By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Friday, May 5, 2017
It was one of the most televised, re-televised, and seen moments of the 2016 Olympic Games: Cody Miller, earning his bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke, cheering, erupting, and celebrating. People the world over fell in love with Miller showing the kind of unscripted, spontaneous emotion that can only come from an unscripted, spontaneous moment.
Miller wasn’t necessarily a dark horse heading into the Olympics last summer, but he wasn’t a favorite, either. Miller’s rise to the international podium was gradual and consistent. A veteran swimmer, Miller wasn’t some upstart teenager. He had the maturity and racing experience to succeed at a major international meet like the Olympics.
He just needed the opportunity; when opportunity knocked, Miller came through.
Looking forward to Tokyo, Miller is back in the water and back competing, seeking that opportunity once more. At this weekend’s arena Pro Swim Series in Atlanta, Miller will battle fellow American and Olympic teammate Kevin Cordes in that 100m breaststroke. And, if you’re a fan of long-play storylines that could pan out in a few years, you won’t want to miss this one. Both breaststrokers are eyeing Tokyo as not only an opportunity to medal, but to win gold.
It’s this weekend’s Can’t Miss Race.
In recent history, American men’s breaststroking hasn’t been the slam-dunk international event like backstroke or butterfly or IM events have been. For whatever reason, the American breaststrokers haven’t achieved the same level of Olympic gold medal success. They’ve been consistently good, but not consistently atop the Olympic podium.
That could change. And it could change quickly. If you take a look at both Cordes’ and Miller’s steady progression, you begin to wonder: Maybe 2020 is the year.
By that time, it will have been 28 years since an American male took the Olympics’ top spot in either the 100m or 200m breaststroke. A long time. While American swimming has been fortunate to have some of the best ever competing for the red, white, and blue, the United States still seeks that breaststroker who can beat the world’s best.
Perhaps that person has already made himself known. Miller and Cordes are both poised to do well consistently at the international level. In an event as fickle as breaststroke, where at times it can be difficult to maintain long-term consistency, both have proven to be just that: Consistent. Michael Andrew, young and a swimmer who still has lots of potential, could ascend the ranks as well. All three race this weekend. All three eye this summer as a stepping-stone towards more success, a building block after a turbulent, eventful 2016.
Whatever happens this weekend, of course, won’t necessarily alter the space-time continuum of American men’s sprint breaststroke. But it will be a fantastic race between two swimmers well-versed in racing each other. And it could be a preview of what’s to come:
Perhaps, a golden opportunity nearly three decades in the making.