FAIRMONT — Olympic gold medalist Breeja Larson took off from the diving platform, but there was just one problem — she took off early.
That led Larson to the biggest teaching point that she and Olympic gold medalist Ian Crocker were trying to get across to members of the Fairmont Area Swim Team (FAST) at the Fairmont State Feaster Center pool on Sunday.
“I want them to see that we’re human,” Larson said. “I want them to see that it’s an attainable goal and that nothing can stop them if they keep working hard at it.”
That simple lesson was what the two Olympians strive to do at each clinic they attend and it’s something that many of the swimmers took to heart.
“It lets the other kids know that yeah, mistakes can be made and Olympians make them also,” said Derek Weaver, FAST board member.
Larson and Crocker came to Fairmont as part of the Mutual Omaha BREAKout! Swim Clinic to teach swimmers about dieting properly, breaking bad habits and learning new technique.
Swimmers from ages 8-18 took to the pools of the Feaster Center with Larson and Crocker to take part in different drills and to have a little fun.
But at the end of the day, both of the Olympians just wanted to show the swimmers that they were no different than they were.
“The most important thing is to show them that we’re normal humans just like them,” Crocker said. “People tend to look at someone on TV and say, ‘Oh, they’re different. There’s something about them.’ But theres nothing. We were in their exact same spot when we were kids with dreams.”
The clinic was unique in that it didn’t really split the age groups up but rather incorporated both young swimmers and teenaged swimmers together in the same pool, learning the same skill. At the end, they even raced each other, along with the Olympians, to test their new skills.
“It’s really fun and I hope they see the significance of us being here,” Larson said. “It’s inspiring to us as well. To see how much joy they get from learning new things is great.”
For the two Olympians, being able to give back and keep the sport of swimming afloat is a main reason they continue to stick around the sport after achieving the highest honor an athlete can accomplish.
“As a young kid, I was trying to earn my way up to the national team and now I’m trying to help to inspire the next generation to follow the same path so that we can stay the best swimming country in the world,” Crocker said. “It’s a lot of fun in that respect, but it’s also fun to just come out and meet kids.”
Overall, the day was beneficial to swimmers of all ages as well as the Olympians themselves.
Weaver said that those in attendance seemed to enjoy their time in the pool with Larson and Crocker.
“I think it went great. I think it’s the first time that a lot of these kids have been to a clinic,” Weaver said. “We really wanted to try to bring one here closer to home.”
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.