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The Oldham Era, Staff report
For nearly 90 minutes on Oct. 2, the Shelby Sharks USA Swim Team relished a visit from Olympian and Louisville native Clark Burckle at the Family Activity Center in Shelbyville.
Burckle answered questions about swimming-related challenges, swam for 30 minutes in the pool demonstrating some stroke technique and signed autographs.
During what is normally the Sharks’ practice time, Burckle shared his keys to his success in swimming, namely his varied background growing up playing various sports, especially soccer, as well as his obvious long-term commitment to the sport as a swimmer for Lakeside, which spurred his development as a USA Olympic team member and eventual sixth-place finish in the men’s 200 breaststroke in the 2012 London Olympics.
Burckle, who attended St. Xavier High School, emphasized how swimming structure, and led him to the realization that swimming, not soccer, was the sport for him to pursue. Eventually, it led him to a scholarship at the University of Florida.
He now swims for the University of Arizona.
But swimming became what was “integral in keeping everything together…the most important thing I’ve done.”
He said there was a time near age 14 that he considered himself equally talented in soccer, while also playing baseball, golf, tennis and run cross country. He said remembers coming home in tears after Lakeside practice, asserting to his mother that he didn’t want to go back.
History certainly has proven it’s a good thing he did.
Burckle went on to describe London during the Olympics, the challenges of seeing his family while there and the first-hand experience of what Michael Phelps is really like as a person and competitor — a “hard, candy-coated shell” around him with very little emotion, except when on the medals podium.
Burckle also talked in depth about the long walk into the stadium at the opening ceremonies — about 1.5 miles in a single-file line which took three to four hours — and smiled when discussing his good fortune to be up front near the stage for the closing ceremony where he got to see the likes of the Spice Girls and Russell Brand.
Maybe the most impressive aspect from the Sharks’ standpoint was the pertinent and continued line of questions he answered which painted a varied portrait of a wholesome, down-to-earth friend to some 60 children present — notwithstanding the big kids who brought them.
Burkle made sure to answer all of the questions like, “After you swim, what kind of snack do you eat?” or “Did you know Lochte very well?
In the end, the taste of big-time swimmer Burckle left with the team won’t be forgetten anytime soon as Sharks Head Coach Lindsey Hayden said it was probably “the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Burkle also took time to describe some of the keys to his physical development as an Olympic-level swimmer.
He talked about developing his training regimen to include a lot of important dry-land exercises that allowed him to get stronger, especially increasing his ability to do up to 30 pull-ups, maximizing push-ups, using the medicine balls and doing bridges as part of his abdominal workouts.
As far as nutrition, Burckle said realizing that attending to critical specifics in his diet, such as minimizing his intake of carbohydrates and starches and eating more fruit is essential.
For proteins, he emphasized keeping some nuts (almonds in particular) handy for snacking.
Burkle said he enjoys easting “tasty meats” like salami and pepperoni, rather than just plain turkey. Nonetheless, he’s lost 20 lbs. on his revised diet and is seeing results and being stronger at a lighter weight.”
Burckle said eating smaller meals between larger meals allows him to not always feel like he has to completely refuel by eating everything in sight during big meals;
When asked how he honed in on choosing the breaststroke as his focus, he said his talent in that stroke made it a clear choice.
He said that he hated backstroke and never really liked swimming the 400 individual medley or mile and certainly knew he wouldn’t like training for them. He also knew that he was a second tier IM and mile guy and simply was not as talented in all the strokes as Lochte and Phelps, so he knew he had a much better chance at making the Olympic team in breaststroke.
Regardless of his sixth place finish, Burckle emphasized how “special it was” to have been a part of the Olympic team and to make it there and compete.
Whether describing the most painful moment of his life as waiting for a orthopedic surgeon to set a compound arm fracture from a skate-boarding injury, or explaining how many friends around the world he had made from being an Olympian, the audience appreciated the frankness and friendliness of Burckle’s responses andhis obvious enjoyment of speaking to fans.
In the time Burckle spent in the pool with the younger children, you could see through his demo of his stroke, his turns and his glides off the wall that the Olympic level of swimming far surpasses what most have ever seen in person.
Burckle literally looked like a frog underwater doing breaststroke, as his dramatic kick propelled him farther per stroke than most swimmers — and Burckle was just having fun.
He did some underwater viewing of the team during their practice time as well and then spent some time signing autographs and posing for pictures. Those signed swim caps could be worth money some day—though they already have ignigant value memoirs to Shelby Sharks and a visit from their “buddy” Clark Burckle.
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