Nearly 100 student-athletes from around the area received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from three of the world's elite swimmers Saturday at the Fort Dodge Senior High pool.
In a Mutual of Omaha ''BREAKout!'' Clinic hosted by the Fort Dodge Swim Club, Olympians Ian Crocker, Jimmy Feigen and 2011 World Champion Dagney Knutson were on hand to provide valuable instruction on how to become more skilled in the water. The trio also discussed their career accomplishments, setting goals and making the right decisions.
All three swimmers connected with the youths by talking about their own struggles to reach the top of the world in their sport.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A few kids shield themselves from the expected splash as Olympic swimmer Jimmy Feigen demonstrates his entrance into the water for members of the Fort Dodge Swim Club Saturday morning during the BREAKout! Swim Clinic at Fort Dodge Senior High School.
Crocker, 30, a native of Portland, Maine, won five Olympic medals: gold in the 4x100 medley relay in 2000 at Sydney, 2004 at Athens and 2008 at Beijing, silver in the 100 butterfly in 2004, and bronze in the 4x100 freestyle relay in 2004. During his career, he broke seven world records in individual events and relays.
"You have a gift and an excellent opportunity in front of you," Crocker said. "All you have to do is believe in yourself. Writing down your goals is going to keep you on track, so you don't get lost."
Feigen, 23, a native of Hilo, Hawaii, captured silver as a member of the second-place U.S. team in the 4x100 freestyle relay at this past summer's Olympics. Feigen previously held the high school national record (short course yards) in the 100 freestyle and 50 freestyle until both marks were shattered in 2010.
Throughout his career with the Longhorns, Feigen was a 24-time All-American, three-time American record-holder, 18-time Big 12 Conference champion and three-time NCAA champion.
"The big motto of the Olympic Games is to inspire, which is what we hope to do for you guys," said Feigen. "To get to where I am now, it's honestly been a really long and arduous road. You just have to work hard and take 1,000 baby steps instead of three or four giant leaps.
''Every time things get a little bit harder, I get a little bit tougher. I didn't just want to be fast, I wanted to be the fastest. In the last four years, I've spent 102 full 24-hour days training in the pool."
Knutson, 20, a native of Minot, N.D., is a former American record holder in the 400 individual medley and holds several national high school records. At the 2009 World Aquatics Championships, Knutson earned silver in the 4x200 freestyle relay and followed with a gold in that same event two years later.
"I think there's a lot more things to come in the future," Knutson said.
Tyler McCarville, 14, of Fort Dodge, was one of the clinic participants enjoying the memorable experience Saturday.
"It's pretty cool to meet Olympic swimmers and learn some stuff from them," McCarville said.
Fort Dodge Swim Club member Jason Major was thoroughly pleased with the event's turnout.
"We exceeded all expectations," said Major. "We had people come from Emmetsburg, Cherokee, Humboldt, Eagle Grove and even as far out as Dubuque. Our goal was to promote swimming in Fort Dodge in a positive way and encompass as many children as possible.
''Our Olympians were extremely impressed with our facility, but we wouldn't have been able to do this without the awesome support from all the businesses in the community. We express appreciation and gratitude to everyone involved."
Other FDSC board members include Sheila Border, Rhonda Chambers, Craig Jarrard, Donita Getting and Monica Shelly.