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Former U.S. Olympians dive into clinic at Watertown High


Ian Crocker and Christine Marshall have traveled the world, won Olympic medals in swimming, and spent a majority of their lives training and making personal sacrifices.

But really, they’re no different than the group of 63 young swimmers they worked with Saturday at the Watertown High School pool.

Marshall and Crocker were the instructors for the Mutual of Omaha Breakout Swim Clinic, hosted by the Watertown YMCA Blue Sharks. The event lasted close to five hours and was attended by a wide range of swimmers, from ages 6 to 19.

The clinics are held throughout the country just about every weekend. Crocker said that there are nearly 20 professional swimmers involved, and they visit close to 100 cities per year. The program last came to Watertown in 2006.

Crocker and Marshall went over different stroke techniques, held races, shared advice and personal experiences, answered questions, signed autographs and posed for pictures.

“When I was a kid, I kind of felt like when I saw a swimmer on TV that they must be super-human,” Crocker said. “So to be able to come out and meet the young kids and show them that we’re just normal people, we just found something we like and worked hard at it. And hopefully, that lets them dream a little bit more.”

“Team USA puts up all these pictures and calls us American heroes, but we’re really all just like them,” Marshall added. “We all have to start somewhere.”

Crocker is a five-time Olympic medalist who won gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2004 games in Athens. He stressed the importance of patience and setting goals to young swimmers, noting that it took him three years of training to shave one second off his best time in the butterfly.

Marshall won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the only time she made the national team. She shared stories of her troubles growing up, and discussed how swimming can change a person’s life.

“It’s given me so many opportunities to not only compete, but to travel the world, meet new people, make friends and do things like that, to excel in life,” Marshall said. “It gives you all the skills in life to really be great, the time management, the work ethic, everything that goes into swimming. It definitely is a lot of work, but it’s definitely going to set you up for success in the long run.”

The duo discussed a prank pulled on Michael Phelps during the 2008 Olympics, showing that even the most widely recognized swimmer in the world is human.

Marshall said that Phelps kept talking about his new pair of Jordan brand shoes, almost to the point of bragging.

Some members of the women’s team set up a bucket of water outside his hotel room door, and rigged it to dump on his shoes when he walked outside. The prank, Marshall said, was a success.

“He was so angry and he was blaming all the guys, and all the girls were in the back snickering because it was actually the girls team that set it up,” Marshall said, adding that Phelps still doesn’t know who was behind the joke.

For this year’s Olympic games in London, which begin on July 27, Crocker and Marshall said that they will watch from their respective couches, just like the swimmers that attended the clinic.

“I’ll definitely throw a party, root for my favorite swimmers, have my Team USA gear on and shout at the TV,” Marshall said.

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