[Slideshow] Darien YMCA Piranhas train with Olympic gold medalists

 

The Darien YMCA was abuzz with young swimmers Sunday who had come for a clinic with Olympic gold medalists Josh Davis and Maya DiRado. The clinic was set up through Davis and his BreakOut swimming clinic organization. Davis offers clinics across the country and always with the help of fellow Olympians. — all photos Laureen Vellante

The Darien YMCA was abuzz with young swimmers Sunday who had come for a clinic with Olympic gold medalists Josh Davis and Maya DiRado.

Darien YMCA Piranhas had a clinic with Olympic gold medalists Sunday

Darien YMCA Piranhas had a clinic with Olympic gold medalists Sunday

Darien YMCA Piranhas had a clinic with Olympic gold medalists Sunday

Olympic gold medalists Josh Davis at the Darien YMCA Sunday

Olympic gold medalist Maya DiRado at the Darien YMCA Sunday

Olympic gold medalists Maya DiRado at the Darien YMCA Sunday

Olympic gold medalists Josh Davis and Maya DiRado at the Darien YMCA Sunday with the Y Piranhas

The level of athletic competition in Darien has always been extremely high. DHS teams find themselves ranked at near top of the state or even the nation in sports in all seasons for both genders. But it isn’t often a Darien swimmer steps up to the blocks, looks to the right, and sees Olympic gold medalist of the Rio games Maya DiRado getting set to race. Yet this is exactly what happened on Feb.12.

While many of us stayed in, as snow and sleet fell on Sunday morning, the Darien YMCA was abuzz with young swimmers who had come for a clinic with Olympic gold winners Josh Davis and Maya DiRado. The clinic was set up through Davis and his BreakOut swimming clinic organization. Davis offers clinics across the country and always with the help of fellow Olympians. “We are in about 100 cities a year,” said Davis, who then said his next stop after Darien would be Indianapolis. “We work with about 30 Olympians for these clinics,” added Davis, and the list of names is a who’s who of American swimming history. Names like Aaron Piersol, Ian Crocker, Anthony Ervin, Misty Hyman, and Dana Vollmer are just a few other distinguished olympians that accompany Davis to the clinics.

Davis didn’t start swimming competitively until age 12, first joining a club team in eighth grade. “I was not very good. My butterfly was bad and my breast stroke was not legal yet,” Davis told swimmers and parents, adding that first coach even told him to switch sports. “I was given a negative option and a positive option. I chose to be positive,” said Davis, who went on to talk to the swimmers about setting goals, writing them down, and working on those goals every day.

Davis won gold in three relays at the 1996 Atlanta games, and two silvers as the team captain in Sydney in 2000. Since then, Davis has been all about giving back to the sport he loves. “I had just won three golds in Atlanta, but now I needed to figure out how I was going to provide for my wife and family,” said Davis. “So we started giving clinics, and it just grew and grew.” Now, Breakout Swimming handles groups of all sizes and ages across the country.

DiRado is now living in Atlanta after her incredible win of gold in the 200m backstroke in Rio, surging in the final lap to defeat heavy favorite Katinka Hosszu by only six hundredths of a second. DiRado also spoke about what her swimming beginnings were like, saying, “I was never amazing, I was never that kid,” as she told swimmers not to be discouraged if they were not already the best swimmer around. “My focus was always on getting a little better each year,” DiRado said.  DiRado’s previous attempts to qualify for the Olympics had come up short, but the focus always stayed on getting better. Now retired, DiRado was a special guest for this clinic, and rarely does this sort of work. “I’m really only able to do these when it fits into my schedule,” said DiRado, adding, “it’s a great way to stay connected with the sport.” Being Atlanta based, it was extremely fortunate that DiRado was able to be at the Darien Y.

The early morning at the Darien YMCA was for older swimmers. Davis and DiRado were in the pool with the Piranhas, demonstrating and offering coaching on all four strokes and their turns, followed by a question and answer session, and then an afternoon clinic for younger swimmers. Both clinics closed with a chance for the Piranhas to step up and race Davis and DiRado, and the races saw some very impressive swims. The clinic was focused not just on swimming, but on being a better teammate and person, and how that can positively impact your swimming. “Have an attitude of gratitude,” Davis told the swimmers, “and I promise you that you’ll get faster.”

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