Justin Zook and the 100 Meter Backstroke

Inside The Cube was absolutely incredible, and thinking that we were in the same spot where Michael Phelps had won 8 gold medals just the previous month was a truly amazing feeling. It was now time for the American Paralympic swimmers to race. This page is devoted entirely to Justin Zook, the young man who I have coached for 15 years. He won the gold medal in the 100 meter backstroke four years ago in Athens, and he came into this swimming competition ranked first in the world, but the rest of the world had caught up to him.

Justin's preliminary race was pretty spectacular. He went out smoothly, and came home very strongly ... not only winning his preliminary heat, but setting a new Paralympic and World Record. While the crowd was cheering the performance, there were a few people cheering more loudly than everyone else. In the picture below the scoreboard, are my daughters and wife reacting to Justin's new World Record.

The race in the finals was far more exciting and new-wracking. Justin was clearly the favorite, but Mike Anderson from Australia, had spent the past four years devoting himself entirely to racing Justin in this pool. While Justin had the clear advantage in strength and power, Mike was a powerful kicker. When the horn sounded and the race began, it was Anderson who led at the 15 meter mark due to his great underwater kicking. Justin, however, passed him and flipped at the 50 meter turn with a slight lead. Unfortunately, Justin swam so close to the wall that his lead was erased by a jammed up turn and Mike Anderson's powerful kicking out of the wall.

At the 75 meter mark, Justin was tied, but by the 90 meter point, Justin held a slight lead, as seen in the pictures above and below. With 5 meters remaining, I felt confident in Justin's chances, but he took an extra and totally unnecessary extra stroke.

But it didn't matter. Justin still got his hand to the wall ahead of Mike Anderson, and he became a repeat winner in the 100 meter backstroke. His satisfied look in the picture below, shows it all, and I was so very happy, relieved, and proud. In the picture below the giant screen shot of Justin, he is seen receiving congratulations from his close friend and competitor from Canada, Benoit Huot. There are few competitors in the world who have my respect at the level I hold from Benoit, and this was a really nice moment to witness.

The picture above, and the two below show Justin receiving his gold medal and solemnly standing for the playing of our National Anthem.

A little later in the evening ... actually a whole lot later because we had to wait for our hero to emerge from his post-race drug test, Justin stood with my daughters and then with my family.

With The Cube glowing blue in the night, I went back to the Paralympic Village a very happy and fulfilled coach. Time to either look back at the racing of Anna Eames, go forward to Deb Gruen's Racing, or go ahead to the Closing Ceremonies. Of course, you can go all the back back to either the Kadena Page or the Syllabus.