Feb. 8, 2008
Berkeley - Emily Silver: Keeping it in the Family (2/7/2008)
BY MIKE WATKINS//Special Correspondent
If Emily Silver fulfills her lifetime dream of swimming in the Olympic Games this summer, she'll join some very distinct and rare company in the process.
Over the years, sons and daughters have followed mothers and fathers as Olympians and brothers and sisters have kept the family lineage alive by competing - sometimes together - in the Olympics.
Silver, a senior at the University of California Berkeley, can create her own unique version of this rare anomaly by making the Beijing Olympic team 40 years after her uncle, Larry Barbiere, competed for the United States in Mexico City.
And while he failed to medal (fourth in the 100 backstroke) and he and Emily have never spoken about his experiences in much detail, she realizes it's a special experience they could both share in the near future.
"Because of distance, I have never been that close with my extended family, but it would be an incredible experience to perform at the Olympics like my uncle and keep it in the family," laughed Silver, who competed in both the 50 and 100 freestyle races at the 2004 Trials but didn't make the team.
"I have spoken briefly with Larry about his experience, but not at length, and I'm looking forward to competing at Trials. I have made cuts in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events, as well as the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly, but I'm not sure if I'll be swimming all of them."
Growing up the niece of an Olympian and daughter of someone who swam with Mark Spitz and trained under legend James "Doc" Counsilman at Indiana University (he finished at the University of Arizona), Silver was almost destined to take the plunge into the water.
When older sister, Helen, started swimming and began getting recognition for her efforts, Emily became intrigued and motivated.
"Being the little sister, I looked up to her and wanted to be like her, so at 8, I started swimming as well," Silver said. "I think I've stayed interested in the sport because of the constant desire to push my body to its limits and the desire for success. Once you get a little taste of winning, it's hard to stop. You want that high of getting a best time or taking first. It's what makes me get up in the morning and sacrifice my time."
Despite experiencing her own share of injuries and setbacks over the past three years - breaking both hands from finishing too hard at the wall, breaking a bone in her foot, suffering injury-induced tendonitis and even undergoing minor heart surgery - Silver's desire to compete and work toward her Olympic dream remains strong and intact.
"I've been through a lot, but I always come back stronger because I have a sense of lost time that I need to make up," said Silver, who broke Natalie Coughlin's school record with a time of 21.99 in the 50 freestyle at last year's NCAA Championships. "My advice to others is not to let injuries hold you back. Take care of yourself because it's better to heal and train at 100 percent than not acknowledge an injury and train at 50 percent or less."
Coming off of a strong summer where she won gold (400 free relay) and silver (400 medley relay) medals at the World University Games, Silver is using the lessons she learned against international competition in her preparation for Trials in Omaha this July.
Combining this with the empowerment and improvement she's experienced working with Cal Coach Teri McKeever, Silver - the consummate team player in a highly individualized sport - feels more prepared than ever to meet her destiny.
"I wouldn't be the swimmer or person I am today without Teri," said Silver, whose sister, Helen, also swam for McKeever at California. "She has helped shape me into a mature, responsible, accountable adult. When I decide to stop swimming, I know I'll be ready to go on to my next chapter in life with confidence and strength because of her.
"To be an Olympian is a title that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Teri always reminds us that when we look back 20 years from now, it's not going to be the times that we remember. It's going to be the people and experiences that stick with us. I would love to have the memory of being on the Olympic team, and I've been dreaming about it since I was in grade school."
March to Beijing Journals With the 2008 Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., less than a year away, America's top swimmers have begun preparing for what could be the biggest and most important meet of their careers. Every week until then, two athletes - Olympic veteran Dana Vollmer and up-and-coming hopeful Caitlin Leverenz - will share their perspectives as they inch closer to the March to Beijing.
Journal 7 - February 6, 2008 Hi everyone! Once again it has been a crazy two weeks. Swimming against Arizona and Arizona State two weekends ago and then competing against USC and UCLA this past weekend left me extremely excited for the upcoming PAC-10s and NCAAs!
The Arizona weekend was exciting to put it lightly. Bring on the rain. Man, did I learn how to overcome obstacles in that meet. Here we are racing one of the other best teams in the country in the pouring rain and cold, and we were still able to swim fast. Even though we suffered our first loss, our team is more united and some got the shock of how fast college swimming really is. We were able to pull it together and swim well on Saturday against Arizona State that very next day. I was really excited about my 200 fly with a time of 1:58 because we had a hard week of training and then the meet the previous day, and it felt quite good! Teri and I have been working on new strategies and techniques, and it was great to see them pay off!
That next Thursday the team flew down to LA to first compete against USC. It was such a fun trip, I could not have picked a greater group of girls to travel around with and call family! For the entire meet the team was so pumped and lined the sideline screaming our heads off for each swim! We started off strong from the first medley relay till the end where we went 1-2-3 in the 400 free relay! I again swam the 200 fly and went in with even more confidence after my swim against Arizona. Instead of having my normal slow two underwater kicks, I worked on roughly six quicker kicks. My stroke felt great for this point in the season, and I cruised to a 1:57. I am sooooo pumped for this race, and my chance to once again challenge my long-time friend and competitor Elaine Breeden.
The next day we traveled to UCLA and it was fun to see my great friend Silke, who also transferred from Florida, having a blast and swimming fast for UCLA. It was fun to go from USC where Teri went to school, on to UCLA where our assistant coach Kristin went, and represent CAL with pride! The overall trip was a lot of fun and the team swam well displaying passion and drive. I can't wait to swim Stanford and then to see how well everyone does when we get some rest for PAC-10s and NCAAs!
When we got back it was fun getting together for the Super Bowl! My roommate Lauren, some friends, and I all sat together rooting for the Patriots. I was born in New England and my family has always followed the Patriots, especially over the Giants. But, sadly, luck was not in my favor. At least it was an exciting game at the end. I still blame some of my friends who joked about the Giants getting close to the one-yard line and then not getting it. Well they got it, and it's all their fault! Oh well.
Now it's back to school, training and one weekend off. Then we dive head-first into an exciting championship season!