La Tourette's Sights On Summer Games

By Caroline Martin

It would be the "culmination of a dream" said Stanford senior swimmer Chad La Tourette.

The Olympic Games.

"It's what every kid dreams about and making it would be opening the door to another opportunity," La Tourette said.

La Tourette knows exactly what to expect this year though, as he competed in 2008 for a shot at the Beijing summer Olympics at just 19, postponing his freshman year at Stanford.

Barely missing the cut and taking third, he was not able to travel on to Beijing and compete.

"It was difficult. At first it felt like I did it all for nothing," said La Tourette.

He continued to travel and train at different sites, but with an eat-sleep-swim daily routine and his entire schedule focused on training, he longed to regain balance.

"It was nice to clear my head for a while, but sometimes it's hard not to get bored or antsy training all the time," said La Tourette.

Four years later, Chad has been anything but bored with national titles, record-setting times and international medals. With a growing legacy both with the Cardinal and across the world, La Tourette has proven tough to beat.

As a freshman, sophomore and junior he took home the Pac-10 Conference title in the 1650 freestyle. Each year he also placed in the top two at NCAA's, taking home the 1650 freestyle national title as just a sophomore.

La Tourette is the all-time top performer in the history of Stanford in the 1650 free and in the top ten for the 500 free and 1000 free.

Before the 2011-2012 season had even begun, La Tourette was in the top 50 of all-time NCAA point scorers for Stanford.

As a team, Stanford has won the Conference title for 30 straight years.

One would think La Tourette would be feeling the pressure to continue this streak, but it appears it comes only from within.

"I put pressure on myself," said La Tourette. "Coaches want to see you do well, but they're also very focused on the team effort which takes pressure off. It's just swimming fast and having fun with your friends," he said.

While many college athletes decide to forego their senior season to train and focus on the Games, La Tourette decided to stay. With the consistent practice and competition schedule on the collegiate level, training remains challenging and interactive.

"The ability to race so much in the season is valuable training that will make short and long course better," he said. "I can consistently focus on things I need to get better on."

La Tourette has gained four years of powerful competition and training, both on collegiate and international levels.

"It's been four years of blood, sweat and tears and it means a lot to represent the program," said La Tourette. "I respect my coaches a lot and it's an honor to represent them and the values they've instilled in me."

A native of Mission Viejo California, the water has never been very foreign to La Tourette. He has always been around the pool, from attending summer league with his family as a kid to water sports with friends.

"In terms of competitive swimming, growing up there [in Orange County] facilitated it," said La Tourette. "In Mission Viejo, it's a natural option."

After breaking his leg playing youth soccer he started to really focus his attention on swimming and at about age 12, began swimming competitively. Hardly after starting his swimming career, Stanford was in the picture.

"[Stanford] has always been a dream school for me," said La Tourette. "I got to see it when I was young, probably when I was ten, and definitely since I was eight I wanted to go there."

His dream of the Olympics wasn't any different. "A lot of kids say 'I want to go [to the Olympics]', but I took it seriously before 2008," said La Tourette.

With another opportunity to fulfill his dream and make the Olympic team, La Tourette's mindset has changed since 2008.

"You have more confidence," La Tourette said. "To race here [at Stanford] and have international experience, it helps me measure against the guys. Knowing it's a long road to catch up keeps sights high," he said.

Diverse training practices and formats, both club and school, have also prepared him differently.

"The biggest thing is integrated training here at Stanford," said La Tourette. "In preparation for last time it was just my club. I get a lot out of balancing aspects from each program," he said.

After the NCAA Championships, he plans to train with his club team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Relatively close to home and free for national team athletes, La Tourette will have a few more unique meets, but his focus will remain on training properly.

The Olympic Trials, to be held right after the NCAA Championships, send to the Olympic Games the top two in each event.

"There's always nerves, but I try to enjoy the journey," said La Tourette. "Hopefully I'll be at the top of my game when they roll around."

Looking back on his wildly successful four years at Stanford, it's the camaraderie that he will take with him.

"The times we won stand out, but the most fun times are with my teammates outside the context of the pool," said La Tourette. "It's the group you're with all the time. You're going to grow up with them. It's the growing up experiences," he said.

La Tourette leaves a humble legacy and team-centered attitude with the program.

"The most important, is feeling fortunate that you can do this every day and work hard as a team," he said.

The opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic games are only six months away, yet a long road and some fierce competition still lies between Avery Aquatic Center in Stanford California and the Aquatic Centre in Hyde Park, London.

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