IRVINE, Calif. – A shoulder injury wound up kicking Josh Prenot back into a gear.
Because of problems with his lat muscle this spring, the Olympic silver medalist in the 200-meter breaststroke was limited to a kickboard for a whole month.
It was the best thing that could have happened to him.
“We got some serious kick work done during that month,” Prenot said.
“It was good to just have that hard reset and kind of relearn how to swim the stroke and it’s really paid off with the training that I’ve been able to do the past couple of months.”
It paid off in his racing, too.
Prenot won the 200 breaststroke Thursday night at the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships with his best time in two years. He clocked 2 minutes, 7.28 seconds, just 11 hundredths off his American record time of 2:07.17 set at the 2016. U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming.
It was also the fastest time in the world this year by .28 seconds.
Andrew Wilson, who led for the first 100 meters, was second in 2:08.71.
Prenot surged to the lead in the third 50. “I knew my back half could be really strong tonight,” he said. “I have not been able to put up numbers like that since mid-2016.”
He also posted a fast time in the morning preliminaries of 2:07.69. “I was shocked to see 2:07,” Prenot said.
The meet, which runs through Sunday, is part of the Team USA Summer Champions Series, presented by Xfinity.
“It feels good to just be swimming breaststroke that way again,” Prenot said.
After Prenot missed the gold medal in Rio by a scant .06 to Dmitry Balandin of Kazakhstan, he didn’t build on that momentum in 2017. Prenot was crushed when he placed third at the world championships trials in both the 200 breaststroke and 200 individual medley, missing the team.
“I definitely lost the flow for quite a while there and then it’s been a process to find it over these last few months,” Prenot said. “I was going through some stuff last year and probably shouldn’t have gone to nationals in the first place. It was a tough experience for sure.”
He credited his family, friends, fiancée and teammates for helping him through it, but he isn’t sure what caused him to lose the flow.
“If I knew I would have figured it out real quick,” Prenot said.
He turned to detailed notes he keeps of his swims. “Every time I have a good practice or a good performance, I like to enter a new thing into a notes page on my phone of what I was feeling that day, what I was focusing on. I notice new things that I can pick up on for mental cues during a workout or a race and that has been a big thing that’s helped me find that again this year.”
Prenot started taking notes in 2014 on the advice of Tom Shields, Prenot’s teammate at the University of California and also a 2016 Olympian.
“I had a pretty good swim and Tom was like, ‘Yo, you better write down whatever you were doing in that race, because it worked.’
“So if I’m feeling bad in the water, I have like a whole page of things that I can go through: ‘Let’s try this, let’s see if it makes me feel better. Let’s try this, let’s see if it makes me go faster.’”
He had some good notes to write about both of Thursday’s races, such as “being able to set the catch with my arms fully extended and with the rest of my body in a good streamline.”
He was also fired up watching Cal teammate Andrew Seliskar win the 200 freestyle.
“Honestly, I watched Selly and I got so hyped,” Prenot said. “I was just like, ‘I’m going to let this adrenaline carry me through the front half.’”
Two other Cal teammates, Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley, went 1-2 in the 200 backstroke.
“I was so stoked,” Prenot said. “There’s no better place in the world for me right now than Berkeley, California.
“We all go to the pool, we take care of what we need to do. That doesn’t mean we don’t have fun with it. We all have a blast there. When Murph and I leave the house, we’re like, ‘All right, see you at work, buddy.’”