LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Swimming is a cruel sport, the hours are long and the margin for error is minuscule. Louisville native and St. Xavier High School graduate Clark Burckle is a perfect example. The 26-year-old made the United States Olympic Swim Team by .08 hundredths of a second.
As the swimmers neared the wall in the 200 meter breaststroke in Omaha, Nebraska, last month, Burckle looked like he was going to finish third, and only the top two make the team.
"I've heard that from a lot of different people, but it's funny because in my mind it doesn't appear, it doesn't play out like that when I think about what was happening in the race," Burckle said." It was more just like, I felt like I was in practice and I just kind of went back to primal instincts there at the end and just wanted to touch the wall first."
When watching the replay NBC swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines said, "That's probably the best lunge I've ever seen at the end."
For Clark's parents, Jill and Chris, who were sitting in the stands, the tension was almost unbearable.
"There are so many emotions, but I just pretty much put my head in my hands and I just thought, oh no," Jill said. Dad was not surprised at the outcome, "He practices that, he practices his touches, he practices the final, so he practices a lot, I mean it didn't just happen."
It was a move that Clark perfected through years of training, at both Lakeside Swim Club under coach Mike DeBoor and by working for an hour every Sunday with personal stroke coach Tito Solano, a 5-time Master's world record holder in the breaststroke.
"It's always touch with the head down, cover your ears, look at the bottom and be fast, and that's exactly what he did," Solano said.
Clark will never forget his roots, he knows that his time swimming for Lakeside opened his eyes to the possibilities and opportunities available in the sport.
"I love Lakeside, I brag about the pool all the time and people are always so shocked when I say that I grew up swimming in a lake," Clark said. "It's a part of me and it's just as much a part of me as Louisville is, so it means a lot"
For DeBoor, Burckle marks the third straight Olympics that a former Lakeside swimmer has made the U.S. team. Rachel Komisarz won a Gold and a Silver medal in Athens in 2004, and Clark's sister, Caroline, won a bronze in Beijing in 2008.
"That those type of kids are coming through Louisville Lakeside, and even Kentucky swimming, there are only 2,500 registered swimmers in Kentucky swimming to begin with, versus Indiana has 10 or 15,000 registered swimmers, so the numbers don't play out, but the quality is there," DeBoor said.
"I got 4th at Olympic Trials to make the relay, he got second to make an individual event, so he's definitely better," Caroline responded when asked to compare herself to her little brother.
With one goal achieved, Clark now turns his focus to his next, a positive Olympic experience. Clark's goal in London is simple, "The guys that I have to race are extremely fast, so I know that if even on the third wall, if I'm even close, if I'm in that race, I'm having an amazing swim, I'm doing something that is a top 10 swim, something that not many people have ever done, so I know that if I'm in that position, like my dad always said, if I'm close on the third wall, I know you have the heart and the guts to come back and get my hand on the wall. It's one of my skills I guess, I like to race."
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