American swimmer Ian Crocker has made a big splash in his competitive career, even while often having to swim in the wake of superstar teammate Michael Phelps. The pair will present a formidable challenge to swimmers from other nations who are seeking a medal at the Beijing Games. VOA's Jim Stevenson has more on Crocker, who has his sights set on expanding his collection of Olympic medals and records.
Ian Crocker has appeared in two Olympics, winning a total of two gold medals, one silver and one bronze from the Sydney and Athens Games. He also has eight gold medals and five silvers from world championship meets, and two golds from the 2006 Pan Pacific championships. The 25-year-old Crocker says his success begins with the basics, including how he fuels his body.
"The quality is huge, I think in swimming," said Ian Crocker. "That is something I have been focusing more and more on, just trying to get fresh, organic food. And eating healthy stuff, cooking more at home and staying away from the frozen stuff."
Food quality has been one of the many issues questioned ahead of the Beijing Olympics. China has struggled to keep its food supply free of contaminants amid many sources of pollution in the country. But Crocker is not worried about his food while he is in China.
"Once you go away on a national team trip, they really take care of you," he said. "You really do not have to worry about anything. You do not worry about food. They really have it all taken care of for you."
Perhaps Crocker's greatest achievement was his shocking 100-meter butterfly victory at the 2005 World Swimming Championships in Montreal, Canada, where he became the first person to swim the event in under 51 seconds. His time of 50.40 seconds remains the current world record.
The 1.96 meter-tall Crocker also shares the world record time (3:30.68) set in 2004 by the U.S. men's 400-meter medley relay team.
Of the three medals he won at the 2004 Summer Olympics, he is best remembered for his silver. American teammate Michael Phelps overtook Crocker at the very end of the 100-meter butterfly to win the race by just 0.04 second. That win qualified Phelps for the 400-meter medley relay team.
But Phelps was exhausted by the number of events he was in. He chose to give his spot on the relay team to Crocker, who then swam the fastest butterfly relay split in history at 50.8 seconds.
At the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials for Beijing (which wrapped up Sunday night in Omaha, Nebraska), Crocker was again beaten by Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly, this time by about three-quarters of a second (50.89 to 51.62). Both will go head-to-head again in Beijing. Jointly, the two account for the 10 fastest swims in the event.
Crocker says his preparation has been disciplined.
"It is not just about beating yourself up for a really long time and then slowly coming back," said Crocker. "It is about being smart day in and day out. Every meter counts and has a purpose behind it. I think that the kind of technology in training has changed so much, the knowledge of physiology."
Away from the pool, Ian Crocker considers himself a good cook, musician and artist. He drives a beat-up pick-up truck, listens to singer Bob Dylan and enjoys anything about Austin, Texas, where he trains.