Kathleen Baker and Ryan Murphy, both Olympic gold medalists and world record-holders, returned to their roots on recent trips to promote the next two stops of TYR Pro Swim Series, which is comprised of five first-year sites in 2019.
Baker visited Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 7, and Murphy made a stop in Richmond, Virginia, Jan. 14.
“We’re all really excited to experience something new and hopefully we’ll have a good crowd to feed off as well,” Murphy said in Richmond, where the TYR Pro Swim Series will be held in the same Myrtha pool used at the 2008 Olympic Trials now permanently in use at the Collegiate School Aquatic Center.
Buoyed by these appearances and the support of the local convention and visitors bureaus, tickets sales are brisk for the March 6-10 TYR Pro Swim Series at Des Moines and April 10-13 TYR Pro Swim Series at Richmond. Online ticket sales and full series information are available at usaswimming.org/racingtime.
Baker attended this level of events, formerly known as the Grand Prix Series, as a young swimmer and waited in line for Michael Phelps to autograph her kickboard. In 2016, she was teammates with Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all-time at the Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Baker won two medals of her own.
On her visit to Des Moines, the tables were turned at the year-old MidAmerican Energy Aquatic Center at the Wellmark YMCA. After sharing her story and answering questions from age-groupers with the host DSMY Marlins, Baker took photos and signed autographs for dozens of swimmers. Instead of kickboards, Baker put her signature on everything from swim caps to shoes to an iPad and a cast.
“You’re so lucky to have an amazing facility in the middle of downtown. I struggled with finding facilities to swim in, in my hometown. The kids here are so lucky to have so much lane space, and a 50-meter Olympic-sized pool to train in, because it’s so important as you get older and older to be able to compete at the highest level — training facilities are a huge aspect of that,” Baker told the Des Moines Register.
A week later in Richmond, Murphy spent some time in the water with dozens of club swimmers from SwimRVA, the host club of the TYR Pro Swim Series at Richmond. He offered backstroke tips, shared his favorite drills and even raced side-by-side with SwimRVA member Christine Datovech, who outkicked the three-time Olympic gold medalist.
“It’s really motivational and inspiring for me because I, too, want to become any Olympian. I think that’s a goal for most swimmers around here,” she told local NBC affiliate WWBT.
With a winter storm having cancelled school in Richmond on Monday, Murphy’s appearance was dubbed the “BEST SNOW DAY EVER!” by a SwimRVA parent.
Following these impactful visits, one thing’s certain – when Baker and Murphy return to Des Moines and Richmond later this year, they’ll most definitely have some new fans cheering them on.