Here’s a scary thought for anyone trying to beat Claire Tuggle in the pool.
“I’ve definitely got a lot faster than sixth grade,” Tuggle said.
Which is saying something.
Because after her sixth grade year in the summer of 2016, when we first profiled an 11-year-old Claire, she had already set several national age group records and had recently posted a time in the 100 meter freestyle only about 4 seconds off what it took to make the U.S. Olympic Team in the event.
“In the 12 years that I’ve been here, she’s the most talented athlete that we’ve had,” said John McGough, the head coach of the Clovis Swim Club.
But even the most gifted of athletes usually have to overcome some adversity, and this school year, as a Clovis North 14-year-old freshman, some adversity came Claire’s way.
She missed competition during the fall after tearing her abdominal wall.
Then, in her first week back after recovering from that injury, she suffered a concussion in March.
“It (adversity) might be (helpful) in the long run,” said Tuggle. “But it does not feel helpful right now.”
And recently, she was diagnosed as being severely anemic
“I just feel tired all the time,” Tuggle said. “I get sick easily.”
“It’s been an interesting year, but that has no real impact on her long-term potential,” McGough said.
And that potential is tantalizing.
By shaving just a couple seconds off her best 200 meter freestyle time, there is an outside chance she might be able to qualify for the 4×200 meter freestyle relay at next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo. But everyone in Claire’s swim circle, including Claire, is trying to keep things in perspective.
“We don’t want what happens at 15 (year’s old) to define her, and for it to become a disappointment if you can’t achieve that at 15,” said McGough.
“Hopefully, I go to Tokyo (in 2020), but if not, I’ll come home and have my 16th birthday party,” said a smiling Claire.