Over the years, Cal’s swimmers have triumphantly showcased their skills at college competitions in the United States, and many of them have been so successful that they’ve helped place the Cal men’s and women’s swim teams at the top of swim programs in the nation. Two current Bears and four alumni helped reaffirm Cal’s dominance this past week at the Pan American Games, where they competed in Toronto and earned a total of 10 medals.
Of the Cal-affiliated swimmers who once honed their craft at Cal, 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin recorded the highest medal count with four. The alumna began her medal haul Tuesday, when she earned silver in the 100-meter freestyle with a 54.06 finish. The alumna then followed up her performance as a member Team USA, which earned second in the 4×100-meter freestyle with a 3:37.01. On Friday, she returned to individual action and competed in the 50-meter freestyle, where she came in at 24.66 and picked up a bronze medal. Coughlin capped off her impressive campaign Saturday in the 4×100-meter medley relay by helping the United States win gold with a 3:56.53.
Cal alumna Kennedy Madison, Coughlin’s teammate in the freestyle relay final, earned silver alongside the 2008 Olympic medalist, but she was unable to outdo Coughlin in the freestyle final. Madison placed fifth with a 24.80 to end her campaign.
Last — but certainly not least — of the female alumnae is 2012 Olympic medalist Caitlin Leverenz, who contributed to the U.S. effort with two gold medals. She captured her first medal Thursday, when she came out on top in the 400-meter individual medley in 4:35.46. The alumna secured her second medal Saturday in the 200-meter individual medley by finishing ahead of her U.S. teammate Meghan Small with a 2:10.51.
Among the swimmers currently enrolled at UC Berkeley, rising sophomore Noemie Thomas represented Canada and earned a silver medal as a result of her 58.00 finish in the 100-meter butterfly. Thomas ended her tournament campaign in the 4×100 medley relay — a competition in which Coughlin also featured. She helped Canada finish ahead of Brazil to secure a silver medal with a 3:58.51 finish.
Thomas’ fellow Canadian representative, Cal alumnus Jeremy Bagshaw, contributed to his country’s campaign with his performance in Wednesday’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay. Team Canada finished in 7:17.33 to secure a bronze medal, behind first-place Brazil and second-place United States. Bagshaw also competed that day in the 200-meter freestyle and in Friday’s 400-meter freestyle, where he finished seventh and fifth, respectively.
Long Gutierrez, a rising junior, rounded out the Bears’ efforts in Canada, as he represented Mexico in Wednesday’s freestyle relay final. Mexico ended the relay in 7:22.12 to finish fifth. As a representative of Mexico in the 100-meter butterfly Thursday, Gutierrez ended his contributions in individual competition at the tournament by placing fifth in 52.58.
The current and former Bears’ performances at the Pan American Games serve as an indication of the power that the Cal men’s and women’s swim programs possess. The impressive results also suggest that the United States will likely not have to worry about its swim team’s showings on the international level for a long time to come.