Purposeful andfleet as a herd of migrating sea lions, the finest swimmers ever to representthe U.S. will converge next week on Detroit's Brennan Pools to race forpositions on the U.S. Olympic team. A few of them will be aging medal winnersfrom the 1956 Olympics: Frank McKinney, George Breen, Carin Cone. But the greatstrength, and possibly all of the 1960 team, is going to come from the group ofyoungsters which has torn swimming's record book to shreds in recent weeks.
In all thissplash of newcomers, the one most likely to win an event at Detroit and go onto beat the strong Japanese and Australian swimmers at Rome is a handsome,gregarious, onetime fat boy from the University of Indiana named MichaelFrancis Troy.
Mike Troy eatssix scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and a quart of milk for breakfast, but heisn't fat any more. He is burning every calorie in the effort to retain hisrecognized status as the best butterfly swimmer in the world. Troy has theshoulders of a football tackle, which he used to be. With them he powers theviolent overhead thrashing that is the mark of the butterfly, that variation ofthe breaststroke in which the arms are brought forward out of the water and thelegs kick vertically, like a dolphin's tail. The rest of his 6-foot 1½-inch,175-pound frame tapers down from these shoulders as if streamlined by a marineengineer.
He also has whathis coach, Indiana's James (Doc) Counsilman, calls "a rare intuitive feelfor the water; an instinctive reaction to push back when the pressure of wateris felt on the hands." At the appropriate time, Troy can turn his genial,smiling-Irishman's disposition into one of nervous determination, and he has analmost masochistic eagerness to endure against fatigue and even pain incompetition.
July 31, 1960
With thiscombination of ability and personality, Troy has broken five American and worldrecords in the past four months. None of his victories or records match inimportance his Olympic trial race next week. There is only one Olympicbutterfly event, the 200-meter, and only two Americans can qualify. Troy hasworked for two self-sacrificing years to be one of them.
The locale ofthis summer's preparation has been the 50-year-old Phi Kappa Psi fraternityhouse near the Indiana campus at Bloomington. This also happens to be Troy'sfraternity. The house has been rented for eight weeks to 20 swimmers who arethere for special training under Counsilman.
Some are membersof the IU swimming team, one of the finest in the country. These include 1956Olympian McKinney, whose backstroke eminence is being challenged by a wholepoolful of his juniors. (One is an 18-year-old future IU swimmer named TomStock, who is also training with Counsilman.) Another Indianan is Alan Somers,holder of two American freestyle records. Swimming each day in friendlycompetition with Somers is Breen, who is hoping to improve his 1956 bronzemedal performance. They are the best U.S. distance free-stylers. They will bejoined at Detroit by Lieut. (JG) Jeff Farrell, the U.S.'s best freestylesprinter. Two of the country's better breaststroke swimmers, Ken Nakasone andChet Jastremski, are also in Counsilman's crew.
Mike Troy knowsthat a Californian named Lance Larson or any one of half a dozen others canbeat him if he makes one false stroke. Thus tension runs high at the Phi KappaPsi house as the trials approach. Troy's room, a cluttered, third-floorcubicle, has its symbols of the tension as well as the usual memorabilia of acollege junior. Pinned to a bulletin board are a photograph of a pretty girl ina bathing suit, stubs from the Indianapolis "500," phone numbers,addresses and even a dangling nylon stocking.
But all this ismere camouflage on what might be called the Wall of Troy. What really mattersto him are the battle insignia: a sign reading "The Olympic Games beginAugust 25. Be there"; a list showing the best times of the world's fivefastest butterflyers; a chart of his own best times; and above everything onthe board, in garish, black letters a foot high, the word: PAIN. "Thatreminds me to swim until it hurts," Troy says, "and then swim somemore."
Doc Counsilmangives Troy and his training mates plenty of opportunity to test such a credo.He has them on a regimen that would demoralize a monk. They awake each morningat 6 a.m. to the clanging of a bell which the souvenir-hunting Indiana teamstole from Yale. "You want to train, but you dread that morningworkout," says Troy. "I lie in bed and I hope that somehow they'llforget me. They never do. Lots of guys sleep in swimsuits so they can stay inbed longer. Sometimes they go three days without taking them off."
The swimmers meetCounsilman at Bloomington's Bryan Park pool. If they are not there by 6:30, heleaves. "If they won't work, why should I?" he says.
Despite thisedict, Counsilman has a pie-in-the-face sense of humor that helps him get themost from his teams. He is also, apparently, a friend of each swimmer. "IfI have to make them hate me to win, I'll quit," he says, and though hisswimmers complain more than a company of draftees taking infantry training,they like him. Troy says: "He's the greatest."
Counsilman, whorecently fell into a pool—clothes, stop watches and all—while clowning with hisboys, started a typical training session the other day by putting his footfirmly on Troy's backside, and pushing him into the pool. ("We call thatDoc's automatic starter," Troy explained later.) Then began two hours ofintensive swimming in what Counsilman calls "interval" training. Theswimmers go for short distances, 50 to 200 meters, at paces that approximateracing times. Then they rest for about half a minute and go again. In some ofthese sprints only the arms are used, in others only the legs. It is anexhausting process.
For three days ofthe week the team has three such workouts. On the other four days, only twoworkouts. When the public pool isn't available, a nearby flooded limestonequarry is used, and the best swimmers in the country train like so many HuckFinns around the ol' swimmin' hole.
At 7 p.m. theboys return to the house after the last workout. "You're so tired you feellike a blown-up balloon," says Troy. "If somebody stuck you with a pin,you'd pop."
