Eighteen of the nation’s top 18-and-under swimmers are representing USA Swimming this month at FINA World Cup events in Tokyo and Beijing. The members of the team will share their experiences throughout the trip via occasional blog entries.
Thursday, Nov. 14: Townley Haas (Richmond, Va.)
We have reached the last day of our Tokyo/Beijing trip. Today, like yesterday, we woke up, ate, and went to the pool. There was a little miss understanding about when I was going to swim the mile, but that got sorted out. It was clear that everyone was tired, but we still swam fast. Corey, Kylie, Katy, Brooke, Ella, Becca, and Hannah all made it back tonight. Before finals though, some of the boys went on a shopping trip near the Cube. Most of us ended up with laser pointers. After, finals, we ate, had a short meeting, hung out a little, and then went to bed. Tomorrow we leave for home. The trip was incredible, but I think we are all ready to get back home.
Just wanted to give a quick shout out to my team, friends and family back home, couldn’t have done it without y'all.
Wednesday, Nov. 13: Kaitlyn Harty (Gardner, Mass.)
It was the first day of competition in Beijing and it was looking kind of foggy at the pool because the pollution has gotten extremely high. But despite the air quality all of us did a great job swimming! It was an exciting night because 11 of us made it back to finals (Ella Eastin, Quinn Carrozza, Becca Mann, Hannah Weiss, Kylie Stewart, Jay Litherland, Corey Okubo, Anthony Ervin, Tom Shields, Eugene Godsoe, and Curtis Ogren). As for relays we had two which placed 5th and 6th. The A relay, which consisted of Hannah Weiss, Curtis Ogren, Kylie Stewart, and Paul Powers, broke the American record for a second time in four days. The team spirit tonight was also at a high for Kylie Stewart brought red, white, and blue eyeliner which we used as face paint to write "USA" on all of the girls faces. Everyone also had mini American flags which we all waved around proudly whenever we had a teammate swimming. The team is excited but a little sad for the final day of swimming tomorrow. But we are prepared to race fast! Also quick shout out to my team back home, Greenwood Memorial Swim Club and my awesome coach Janet Harty!
Wednesday, Nov. 13: Alex Katz (Sarasota, Fla.):
We've been in Beijing about two days now, and everybody is having a great time. Yesterday we had a chance to see the Great Wall of China, which was quite the experience. We climbed a lot of steps and looked out over miles and miles of mountains, taking pictures and buying all sorts of souvenirs. Today was the first day of competition, and we raced hard. We're swimming in the Water Cube, where they had the Olympics back in 2008. It's awesome to look around and think about everything that happened here, and that's been a popular topic of conversation since we got to China. One really cool thing about these trips is that all of our races are filmed, and we can watch them later with the coaches or whoever to get feedback. Speaking of coaches, I'd like to give a shout out to my club team, the Sarasota Sharks, for getting me to a position where I have opportunities to represent USA Swimming.
Tuesday, Nov. 12: Olivia Barker (Las Vegas, Nev.)
Today was the first morning waking up in Beijing! After a cultured breakfast at the hotel, the team headed out to the Water Cube for a morning warmup. Although we swam at the Water Cube the day before, the entire team was still in awe about swimming in such a historic place. After the loosen up, the team headed back to the hotel to eat lunch and get ready for the excursion to the Great Wall. We headed out to the Great Wall on a charter bus. It took about an hour to get there. On the drive our tour group leader talked to us about the Great Wall's history and told some stories about the Chinese history as well. At the Great Wall we took something similar to a sky lift up to the top of the Great Wall. It was incredible being able to stand and look out on top of the wall. There were Chinese people selling souvenirs and such along the path of the Great Wall. It was a lot of fun bartering from various vendors to get the best price possible for our items. The team was able to spend a couple of hours at the wall until we headed back to our hotel to grab our swim stuff for a night swim. After our second warmup the team met for dinner at the hotel. When dinner finished we had a meeting where we talked about the meet schedule. We finished the meeting off with a USA cheer to pump us up for the exciting first day of swimming tomorrow!
