Yale swimmer Kieran Locke ’06 will be one of four swimmers representing the U.S. Virgin Islands in the World Swimming Championships this weekend.
The competition, which will be held in the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, pits the top swimmers of the world — including Michael Phelps and over 20 other Olympic competitors — against each other over the course of four days. The swimmers are representing more than 100 different countries.
“It’s probably the biggest, in terms of breadth, — competition that I’ve ever been to,” Locke said. “It’s the next step down from the Olympics.”
Locke will be swimming in five events — the 50 and 200-meter backstroke and the 50, 100 and 200-meter freestyle. ESPN2 is broadcasting the races over the weekend.
Locke made the U.S. Virgin Islands team over the summer, when he narrowly missed qualifying for the 2004 Summer Olympics. This is not the first international competition in which Locke has swum for the Virgin Islands. In 2003, along with younger brother Morgan, who is now a freshman at Yale, and former Yale captain George Gleason ’01, Locke placed sixth in the 400-meter freestyle relay at the Pan American Games.
Although Locke has known since September that he would be swimming in the Championships, he has been practicing as he would any other season.
“I’ve just been training with the Yale swim team and just doing exactly what they did,” Locke said. “I didn’t want to announce it. I was very happy to be able to go, but not everybody has the same opportunity. I’m from the Virgin Islands, which made it easier for me to qualify. I didn’t want to be arrogant.”
In fact, many of Locke’s teammates did not even know he was selected to compete until just a few days ago.
“We were all cheering for him to make Olympic trials this summer, but he just missed the times he needed,” swimmer Ben Dzialo ’07 said. “Then he e-mailed us about two days ago about the World Championships.
Yale swimming captain Dave Lange ’05 said the team will be watching Locke from the swim house this weekend. He added that having an Eli swim in an international competition could boost Yale’s reputation in the swimming world.
“I think, especially in terms of recruiting, getting the name of Yale swimming out there is really important,” he said. “This year, we already have a couple of kids who have verbally committed to come who are well-known; one is a top-15 recruit in the country. It’s certainly going to help. I think it will make people at the very least consider Yale on the same level as Harvard and Princeton and perhaps some other, bigger Division I schools.”
While Locke and his teammates acknowledge it is a huge accomplishment to be selected to compete in the Championships, they are all realistic about Locke’s chances at the meet.
“He’ll do well for him, but he’s going to be competing against the best swimmers in the world,” Tom Lopez ’05 said. “Place-wise he may not be at the very top, but I think he’ll swim well personally.”
Lange echoed Lopez’s sentiments.
“I think he’ll swim pretty well,” Lange said. “He’s not going to do any best times because he hasn’t rested at all for this, and in swimming that makes a big difference — All things considered, he’s going to have a good meet.”
But above all, Locke is excited to compete and will be happy regardless of how he does.
“I’m just honored to be able to go to the meet,” Locke said. “I’m not going to the finals — I know that. I’m not going to be up there with Phelps, but I think I can have a good showing, beat some people and be respectable. I think I can be in the middle of the pack.”