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In search of magic, Bears head to NCAA championships

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VANESSA LIM | SENIOR STAFF

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Staff

MARCH 15, 2022

Heading into the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps aimed to achieve the greatest Olympic feat in history: eight gold medals in eight races. Perhaps the most difficult event in his gargantuan program was the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. For one, winning a relay depends on great performances from three other swimmers, but perhaps the greater obstacle was the French relay team, who was a heavy favorite.

Heading into the final leg of the race, it certainly looked like France would win it all as it was leading by nearly sixth-tenths of a second. Even American commentator Rowdy Gaines was doubtful as he stated: “I just don’t think they (Americans) can do it.” However, in the final 25 meters, everyone rose out of their seats as American anchor Jason Lezak drastically closed the gap and touched the wall first, raising goosebumps on every spectator who had just witnessed the greatest comeback in swimming history. 

Heading into NCAA championships in Atlanta, Georgia, Cal women’s swim and dive can certainly take inspiration from this relay as it comes into this race as a heavy underdog behind both Stanford and defending champion Virginia. Finishing second by quite a wide margin to Stanford at the Pac-12 championships was certainly no boost of confidence for the Bears. 

However, it is possible that the best of Cal has yet to be seen, as many of the swimmers were not fully tapered for the Pac-12 championships. Typically, swimmers will significantly cut down the intensity and distances of practices before the biggest meet of the season, otherwise known as “tapering.” 

When asked if she was fully tapered for Pac-12s, freshman Leah Polonsky said distance had been cut down just “a little bit, cause we wanted to be fully prepared for NCAAs, so we couldn’t do a full taper for Pac-12s and NCAAs.” 

With the start of NCAA championships Wednesday, March 16, the team is most likely fully rested by now and ready to perform at its highest level. 

Another factor that could potentially provide the Bears with a second wind is the presence of fans in the arena. At the 2021 NCAA championships, no spectators were allowed in the arena due to COVID-19 protocols. With restrictions lifted this year, it will be interesting to see how the swimmers feed off of the energy of a thunderous arena. 

“I think it’s exciting; only our seniors have been able to have an NCAAs with fans there,” said associate head coach Dani Korman. “I really think the energy the fans bring is exciting, and I think it amplifies the energy of the meet.” 

While the roars in the pool may not be as loud as the ones that rippled the waters during the 2008 Summer Olympics, they may certainly help the Bears climb to the top of the podium.

That iconic relay reaffirms the phrase in swimming that, as long as you have a lane, you have a chance to win. The Bears will certainly have a lane and nothing to lose, but whether they seize victory remains to be seen.

Ivan Wu covers women’s swim and dive. Contact him at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

MARCH 30, 2022


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