Swimmers dedicate state championship races to Coach “Tuna”

“We’re going to swim this for “Tuna,” said the Corsair swim team as they huddled together before the start of the men’s 400-yard freestyle relays at the 2012 CCCAA Swimming State Championships. During the three days of exhaustive competition at East L.A. College, starting last Thursday, Apr. 26 and lasting through Saturday Apr. 28, SMC’s top swimmers dedicated each event they swam to Diving Coach Eduard “Tuna” Gorodetsky.

“We really miss him and in the last relay we all swam for Tuna,” said Jeff Lum, one of the relay members.

Coach “Tuna” had unexpectedly passed during the week of the WSC Championships and the 13 SMC swimmers who qualified for state showed maturity by overcoming their pain to swim their best.

Head Swim Coach Steven Contarsy was really proud of the team’s results.

“We had a phenomenal meet from the top to the bottom,” said Contarsy. “We only brought six men and seven women and we set five state records and one national community college record. Everybody swam lifetime personal bests.”

One of the highlights, and surprises of the meet, was when Juju Allison won the 50-yard backstroke with the time of 27.80. “Allison has never been under 28 seconds for the 50 back [stroke] in her life,” said Contarsy.

Newcomer Ahmed Mathlouthi also had an impressive performance as a long distance swimmer, breaking three state records for the 200, 500, and 1650-yard freestyles with times of 1:35.29, 4:18.90, and 15:07.30 respectively.

Mathlouthi also set one national community college record for the 500-yard freestyle.

“I was in a training camp in Spain for three weeks and I came back just in time for the meet,” said Mathlouthi. “I’m really happy to be part of the team. We have a great team and an amazing coach.”

Mathlouthi will be heading back to Spain this week in order to prepare for the upcoming London Olympics 2012 where he will be representing Tunisia in the 200 and 400-yard freestyle swim events.

“I’m trying to do my best now,” said Mathlouthi. “Let’s see what’s going to happen.”

Lum didn’t disappoint his coach and brought home three gold medals for the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:49.43, 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 54.48, and the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:59.35.

Lum also set two state records for the 100 and 200-yard breaststrokes out of the three individual events that he swam.

“Actually it was Steve’s idea to change all my events to breaststroke,” said Lum. “All this successful swim is all about Steve.”

According to Lum, it was Coach Contarsy who proposed that he switch to the breaststroke because he believed that he had a good chance of winning.

As a challenge after winning the 200-yard IM, the 100 and 200-yard freestyles in the CCCAA State Championships last year, Lum and Contarsy focused the training on the breaststroke and had good results in WSC Championships.

“We did really well in the conference and then now I broke two records for 100 and 200-yard breaststroke,” said Lum. “I really need to thank Steven because he is the one who gave me a new idea, not only freestyle, but another stroke.”

In the women’s division of swimming, Michelle Liu won the 100-yard backstroke with the time of 58.30, placed second in the 100-yard IM with a time of 58.67, and third in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 53.09.

Overall, the men’s relays were in the top three for the 200, 400, and 800-yard freestyles, but the women’s relays did not place top three in any of the events they swam.

The team, called by Contarsy “the international relay” team, was formed by Mathlouthi from Tunisia, Lum from China, Aaron Clements from England, and Mike Carden from the USA, and they placed second in the 400 and 800-yard free at the finals with the times of 3:03.47 (a new SMC record) and 6:49.51 respectively.

Clements, Carden, Alex Myers and Christian Saravia placed third in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:24.29.

The Corsair men’s team scored a total of 249 points and placed 6th in the final ranking for the men, while the women’s team scored 163 points and placed 9th for the women. With 412 combined points, SMC ranked 7th overall among the 33 teams participating in the 2012 CCCAA State Championships.

“The coaches have to be proud of the kids,” said Contarsy. “The kids should be proud of their accomplishments, and Santa Monica College should be proud of this group of young people.”