I am so excited for the meet and am so grateful for all the support of my family and friends back home at Sandpipers of Nevada and college at Indiana University. I could never be where I am today without my club coach and dad Ron Aitken. I was extremely lucky to have him as one of the coaches on this amazing trip to Tokyo and Beijing! It's been a great trip so far, but I'm excited to head back to Indiana University, where I am currently a freshman, to continue to train with my Lady Hoosiers and coaches Ray Looze, Mike Westphal, and Donny Brush!
Tuesday, Nov. 12: Brooke Zeiger (Cumberland, R.I.):
Today we got to sleep in a little bit then we took the bus to the pool for a morning workout. We were able to do whatever we felt like we needed in the water. Coach Rose gave Olivia Barker and I a short set to do. After we were finished we changed and explored the pool. We went looking for the water park but we got lost and ended up on a deserted floor. We looked around for a little bit but when creepy children's music started to eerily play we ran back to the elevator to find the rest of the team. When everyone was ready we headed back to the hotel to eat lunch and head out to our trip to the Great Wall. The bus ride was about an hour long but it went by quickly because we had a great tour guide who talked about the history of the Great Wall. Once we got close we could see parts of the wall on the mountains. It was beautiful. Everyone whipped out their cameras and phones to take pictures. Once we stopped we walked up to the lifts that took us up to the wall. When we reached the top we took a group picture then were allowed to venture off on our own. We took pictures, bought souvenirs, and walked around looking at the beautiful scenery. At 2:30 we rode our bus back to the hotel packed our swim bags and headed back to the pool. Again we were allowed to do what we felt we needed to do and Coach Rose gave Olivia and I another set. It took less than an hour to do and after we finished we did a little bit of race pace type stuff. When everyone else was done we headed back to the hotel to have dinner. After we were finished eating, Jack talked about important meet information and tomorrow's schedule. When the meeting was finished we did a team cheer and headed off to our rooms to prep for tomorrow and get a good nights sleep. I think everyone is excited to race tomorrow. Racing in the water cube will be so much fun! I'm so glad to be at this meet and so grateful to my coaches back home at Bluefish for helping me get to this level of swimming!
Monday, Nov. 11: Connor Green (Milton, Mass.):
Following the World Cup circuit Team USA had an early start today as we travelled from Tokyo to Beijing. Coming off of my first World Cup experience I’m very excited to get back in the water and race over the next few days. Especially since the Beijing stop is being hosted at the Water Cube, where the 2008 Olympics were held! Taking the bus to our first practice, here in Beijing, we all grew excited as we saw the pool coming around the corner. Glowing all different types of colors, the water cube is swimmer’s dream come true. The Water Cube holds great American swimming history, from Phelps’ eight gold medals to Jason Lezak’s superhuman relay leg, to stand where all this occurred is humbling. After the necessary photo ops, the team all got in the water and swam out the flight from this morning. Transitioning from one meet to the next, within three days is challenging, but my coach Chuck Batchelor has ingrained in the heads of his swimmers at Bluefish that nothing will go as planned at meets and that the challenge is what makes you better. This whole experience is an amazing opportunity to be having is amazing, and to be sharing it with my teammate, Brooke Zeiger, is even more exciting and I know that we will try to bring this experience back to our team and share it with the future of USA Swimming!
