."
Adrian wasn't the only athlete fulfilling his Olympic dreams. Pac-12 athletes took home 22 individual medals at the pool. The U.S. team claimed 30, China 10 and France seven (though countries count relay medals as one).
Also contributing to the record haul were coaches Teri McKeever of Cal and her assistant Dave Salo of USC. After the women's relay team won on Saturday night, the swimmers credited McKeever - the first woman to coach the U.S. team - with creating a team atmosphere where the athletes could thrive.
"Women handle emotions differently and handle stress differently," Vollmer said. "I've had coaches come up to me before the race and say, 'You can get the world record. You have to have a perfect turn.' I get so stressed out. Teri comes up and says, 'You've done the work. You're ready to do this. Have fun.'"
"All of us want to win. We know the honor of what it means. Sometimes before the race it's not what we need to hear."
McKeever said she worked hard to create team chemistry.
"I've spent my entire career trying to do that piece," said McKeever, who has turned Cal's collegiate team into a national powerhouse. "I didn't know if I could do it in three weeks, but I think we achieved a level of that."
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