Some golfers might throw up their hands in surrender after a
slice or a shanked five-iron, but how many pack up their clubs
and become world-class in a fallback sport? Swimmer Ed Moses has
done that with only two years of full-time training. So meteoric
has his rise through the natatorial ranks been that he seems to
have answered the commandment of his sign-waving mother, Sissy:
PART THE WATER, MOSES. With Mom's banner flying in the stands of
the Maryland Campus Recreation Center Natatorium last week, Ed,
a 19-year-old sophomore at Virginia, won breaststroke events at
50, 100 and 200 meters during the World Cup short-course
competition in College Park.
Moses's times have made him a candidate for Olympic medals next
fall in Sydney. In August at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, he
swam the fifth- and sixth-fastest 100 breaststroke times ever,
the former coming as he won the final in 1:00.99. Nobody else in
the world has gone as fast in 1999.
During his first two years at Lake Braddock High in Burke, Va.,
Moses swam casually while aching for a golf scholarship. Yet he
won a state title in the 100-yard breaststroke as a junior,
despite irregular workouts. On the links he shot 73 when he was
16 and in his junior year helped Lake Braddock finish seventh in
the state tournament. He didn't abandon his golf stroke for the
breaststroke until after Pete Mor-gan, a coach at the Curl-Burke
swim club, watched him flop around in workouts and convinced him
how good he could be with polished technique. At a meet in
Richmond two years ago Moses endured what Morgan called a
"fry-and-die" victory in the 100-yard breast. He took the lead
at 50 yards in 27.19 seconds but swam the second 50 in 31.88, as
each stroke became more labored.
Thereafter Moses drove himself to improve. Instead of requesting
movie money, he asked his parents for books and videos on
swimming technique. For comparison, he kept splicing together
scenes of his own good races with those of Mike Barrowman,
world-record holder in the 200-meter breaststroke and a
November 29, 1999
Self-discipline came easily to this son of Air Force Colonel
Glenn Edward Moses. Ed, who kept to his father's 11:00 curfew in
high school and now lives at home during the summer with no such
restrictions, still comes home by 10:30, even on weekends. He
gave up skiing and pickup basketball for fear of injury, started
stretching regularly on a ballet barre and invented his own
bounding drills. When Ed began addressing his dietary
weaknesses, Glenn knew he meant business. This was a boy who
liked ice cream for breakfast and once declared his aversion to
lettuce by noting that it had turned green. "Then he asked us
for lima beans not too long ago," Glenn says. "I said 'Wow,
you're in serious training.'"
Morgan took Moses to the Southeast regional short-course
championships last year in Charlotte, even though, just five
months into full-time training, Moses had barely qualified for
the 200-yard breaststroke with a 2:07.31 PR two weeks earlier.
"Ed was looking at the psyche sheet, which lists best times and
seedings," Morgan says. "Without bragging he looks up and says,
'I can win this.' He wasn't seeded in the top 30. I said,
'That's good, Ed. Just swim.' I wanted him to aim for the top
16." Moses qualified first in the morning heats in 2:01.26 and
then handily won the evening final in 2:00.10. "Ed still needs
to work on his aerobic capacity," Morgan says. "If other
swimmers are doing 60,000 meters a week, he might do less or at
less than full intensity. But his stroke efficiency, his ability
to do what he does in so few strokes, is the best in the world.
And he takes instruction better than any swimmer I've coached."
In College Park, Moses could easily have been overshadowed by
more tenured swimmers. Three U.S. veterans set world
short-course records: 23-year-old Neil Walker in the 50
backstroke (24.12); Lenny Krayzelburg, 24, in the 200 back
(1:52.47); and Jenny Thompson, 26, in the 50 butterfly (26.00).
In the two-day meet Thompson swam 10 races, won five events and
received the swimmer of the meet award. In her first
international competition after a seven-year absence,
32-year-old Dara Torres had two seconds and two thirds in her
bid to become the first American swimmer to compete in four
It was fitting that several top swimmers played in a scramble
golf tournament earlier in the week. Playing only his third
round in two years, Moses found a few hazards but led his
foursome to second place. "I'm so glad I chose swimming," he said.
The last time Moses found the water, it turned into a great
After only two years of full-time training, Moses is a candidate
for Olympic medals.