Race Clubber Maggie MacNeil – Olympic Champion 100 meter butterfly
When young swimmers attend our camps at The Race Club or come for private instruction, we never know where their swimming journeys will lead them.
Some of the young swimmers we teach are loaded with talent. Others are not. It doesn’t matter to us, so long as the swimmers want to get better. When we first worked with Maggie MacNeil at the age of 13, we recognized she had an abundance of talent, especially in butterfly. Yet, like even the Olympic swimmers, she was making some mistakes.
A young 13-year-old Maggie MacNeil attends The Race Club camp in Islamorada Florida
In those early years, when she came to us a few times for instruction, we worked on her butterfly recovery, her breathing pattern, and her kick, especially her kick. I recall telling her these words.
Maggie, butterfly, is all about the kick. It is a kick-dependent stroke. You will become a good butterflier, regardless. But if you want to become a great butterflier, you must work on your dolphin kick.
Maggie’s ascending recovery (second from bottom) on her second fifty of her gold medal-winning 100-meter butterfly
Over the years, she did exactly that. She attended the University of Michigan, where she continued to excel under Head Coach Mike Bottom. Her kick steadily improved, and she continued to use an ascending recovery and a breathing pattern of 2 up/1 down that we had taught her years earlier. She placed second in the 100-yard butterfly her freshman year. Then, in 2019, she pulled off an incredible upset at the World Championships by out sprinting world record holder Sarah Sjoestroem, to the wall and winning the women’s 100-meter butterfly.
Then COVID struck, and like so many others, Maggie found herself with no pool to train in for quite some time. Still, she managed to keep training with dryland and waited patiently to get back into the pool. At Michigan this year, she won the NCAA women’s 100-yard butterfly in 48.8 seconds, becoming the first woman in history to break 49 seconds.
Then, on to Tokyo. Typical of Maggie, she did not show all of her cards in the prelims nor in the semi-finals of the women’s 100 butterfly. She just needed to get into the finals, where she was the sixth-fastest qualifier. Nonetheless, we suspected that the young woman in lane 7, Maggie MacNeil, would win in the finals. She is that tough.
Maggie turned at the 50 meters in 26.5, nearly a second behind the leaders, Yufei Zhang from China and American Torri Huske. As she had done in Korea at the World Championships, she came off the wall with a ferocious underwater dolphin kick. Then, holding her 2 up/1 down breathing pattern, she relentlessly charged home, similar to the way Michael Phelps would have swum the race, continuing on a steady pace all the way to the wall. Holding her breath for the final 3 strokes to the finish, Maggie touched in 55.59, just over .1 seconds off the World and Olympic record held by Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestroem, swimming in the lane next to her. Yufei Zhang finished second and Australian, Emma McKeon, finished third, just .01 seconds ahead of Torri Huske. Her second fifty split was 29.09 seconds, the fastest one in history.
From all of us at The Race Club and to her coach, Mike Bottom, and to her beautiful family, we congratulate Maggie on a job well done. After years and years of hard work, another Olympic dream comes true. What a journey!
Wherever your swimming journey should take you, let us help you get there. It all starts with building the right foundation.
Yours in Swimming,