By Chase McFadden//Contributor | Monday, November 28, 2016
Cody Miller’s genuinely-joyful reaction to capturing the bronze medal in the 100 meter breaststroke for Team USA at the Rio Games was influenced – at least in part – by the Yoda-like wisdom imparted by a veteran swimmer from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Bet you didn’t see that coming.“I spoke with George Bovell in the dining hall the morning of the final,” Miller explained of his conversation with the Caribbean Olympian. “He’s a really intelligent guy and it was his fifth Olympics, so he was sharing some advice. He told me that when the Games are over and you’re reflecting on everything, you’ll realize that the place you took doesn’t necessarily matter. You’ll realize the reason you continued in the sport was to enhance your life, not to measure it.
“He’s right. I didn’t start swimming to measure myself; I started swimming because I had friends who swam and I liked it,” said Miller. “When I was sitting in the ready room, I thought of those words George shared. Obviously everyone wants to win a medal and everyone wants to go to the Olympics, but that’s such a small, brief moment in time. I realized I was doing it because I love doing it, and swimming has always been there for me. I had a sense of peace, and I was pretty calm.
Also keeping the first-time Olympian’s nerves in check was the ardent belief that he had done everything in his power to prepare himself for that moment on swimming’s biggest stage.
“I told myself that every guy in the field was taller than me, every guy in the field had been faster than me at one point in time, but I honestly believed that I had prepared myself more than my competitors through a level of commitment I didn’t think anybody was capable of matching,” the 24-year-old Indiana University alum said. “I had a lot of confidence going into that race because I knew all the hard work I’d put in. And not just in the pool. For the entire year before the Trials, I did not go to bed after 10 pm one single night, including weekends. I cut out all junk food. All of those little sacrifices were in my mind.
“Even when I was walking out, as I was standing on the block, I kind of in a way felt fulfilled because I knew everything was in place, regardless of the outcome. Had I not won a medal, I still would have been able to look in the mirror and know there was nothing else I could have done. And that’s the best feeling.”
The swim responsible for that individual medal is one the American can recall clearly.
“It’s all very vivid. I especially remember standing up on the blocks. I always curl my toes over the edge and then look down the pool at the wall, and I had visualized that moment so many times. I knew in that moment, I was ready to go. There were no doubts in my mind. I knew I could not have positioned myself any better than I had, so I had all of the confidence in the world.
“I went out faster than I ever had before,” Miller said of his start in the breaststroke final, “and I knew I needed to because [Great Britain’s Adam] Peaty was going to be out crazy, crazy fast, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to come back on the field like I did at Trials.
As for the moment when Miller realized his dreams may become a reality, “I remember coming down to the last 20 meters of the race, I peeked over once and saw the position I was in and thought, I could win a medal. I knew it in the middle of the race. I just had to finish well.”
Finish well he did, touching the pad in an American record time of 58.87 seconds, enough to claim that coveted spot on the podium and spark the fervorous celebration that garnered Miller national notoriety.
“For me to get on that medal podium with Adam Peaty, who obliterated his own world record, and Cam van der Burgh, the previous world record holder and previous Olympic champion, was incredible. Plus, just the depth of that field. It was hands-down the fastest heat of 100 meter breaststroke in history, from a depth perspective, and that’s excluding Peaty’s incredible swim.
“To go a best time and break that American record was a big part of why I celebrated so hard,” said Miller. “In that moment, in that race, I hit my physical peak and achieved something that – let’s be honest – nobody expected me to do.
“My emotions just poured out.”
USA Swimming is re-celebrating the top moments from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Check back on USASwimming.org every few days for new profile on the the swimmers who made those moments happen. Also, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @USASwimming for more on our success in Rio.
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