Record Holder Hoping For Olympic Medal Run

Auburn sophomore George Bovell talks about winning a national championship and his upcoming Olympic experience.

Auburn, Ala.–-Despite winning national championships and SEC titles at alarming rates, swimmers often take a backseat at Auburn in popularity to football, basketball and baseball.

That's not the case in other parts of the world and George Bovell knows that first hand. After setting the world record in the 200 meter individual medley with a time of 1:53.93 in Auburn's 2004 NCAA men's title, the sophomore returned home to The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to find himself the toast of the country, a far cry from what he expected after dominating the competition to run away with the record.

"It wasn't as big as some people make it out to be," Bovell tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I was on the back of one of the newspapers in Trinidad because of the world record. I had to shave my head to swim faster in the NCAAs and there aren't too many tall white boys with bald heads in Trinidad so most places I went people recognized me."

The dominant swimmer in his home country, Bovell is the record holder in five events in T&T and has already competed in the Olympic Games in 2000 while a high-schooler at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla. Coming off a record-setting performance this season at Auburn he will once again represent his homeland in the Olympics, but will shoot to do something rarely done by someone from his country.

George Bovell is shown in action for the Tigers during his impressive 2003-2004 season.

In the history of the Olympics, Trinidad and Tobago has won just 11 total medals and just two gold medals. Bovell has a chance to improve those totals in Athens, Greece this August when he takes the pool as the favorite in the 200 IM as well as a medal hopeful in the 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle. Bovell says those expectations have him excited, but nervous about the coming months.

"I think I'm in the best shape of my life right now," Bovell says. "Everything I'm doing has a purpose in getting me ready for a specific aspect of my races in the Olympics. I'm just taking it day by day. Sometimes when I think about it too much I'll lose sleep over it. I do feel some pressure being ranked second in the world all of last year and being the world record holder now. Some people at home and myself have put expectations on me, but I just have to take it in stride.

"There won't be a problem staying focused, but staying relaxed is tough when all the hype builds and you get to the games and the opening ceremonies," Bovell adds. "This is my second Olympics and I kind of know how it goes. I'm just going to stay relaxed and roll with the punches once I get there."

Something that gives Bovell and all his Auburn teammates confidence heading into the Olympics is the performances they had at the NCAA Championships this spring. In addition to his world record, Bovell also had strong swims in a variety of events. The sophomore says that the team aspect of things was something that made this year one he will remember forever, no matter what happens in Greece.

"Winning the championship the second time around was one of the greatest experiences of my life," Bovell says. "We just had a real comfortable comraderie with the whole team and everyone was pulling together for a common goal. That makes you do things you couldn't normally do if you didn't have all your guys depending on you.

"When you get up on the blocks you have all those other guys that are depending on you to do your best. When you are on relays you owe it to everyone of those guys to go out and do the best job that you can. You just get extra pumped up being on relays."

While the majority of his teammates prepare for the Olympic Trials in the United States beginning July 7, Bovell is busy training for his moment in the sun. Although he's considered one of the swimmers to beat in Athens, Bovell says that his time with Coach David Marsh at Auburn this year has prepared him well for what he's going to see in the coming weeks. If things turn out like he plans the NCAA Championship won't be the only trophy he takes home in 2004.

"I think Coach Marsh has done an excellent job and I'm sure we'll find that out after the rest of the team goes to the Olympic Trials," Bovell says. "We've been doing more long course work. That's training in the 50-meter pool. That is more aerobic oriented than the 25-yard pool. We've been doing a lot more of that since the beginning of the year. The whole year has had an Olympic feel to it and the NCAAs were just one stop on the journey."

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