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Micah Lawrence: Turning An Artist’s Vision Into Reality

By Greg Bates | July 29, 2013, 11 a.m. (ET)

Micah Lawrence celebrates during the medal ceremony for the
women's 200m breaststroke during  the 2012 U.S. Olympic
Team Trials - Swimming at CenturyLink Center on June 30, 2012 in
Omaha, Neb.

Micah Lawrence is best known as a world-class swimmer. However, that’s not her only passion.

Lawrence was a graphic design major at Auburn University, and her artistic ability is another one of her many gifts.

Lawrence’s creative outlook on life helps shape the way she moves in the pool.

“She’s a really gifted artist,” said David Marsh, CEO/director of coaching at SwimMAC Carolina. “She kind of sees the world through artistic eyes, and even when she’s thinking about her stroke and thinking about the way she approaches the sport, it’s not calculated in a scientific way, it’s very artistic.

“There’s a lot of emotions involved, and there’s kind of the ups and downs of those kinds of experiences that happen and how she processes them are more artistic than most swimmers.”

Lawrence’s unique perspective on swimming is really paying dividends.

One year removed from a sixth-place finish in the 200-meter breaststroke at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Lawrence is back making waves. She qualified for the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, by placing runner-up in the 200 breaststroke at the Phillips 66 National Championships & World Championship Trials in June. The indoor swimming portion of the FINA World Championships began July 28 and the final for the women’s breaststroke is set for Aug. 2.

Lawrence, who turned 23 on July 20, graduated from Auburn in May. Since college swimmers compete in short courses (yards), Lawrence is getting back to swimming long courses (meters) in national and international competitions. Since the 2012 Games, Lawrence has only swam on a long course about five times, she said, so swimming the 200 breaststroke at nationals was a bit of a refresher.

“I just kind of sat on it the first 100 or so and the last 50 I could see the girl next to me, and I actually thought we were last. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. We’re last,’” Lawrence said. “During the turn I looked and I didn’t see anybody. I could tell that she was getting closer and I’m like, ‘Well, you’ve got to beat one person.’ It just happened to be the only person I needed to beat.”

Micah Lawrence during a swim training session at the 15th FINA
World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi on July 27, 2013 in
Barcelona, Spain.

After placing fourth in the preliminaries in the 200, Lawrence shaved 2.6 seconds off her time and finished second in the finals (2:24.69) behind Breeja Larson (2:23.44).

Marsh, who has coached Lawrence off and on for the last two years on Team Elite out of Charlotte, N.C., was impressed with Lawrence’s 200 swim at nationals. Lawrence was coming off her final year swimming at Auburn and was quite disappointed she didn’t earn All-America honors in the NCAA championships.

“I think the first thing she was eager to do was set the record straight again,” Marsh said. “Micah’s always done better at long course, 50-meter swimming than 25-yard swimming. Turns do not help her. She has a terrific stroke and a really strong kick, and short course tends to chop up her stroke, so she can never really display her full abilities in short course.”

Lawrence’s goal at nationals was to advance to worlds in the 200 breaststroke. Mission accomplished. But she came ever so close to qualifying for worlds in a second event. Lawrence placed third in the 100-meter breaststroke (1:07.27) and missed moving on to worlds by just more than one-half second.

“I’ve never really done super well in my 100 and so that was fine with me. I was pretty ecstatic,” Lawrence said. “The 100 for me is like a sprint, so just getting my best time was awesome.”

Lawrence is making her debut at the world championships in Barcelona. She was able to train with Marsh during the two-week window between nationals ending and heading to Spain for worlds. Marsh said Lawrence trained the hardest she’d done all season in preparation for her first international event since last summer in the Olympic Games.

Micah Lawrence in action during a swim training session at the
15th FINA World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi on
July 27, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.

“I don’t think she has a whole lot to prove,” Marsh said about Lawrence swimming at worlds. “I think a year after the Olympics for a lot of these athletes, the biggest challenge is trying to get on that next world championship team, so I think the pressure’s off a little bit. I think now she’s kind of free emotionally to see what she can do. I think if she just improves off her (nationals) time, she’ll be fine.”

Lawrence would like to start her races much faster in the 200 breaststroke so she’s not having to play catch-up in the final 100 meters. She’d also like to nail down her race strategy early on in competition and swim well in the first two rounds to qualify for the finals.

“I’m not so much going in thinking about place as I am trying to get into the semifinals and finals and having three great races and kind of building on that,” Lawrence said.

After competing in the pinnacle of swimming races last year in the Olympic Games, Lawrence is confident she will do well at worlds. She thinks the races will be slightly different than the Games.

For one, American Rebecca Soni, the world-record holder and London gold medalist in 200 breaststroke, is taking 2013 off.

“Rebecca Soni is not going to be there, so that will be a little strange. She definitely pushes the whole field,” Lawrence said. “It will be kind of the same people, but I don’t think the atmosphere will be exactly the same because we won’t have those other sports around to watch and take our minds off of swimming. But it will definitely be a good experience and really fun.”

Following the world championships, Lawrence plans on moving to Charlotte to train with Marsh to see where her swimming career goes from there. Right now, Lawrence is thinking about working to make the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

“I’m going to try and stretch it out that long,” Lawrence said. “We will see, though.”

Marsh said he believes Lawrence could be a factor in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke races three years down the road.

“Micah is a pretty unique person the way she thinks and somewhere, no doubt, in her mind she’s thinking 2016, but I think what she’s really thinking is every year try to make improvements and I think if she continues to improve she’ll keep swimming,” Marsh said.

Greg Bates is a sportswriter from Green Bay, Wis. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2013 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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