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Monday, March 25, 2013

Faux pas

Liz Pelton, a girl who started out on the local swim team with my children, has gone on to become a world class swimmer, and I have kept in sporadic touch with her father Greg.

Liz is now a freshman at Cal, and just competed in her first NCAA championships. On the first day of the three day meet, she got second place in the 200 yard individual medley, behind teammate Caitlin Leverenz, the record holder in that event. This was not unexpected; in fact some thought that Liz might pull an upset.

On the second day, Liz did her best time by almost two seconds in the 200 free, which was unexpected. She went a 1:42.1, which earned her another second place finish, this time to Alison Schmidt, who won the 200 meter free at the Olympics last summer. Schmidt went a 1:41.8, so Liz was surprisingly close.

On the third day Liz was slated to swim her best event, the 200 yard backstroke. She had already set the American record earlier in the year with a 1:48.39 (but had missed the US Open record of 1:48.34, set by Gemma Spofforth, a British citizen, during the tech suit era).

After seeing Liz do her best time by so much in the 200 freestyle, I got excited and sent her father the following note:

Wow!! Nice swim, almost took the Olympic champ down. And it bodes awfully well for tomorrow night. I predict something ridiculous, like a 1:46.9.

Liz won the 200 backstroke by over two seconds, an extraordinarily wide margin of victory for a national championship, with a new NCAA, American, and US Open record of 1:47.84. That made her a full half second faster than any other woman in history (including Missy Franklin, the Olympic champion in both backstrokes, whose best time, set a month ago, is a 1:48.4). 

However, by my exacting standards -- which I was kind enough to share with her father -- Liz is nothing but a failure.

Note to self: next time keep mouth shut. 

(Postscript: Her father sent a gracious reply, saying among other things that he too had thought she might go a 1:46. But I still felt like sort of a jerk.)

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