By Nick Robinson, intern, county10.com
(Lander, Wyo) – They hail from the land of surf and sun, California, and came to coach those in the land of snow and mountains, Wyoming. They have swam around the world ranging from Olympic competition pools to historic candle lit pools in Sweden. Now they can add Lander Swim Pool to their growing list. Their names: Jason Lezak and Kim Vandenberg of Irvine and Moraga, Calif., respectively. Vandenberg, a graduate of UCLA is an Olympic medalist in several relays and events. Lezak, a UC Santa Barbra graduate is famous for his unbelievable swim on the 4×100 meter freestyle in Beijing in 2008.
The Lander Swim Club scheduled and organized the event, ultimately bringing in the Olympians. On January 4, the two athletes flew into Riverton and were shuttled to Lander, making their first appearance in Wyoming and on the morning of the 5th, the athletes held a clinic at Lander Swim Pool. Not only did these athletes teach drills, they jazzed the participants with motivational stories of defeat and success.
Vandenberg is someone who loves traveling and living in the moment. After the 2008 Olympics, she swam competitively and traveled across Europe spending time in Italy and France over the course of several years. While abroad, she took a dip in the oldest pool in Sweden located in Stockholm in the Old Village.
At the clinic Kim shared her story filled with struggles and successes on her journey to become an Olympic athlete as the 68 anxious swimmers rushed to the pool. They spent a few hours working on drills and instructing the participants on how to improve their strokes.
Lunchtime came around and it was Lezak’s turn to speak. He climbed upon the diving board to tell his tale and how he arrived to where he is today. The 38-year-old veteran has shocked audiences and critics with his almost out of nowhere phenomenal swims. Part of his story discussed how he is often not even on the radar due to his age, yet he still swims with a unique passion.
Currently, Lezak does not have a coach; he is his own coach
and motivator. On the chilly rainy days, his personal goals keep him going. His favorite swimming memory is the relay in Beijing. He swam the fastest split in history defeating the French sprinter Alain Bernard to take gold. He described how fascinating it was to finally be on the podium winning gold.
Lezak is flying back to his wife and children in Irvine, California. After an 8 hour layover in Denver, Vandenberg is red-eye flying out to New Haven, Connecticut to host a swim clinic honoring the victims and families affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. The other Olympic athletes she will be joining are Anthony Ervin, Kara Lynn Joyce and Madison Kennedy. Vandenberg
is expecting it to be emotional but she believes it will leave a positive lasting impact.
Besides swimming, Lezak enjoys playing basketball and spending time with his family consisting of his wife and two children ages 1 and 3. He has been swimming since a youngster and his favorite pool is the 2004 Olympic Trials pool in Long Beach due to the astounding outdoor views and having all his close friends and family there to cheer him on. He plans on doing more clinics and at the moment the next part of his life is open.
Vandenberg plans on either going into swimwear design and or getting her yoga and Pilates instructor certifications. While training she enjoys changing activities and dancing along with yoga and Pilates so swimming does not become too monotonous. Her favorite swim memory was the 2008 Olympics followed closely by her 2007 trip to Australia for the World Championships.
After the meet she traveled around Sydney and Melbourne with her friends.
Vandenberg wants to leave all inspired athletes to follow their dream. She emphasized the importance of it being their dream.
So the Olympians came and left, however their visit inspired swimmers of all ages in different ways.