The Pan-American Games are considered a major stepping stone to the Summer Olympics.
Although his performance in the tuneup gave him a boost to his hopes for the 2016 Olympic Games, Max Williamson is focused on more immediate goals.
Williamson, the 2013 Covington Catholic High School graduate and incoming Stanford University junior, won a bronze medal in the 400 individual medley during the Pan-Am Games swimming competition mid-July in Toronto. The race uses all four of the major competitive strokes in the sport.
“The biggest thing I took away was the power of the whole Team USA attitude of the Games, the different feeling of representing your country and not just your team,” he said. “It’s totally different when everyone has flags on their suits and goggles.”
Williamson had the fastest time in the field in the preliminary heats and had a strong race to medal in the finals.
“My goal was to medal and it was a high goal,” he said. “When I was the No. 1 seed after prelims, I was shocked and excited and pumped up for finals. The finals were a tough race, there was a lot of good guys, some tough Olympians and I fought through it.”
Williamson had his family there with him.
“We were all there,” said his father, Ken Williamson. “My mom and dad were there and we had a whole cheering section. It was amazing. It was a lot of fun.”
The former Covington Catholic standout graduated with seven state championships, two in relays and five in four different solo events. He still has the state record in the 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard individual medley. Williamson considers himself a stronger finisher than starter and wants to work on his early speed.
“I have a strategy in that race (the 400 IM), and that is coming hard in the back half. In the finals that strategy was tested because I was against guys older than me with great front-half speed. I was in last place after 100 and one place away from last after the 200,” he said. “The last 200 I gained a lot and passed people. I just trust the training that I’ve done and I get confidence from that.”
Williamson will next compete at the U.S. Nationals in San Antonio in August, contesting five different events.
“I want to win. The top layer will be more shallow because some of the guys will be at the world championships,” he said. “Some of the guys who normally get third or fourth could get first and I want to be one of those guys. The Pan-Am was my biggest meet of the year so I can go into this and not have as much stress and expectations.”
After that will be college season at Stanford, one of the nation’s top swimming powers. Only next spring can he focus on preparing for the Olympic Trials and earning a trip to Brazil.
“I’ve had a lot of success taking things a step at a time,” he said. “I’m focused on now, and then the collegiate season, getting faster on the front end. And after NCAAs all my sights will be set on the Olympics. There’s a lot of good in doing what got you here, and that’s getting better at technique. Making it better.”
Williamson returned to California shortly after his Pan-Am race but got to enjoy a little bit of the Canadian scenery.
“You’re pretty much in the athlete village all the time and that was pretty cool,” he said. “All these people are at the top of their sports and that’s the most intense and motivated group I’ve ever been around. It was cool to see how different people succeed in different sports.”
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