Troy fixes hisown dinner at the fraternity house and is proud of his cooking. "If youmarry a girl who can't cook, she's either dumb or lazy," he says. He has asmall steak or two, rice, a tossed salad big enough to awe a vegetarian—half ahead of lettuce, two tomatoes, celery, but rarely any dressing; all heaped in afoot-wide bowl. He tops this off with a pre-bedtime trip to a soda fountain fora milk shake. This is Troy's big splurge. "The guys call me 'Chubby' and'Fats,' " he says. "I'm not either one any more, but I have to watch myweight."
Because of thestiff training, Troy rarely dates (once in the last three months) or sees amovie and almost never spends a night at home in Indianapolis. What about thatnylon stocking? "To tell you the honest truth," he says, "I foundit in the room when I moved in last fall. Sexy, isn't it?"
Like all IUswimmers, Troy keeps a record book of what he does at each day's workout. It issupposed to be solely statistical, but significant marginal notes creep in:
Dec. 7—Doc says Iam getting fatter. Nothing but encouragement! Weight: 179.
Dec. 9—32push-ups. My best. Weight: 174.
Dec. 24—Pull 440.Kick 440. Swim 440. Christmas Eve. Joy to the world.
Feb. 8—This isthe day I was supposed to break 2:00. I didn't, naturally.
April 25—I amgaining weight. 180. I must concentrate on my diet.
June 6—Felt weak.I think I am worrying too much.
June 11—Doc wentto Indianapolis. We were supposed to work out. Just played around instead. Whata wasted day.
July 3—The goodDoctor walked out on us because we were dickering around.
July 10—AtEvansville. Doc told me to go all out. To keep my head in position and not dropit. I did, but the last 25 [meters] hurt like hell. I was very tempted to dropmy head. Did 2:15.0.
Left unmentionedby Troy: 2:15.0 was a new world's record for the 200 meters, outdoors.
Implicit in muchthat Troy says, as well as in the comments in the workout log, is his desirefor this concentrated effort to end. The newest sign on his bulletin boardreads: "Thirty days of pain remain."
Troy has reachedthis point in his athletic career by first surprising himself with his abilityand then deciding to take advantage of it. The son of an Indianapolis coaldealer, he was 3 when his father died. His mother—Helen of Troy, he callsher—raised him and his older brother by working as a secretary.
"When I was12," Mike said to his dinner host recently, while looking with zest at ahaddock fillet, "there was only one word to describe me—fat. I was 5 feet 5inches and weighed 175. That year I started swimming at an Indianapolis publicpool. We had a team that swam against other city pools and I got on it, just tokid around, really. I didn't want to race. But our coach said race or quit.
"My firstrace I finished second. What a surprise! I won a red ribbon. There's never beena redder ribbon. It was my biggest thrill. Then I found out you could winmedals, too. It seemed like a real deal. I've been at it ever since."
"His kick waslousy"
Within threeyears Troy was the best young swimmer in swim-struck Indianapolis. His speedbrought him what amounted to an athletic scholarship to the exclusive up-tonedowntown Indianapolis Athletic Club. "I can't afford a Coke there," heobserved, "but the swimming is great.'
It was at the IACin the spring of 1958 that Troy met Counsilman, then in his first year atIndiana.
"Troy hadbeautiful form with his arm pull," Counsilman recalls, "but his armswere weak and his kick was lousy. These were simply mechanics, and easilyfixed. What he really had was a feel for the water, plus desire. He'd turn red,white and blue for you. He had been swimming freestyle, not butterfly, but wesoon changed that."
"I rememberthat," Mike said, across his dinner. "I didn't much like the butterfly.Doc gave me a calisthenic program to strengthen my arms. Exercises I could dojust once two years ago, I can do 40 times today. He straightened out my kickand he taught me how to breathe."
In three monthsTroy was able to win his first major butterfly race, the 100-meter in the 1958men's nationals. He also finished third in the 200-meter and decided he couldmake the Olympic team in 1960. "Since then," he said, "everythingelse has been secondary."
Troy dipped aspoon into the whipped-cream-covered frozen éclair (a replacement for thehabitual milk shake) that had followed the haddock, and considered hisfuture.
"I made aquick jump to the top," he said. "It was great. But once you're there,there's no place to be but first. So every day I'm busting my brains out tostay there. When I race I almost kill myself.
"Still, youdon't stay on top in swimming very long. You break a record and you say toyourself, 'Wonderful. That's it.' Then everybody who thought the time you madewas impossible sees it isn't, and they do it, too.
"So you haveto break another record, and then the other guys do it, too. Pretty soon youcan't go any faster, can't break any more records. But there's always onefellow around with enough desire to be on top, to be known, just as you alreadyare. Eventually, he beats you.
"I might meetthat fellow in Detroit or Rome, though I hope not. But I can tell you onething. If I do go to the Olympics, then no matter what happens, the major partof my swimming life is over."
The frozen éclairwas almost gone now. Troy thought about all the long, pain-filled practicesessions in a dozen different pools. "It's sure been worthwhile," hesaid. "I'm getting a college education I wouldn't otherwise have had. I'vetraveled all over the country—Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York. I've beento Japan, to Hawaii, now maybe Rome. I've met some great guys. I've learnedwhat it means to win, and to lose."
Then, tilting theéclair dish to get at the last drops of the chocolate syrup, he laughed. Therewas one final benefit to be listed. "If it weren't for swimming," hesaid, "oh, brother, would I be fat!"