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Another golden visit

Olympian Taormina helps annually with Clovis swimmers

 

August 11, 2018

Jamie Cushman

Olympic gold medalist Shiela Taormina works with Porter Kidd on his swimming stroke during a clinic at the Clovis Aquatic Center on Friday.

CLOVIS — From the podium at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta to the Clovis Aquatic Center, gold medalist Sheila Taormina spent the past week in Clovis working with the Wildcats' middle- and high-school swimmers.

Taormina said she has been coming to Clovis to host clinics for the Wildcats just about every year since she met Vincent de Maio, former Clovis swim team head coach and now director for high performance swimming, in 2010 or 2011.

"She's here because she cares about kids and she really wants to see these young guys understand what it takes and that's very unique in the swimming world," de Maio said.

"People have these clinics and they come in and spend an hour, Sheila comes in for a week and actually is engaged with these guys and we're unbelievably fortunate that she takes the time to do that."

A member of the United States' gold medal winning 800-meter freestyle relay team in 1996 and the first female athlete to compete in three different Olympic sports (swimming, triathlon and modern pentathlon), de Maio said Taormina is "a stroke master" who brings with her a wealth of swimming knowledge.

"What's kind of unique here is if you can bring this level of coaching to our young kids, our middle schoolers, that's an incredible leg up for them," de Maio said. "You can see them get better instantly. It's incredible, she'll bring something up and you notice instantaneous changes."

Taormina has written books analyzing the strokes of some of the world's top swimmers that have been translated into several different languages, giving her the chance to bring her technique and expertise to swimmers across the globe.

"All over the world from Bangkok to Capetown, South Africa, I've done (clinics) in Dubai, all over Asia, from Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe," Taormina said.

She said the majority of the swimmers she works with are adult triathletes looking to improve their freestyle swimming stroke and rarely meets with swim teams like Clovis.

The thing that sets the Wildcats apart and keeps Taormina coming back to Clovis is the culture of loving swimming and working hard to get better as a team.

"When the team has a mission to be together, then everyone takes the mechanics and the teaching seriously so they're so respectful, they are great at listening, they apply it, then they say thank you, they're just wonderful kids," Taormina said.

De Maio said Taormina's clinics are an important part of the Wildcats' recent success and that taking her advise can lead to "instantaneous" improvement, but Taormina said she attributes any success or failure to the swimmer.

"If you don't improve I'll take no blame and if you do improve I'll take no credit, because I only give them tools and tell them things. They're the ones that will have to apply it," Taormina said.

Now with nearly 10 trips to Clovis in the books, the Wildcats have had an impact on Taormina too, not just the other way around.

"I don't forget their names," Taormina said. "I go to other places, I meet people for a weekend and I can't remember all their names so I forget, but this team I don't forget their names."

 

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