SWIMNEWS ONLINE: August 1996 Magazine Articles

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Karin Helmstaedt

Deryk Snelling describes his star swimmer Curtis Myden as having a "poker face."

"He could be standing in a hail of bullets, and as long as none of them hit him, he'll just carry on with whatever he's doing," said Snelling, coach of the National Centre in Calgary. And that's exactly the way Curtis handled his first race of these Olympics.

After coming up short on the first day of competition, the Canadian swim team was immediately hammered by the over-expectant Canadian press. Curtis didn't even look up, it seems, but went into Day 2 and the 400 individual medley looking to "enjoy the experience."

It was a good strategy, as Curtis took it out hard and held on to place fifth going into the final. "I knew I had to be out strong," said the 22-year-old Calgary native. "I couldn't be behind someone like (world record-holder) Dolan."

With his spot in Lane 2 sewn up, Curtis let the crowd do the rest in the evening.

"I enjoyed it," he said, the trace of a smile on his lips. "The crowd was loud and it helps keep you going in the race. You know something exciting is going on."

Concentrating on front end speed put Myden in contention throughout his races
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Curtis talks about excitement, but rarely shows it. After setting a Canadian record (4:16.28) and winning Canada's first swimming medal-a bronze-behind American rivals Tom Dolan and Eric Namesnik, he was the picture of composure.

"In the 400 I just tried to keep focused on what I was doing and not be affected by the other swimmers, not be intimidated by Dolan," said Curtis. "I was just happy when I turned around and looked at the clock and saw that I did it."

Curtis' medal performance was just what the team needed to "get things rolling." Teammate Marianne Limpert followed his lead to win a silver medal and break her own Canadian record in the 200 IM. Stephen Clarke set long-awaited Canadian records in the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly. But Curtis himself wanted more.

Four days later, fired up by his 400 swim, Curtis gave everything he had in the 200 IM, taking the butterfly out in a blistering 25.94. From his spot in Lane 6 he never could see the leader, Attila Czene of Hungary in Lane 1. But the relentless work on his freestyle paid off as Curtis held on to set another personal best, lowering his own Canadian record by 11 one hundredths of a second (2:01.13) to claim his second bronze medal of the meet.

Curtis MYDEN
PLACE Calgary, CAN
HEIGHT 6 ft. 3 in. / 188 cm
WEIGHT 185 lbs / 84 kg
HOME Calgary, CAN
COACH Deryk Snelling
96 Olympics 3rd 200 IM 2:01.13, 3rd 400 IM 4:16.28
95 SC Worlds 2nd 200 IM 1:58.56. 2nd 400 IM 4:09.39
95 Pan Pacs 3rd 200 IM 2:01.80, 4th 400 IM 4:19.78
95 Pan Ams 1st 200 IM 2:01.70, 1st 400 IM 4:18.55
94 Worlds 9th 200 IM 2:03.12, 4th 400 IM 4:17.93
94 Cmwlth 2nd 200 IM 2:03.47, 2nd 400 IM 4:17.73
92 Olympics 10th 400 IM 4:21.91

Curtis' parents and girlfriend were watching from the stands. "It makes me feel good that they're watching," he said. "Afterwards it's great to know that they got to experience my race and what I did."

The bronze medals were not only a gleam in the eyes of the Canadian team, but also capped an impressive Canadian career for Snelling, Curtis' coach of 6 years. Over the past thirty years Snelling has placed 61 swimmers on Canadian Olympic teams for a total of 7 individual medals, and 12 swimmers shared medals on relays. Curtis' bronze in the 400 IM came the day before Snelling's 63rd birthday, and was, he admits, "a really nice present." The second medal was the icing on the cake. "He was untested in the 200, so we're really happy with that," said Snelling.

Snelling is leaving Calgary this fall to take on a job as National Performance Director in his native England. His task will be to improve the standing of Great Britain swimmers in international competitions up to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Snelling is excited about the challenge and feels he can do a great deal to improve relations within the Commonwealth swimming bloc.

As for Curtis' plans after Snelling leaves, he is characteristically vague, saying only that he plans to stay on in Calgary. "I'd like to swim to the Commonwealth Games for sure. Then if I'm still really enjoying it and workouts are still a challenge, then I'll probably still be swimming."

"It'll be a lot different without Deryk," he admits. "The six years I have been with him were great. To win two bronze medals is a great way to finish off the coach/swimmer relationship. I'm really proud of that and what he has done for me the last six years."

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