Cal swimmers prepare for FINA World Championships

Karin Goh/Staff

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Cal’s swimmers are bracing themselves for the FINA World Championships — the biggest swim meet of the summer — which take place from Aug. 2 to 9 in Kazan, Russia, and where the program will be well represented, as the championships feature the largest contingent of current and former Bears of any summer meet.

With 21 stars such as Nathan Adrian, Ryan Murphy, Missy Franklin and Farida Osman representing Cal, the Bears competing at the championships will represent nine countries. In addition to the many Bears competing in the tournament, the USA men’s team will be coached by current Cal swimming and diving head coach David Durden, who will be the head coach of the U.S. team at the World Championships for the first time in his coaching career.

“These are athletes that are all heading over that have the potential to bring home medals for their home country, so any time you can go to a major international competition with the best in the world … and compete and come home with hardware, it’s significant,” Durden said. “(The focus) shifts from participation to performance at those meets, and I think that says a lot about the group that’s heading out there.”

The group comprises swimmers who have proven their talents on the NCAA and international stages time and time again. Murphy, who helped Cal capture the 2014 NCAA Championship and led the team to a second-place finish in the tournament this season, is competing for the USA in the 200-meter backstroke and is prepared for the challenge that the tournament will present. With NCAA victories in the 100 back and 200 back events, the 2015 College Swimming Coaches Association of America Swimmer of the Year is fresh off victories in those events with a dominating showing in the Santa Clara Grand Prix.

“I’ve had a really good season so far,” Murphy said. “I’ve been training really well, and that’s been translating to the swim meet. So I’m really excited to see how it all comes together when I’m really trying to hit that peak performance level.”

Among the plethora of Cal-affiliated swimmers starring on the women’s side, Franklin — who swam her last meet for Cal in March — highlights the team. Franklin has been racking up hardware recently and was decorated with the Honda Cup, an award given to the best female collegiate athlete in the country. Her accolades are growing hard to count, and she enters the World Championships with five titles in the NCAA championships in March to go with her four Olympic gold medals.

Her former teammate Osman, a rising junior, will be swimming for Egypt at the tournament. Osman set a new African continental record for the 50-meter butterfly earlier this summer at the Santa Clara Grand Prix and is palpably eager to put forth personal bests at the tournament.

“My goal is to get my best time in all of my races,” Osman said. “That’s my goal, and I really, really want to final in two of my races.”

All things considered, the hope of the younger Bears competing at the tournament is, regardless of performance, to come back to Berkeley with an improved skill set and approach to make them even better swimmers heading into the next collegiate season. Durden believes that, as iron sharpens iron, being around world-class athletes will only help some of the young guns at the tournament improve their abilities as swimmers.

“Not to be cliche, but any time you race the best, you come back with some experiences that can help our environment,” Durden said. “You’re around some high-level athletes, and I think our guys are not only attuned to what they’re doing and focused on that, but also have the ability to step back and look around and take some things from other athletes that they can add to their to toolbox so they can be … better, faster swimmers.”

Shiktij Dave is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].