Monday, Nov. 11: Katie McLaughlin (Dana Point, Calif.):
Ni Hao! Team USA made it to Beijing after an early wake-up call and a four-hour flight from Tokyo! Once we arrived, the doctor handed out masks that the Olympic Team used in Beijing at the Olympics in 2008 to prevent us from an illness caused by pollution. Then, we took a bus to the hotel where we were able to exchange our money into Yuan! We put our luggage in our rooms, which are much bigger than the ones in Tokyo. We were given some down time which we spent exploring local markets and testing Chinese snacks- when we accidentally discovered green tea Oreos we thought were mint. We then were able to spend quality time with our teammates before heading to our first practice at the water cube. When the bus arrived at the pool, everyone was in awe! We were all so excited to be there and have the chance to swim in the 2008 Olympic pool. We got off the bus and it was a Kodak moment to see the water cube lit up bright blue. Inside the cube, we took pictures in front of the pool with each other and got ready to start our practice which was an on-your-own workout. However, most of the team did a main set together and at the end of practice, Russell, George and Jack helped some team members with starts. When we all changed and were ready to go back to the hotel, we walked outside of the cube to find it lighting up in an array of colors! The bus took us back to the hotel and the team headed to dinner, which was very good with many options. We then headed to our rooms to get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we have a team excursion to an undisclosed location (hopefully The Great Wall). This trip has been an amazing learning experience so far and I'm glad to have the opportunity to share it with my club team coach. I can't wait to see what what the rest of the trip has in store.
Friday, Nov. 8: Curtis Ogren (Menlo Park, Calif.)
We are all having such a great time! At breakfast, we witnessed Gunnar Bentz getting a taste of the fermented soybeans!
Team USA got to do a pre-meet tune-up. Tony (Anthony Ervin) taught us how to have a powerful start off of the blocks - to focus on going forward, not upward. We also got to do some pace work.
At lunch, Paul Powers and I had some really spicy noodles! They were hotter than we expected. Then there was some down time. It was time for homework, going on the roof, buying Japanese candy, and simply chilling!
Before going to the pool in the afternoon, there was a team meeting with Tony, Tom Shields and the coaching staff. They said that we need to embrace the moment, and learn from our experience here. Our goal is to get used to the FINA structure and to keep up the good reputation of team USA.
We are all so pumped to transfer our energy into pure speed tomorrow morning!
Quick shoutout to my friends and family back home. Thanks for the support! We're so excited to finally start racing!
Friday, Nov. 8: Ella Eastin (Irvine, Calif.)
Team USA spent the day today preparing for the start of the Tokyo World Cup tomorrow. All of us went to the pool twice and did a meet warm up to mimic getting ready for our races. Tom (Shields) and Tony (Ervin) helped the team with our backstroke and block starts and gave us words of encouragement at the meeting to prepare to compete and take in the full experience. Between practice sessions we spent the day together at the hotel getting to know each other and resting. All of us are pumped to start the meet and take in the international experience. Personally, I'm most excited about taking my memories and experiences back to SoCal to share with my awesome coaches and teammates. Go USA!
Thursday, Nov. 7: Gunnar Bentz (Atlanta, Ga.)
Today was our first full day in Tokyo for the World Cup! After breakfast, we went to the pool to loosen up. After a pretty tough workout from Coach Rose, we went to the Asakusa temple and marketplace. We had a really fun time walking around and buying souvenirs. The guys have been using the sauna and bath at our hotel to relax and recover from travel. We have just one more day until competition and we are all super excited to swim! Shoutout to my friends and family back home, see you guys when I get home.
Thursday, Nov. 7: Kylie Stewart (Atlanta, Ga.)
The Junior World Cup team has arrived in Tokyo, Japan. Upon arriving, we headed straight to the hotel and ate our first Japanese meal and a brief team meeting where we met the coaches and staff members before heading to bed. With the 14 hour time change from the east coast, it was difficult to sleep the whole night. Thursday morning after breakfast we headed to the pool for our first practice as a team. The practice was more of a warm up and to get a feel for the water. After our practice we had a "team warm down" that brought us closer together … literally. After our morning practice we had lunch at the pool and then hopped on a bus and headed to downtown Tokyo to a marketplace where we shopped for almost three hours. There were tons of school kids who came up and asked for pictures and actually interviewed us in English. Getting to see the city and explore the streets and see the culture was an amazing experience. After shopping in the marketplace we headed back to the pool for our second practice. After our practice, Tom Shields, a National Team representative, helped us with backstroke starts. We then continued back to the hotel to eat dinner and then celebrated Paul Powers' birthday by getting him ice cream. We ended the night by hanging out with our teammates in the hotel. I'm looking forward to the rest of the trip and can't wait to see what's in store.